Teaching writing in the minority language – Tip n°4 – Mini-dictations

Does your child read comfortably in the minority language and knows how to write letters and copy words, but you do not know how to get them practicing their writing skills?  How do you loop between their knowledge of reading and writing? These questions often hassle me. I am a firm believer that practice makes perfect, hence a little writing on a regular basis will help my eldest to pick up writing in the minority language.  However, when it comes to getting my eldest daughter to write, I lack the inspiration as to what exercise to give her. My daughter does not want to write a sentence of her own creation, so the only thing I can think of is dictating her a sentence. But what?

When dictating, I often wonder what text I could use that would not be too dull; easy and yet not too much, so as to contribute to developing her writing skills.

My latest idea has been to pick a sentence from the summary at the back of her Rainbow Magic books.  

At weekends and on Wednesdays (I work part-time – see Minority language parent – 6 reasons to consider going part-time at work), I have her read to me a few pages of a book from her Rainbow Magic collection.  It is a series I recently purchased that is aimed at young readers age 5+. They are very rich vocabulary-wise, which sometimes challenges her reading, but I think my daughter is still reading them well and they are strengthening her English.  It might also help her feel like a “big one”, as they are proper books that she cannot read in one go and has to use a bookmark.

I want to make the most of the reading momentum to get her to do a little “homework”, and have recently began asking her to write a sentence I dictate to her from the book’s summary.  To some extent, the fact that the sentence comes from her story seems to make the task flow more naturally from the reading session, than, say, just any sentence picked from the top of your head.  It is like a little themed homework session.

It seems to work quite well as it is on a topic of her interest (she is in her “fairies” stage), reuses words she has read and some of which might be a little challenging yet stimulating. It requires her to breakdown the sounds she hears before putting them down on paper.  A sort of back to basics of phonics, but a little harder as here she does not read sounds but writes them down.

It is also a nice way for her to integrate the story she read and memorise words she has seen through writing.  Whenever the sentence is too long, I just cut it off at a comma, so as not to put off my daughter, and pick up from there at the next homework session.

So far, the result has been rather good and helps to prove to her that she can do it, and learn that even if she gets it wrong, it is no big deal.  As regards her enthusiasm, I cannot claim my eldest is overjoyed with writing, but I get the impression she minds a little less when it is about her heroines.  Last time, she surprised herself remembering how to spell words she had seen in the book, and that must definitely benefit her self-confidence.

This is my idea for today.  Nothing genius, but that could come in handy if like me you are looking for inspiration. 🙂


You can also do the dictation from a picture book your child might have read with you prior to the mini-dictation.  My daughter once requested it and surprisingly seemed delighted to write about a brand new book I had just got her and she had just read. 🙂

Do you have any tips to get your child writing in the minority language and/or do dictations?  Please share them in the Comment section!

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