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“I don’t know what to write, Mummy!” How to help your child overcome writer’s block.


Writers of all ages often suffer from writer’s block and helping your child to think of something to write can be very difficult and extremely frustrating. I have great sympathy for children who struggle to know what to write in an English lesson. Sometimes the ideas just don’t flow when you are faced with a blank piece of paper, a given title and 60 minutes on the clock to come up with a well structured, well organised piece of descriptive writing.

To be able to pack as much punch as possible into their writing, children have to plan a story and use the allotted time well to make sure that they have a maximum amount of writing time. Too much time thinking about what to write means less time actually writing and having the chance to impress the examiner.

60 minutes maximum – this is pressurised writing to the extreme! So how can we help them get better at structuring the time? How can we help them know what to write? Here are my top 2 tips:

Tip 1: Using famous story structures

My husband is currently reading Swallows and Amazons. Set in the Lake District, the story (as I am sure you know) is about a group of children who love sailing and their adventures camping on an island. Why not take this story idea and simplify it? The story could be about a boy who loves sailing and finds an island to explore. Perhaps this is a story about a group of children who have gone on a camping trip? The idea behind using famous stories to structure your own writing is that you can decide to take as much or as little from that story as you like in order to create your own. Why not give it a go?

Tip 2: Think of a problem

From Year 3 English onwards, the structure of a story is developed further from just a simple beginning, middle and end. Your child starts to think about the opening and build up paragraphs, the problem paragraph and then events, resolution and ending paragraph.

They will be given a title of a story and asked to write something based on that title. The title might be ‘The Journey’, ‘The Hidden Book’ or ‘The Accident’. So let’s think this writing idea through.

Allow 10 minutes to think of the problem paragraph for your chosen title. What problem would your character face in this story? By creating the problem, you can then use it to fill in the rest of the story. For example, let’s take ‘The Journey’; the problem could be that the train can’t stop. Set in Yorkshire, the main character could be going on a journey to see his grandparents but as they enter a tunnel the train driver loses control of the train and the train can’t stop. What could the main character do to help save the train?

The main thing to remember is that your child’s story has to be plausible and realistic!