What is Free-Writing?
Free-writing, in education, is the process of allowing students to write whatever comes to their minds. They can write as little or as much as they desire. There are no rules during free-writing. The exercise is entirely focused on getting kids to write anything down on paper, even if it’s not grammatically correct.
Most teachers allow students 5 to 10 minutes of free-writing. They schedule the exercise at the beginning of class (for middle schoolers), or when coming back from specials or lunch (for elementary schoolers). After 5 or 10 minutes, students are frequently allowed to share their writing with the class, if they feel inclined.
Benefits of Free-Writing for Students
Free-writing has so many benefits for students of any age. It helps children develop as independent writers. It can also help with emotional regulation, stress relief, etc. Free-writing helps kids grow in so many areas besides writing. It can also help students develop and maintain a love for writing.
One of my favorite things to witness is the growth students make as independent writers. The results that are yielded within the subject of writing itself are numerous.
- Students find their voice as writers
- Because students are engaged in the process of writing what they are thinking word-for-word, students are able to discover their voice as writers. They may become more attuned to their thinking and play around with different styles. This allows for their writing voice to develop.
- Helps students organize their thinking
- The process of free-writing helps students to organize their thoughts in their head. Students must identify an initial thought to begin the process. After closing in on a specific idea, students are able to write more on this idea. This entire process requires kids to organize their thinking.
- Helps students maintain a train of thought
- The art of free-writing allows students to practice maintaining a stream of thought. Kids will generally pick a topic that they want to write about. This naturally leads to them writing several sentences, or even a couple paragraphs on the topic. Students learn what it feels like to keep a constant train of thought going for a few minutes.
- Students can hone and learn different techniques
- One of my favorite parts of free-writing is using it to teach different techniques. Because kids are engaged in something that they (hopefully) enjoy, they will be more receptive to learning new skills. I like to point out the techniques that a student has used in their writing (either new or old). After I talk about the technique, the student is much more likely to continue to implement this strategy into their future writing.
One of the things I love about free-writing is that it doesn’t just improve writing techniques; it holds benefits for students in other areas of life as well. These include helping students learn emotional regulation, confidence, self-awareness, and risk-taking. Many teachers schedule free-writing after students come back from energizing activities (recess and specials). The process of writing tends to be relaxing for students.
How Free-Writing Helps Students with Anxiety
Free-writing can be particularly beneficial for students with anxiety. This includes kids with anxiety disorders, higher levels of anxiety, and writing anxiety. Some kids won’t write anything if they feel uncomfortable.
A child may have developed writing anxiety for a number of reasons. In some cases, the anxiety is caused by a disorder. In other cases, students may have fears around writing.
In the case of kids who simply don’t want to write, I find it helpful to change the narrative. It can be beyond frustrating to deal with a kid who refuses to write anything. To the adult, the child may seem stubborn or willful. But, just remember, if you as an adult are struggling, then the child you’re working with is having a hard time.
The child probably has an anxiety around writing. They may have writing trauma or a fear of lengthy assignments. If the child is refusing to write, then writing is probably hard for them.
Free-writing helps kids with anxiety in so many ways:
- It gives kids a choice of what to write about
- Kids experience the feeling of autonomy or being in control of performing the task
- There isn’t a standard that kids are expected to perform at, which relieves kids of stress
- The assignment is broken down into smaller, more manageable parts for kids
- Kids have flexibility in how much or how little they write
- Kids don’t fear failure because the focus is on what they produce
The key to helping kids develop a love of writing is consistency. When students with anxiety are given the chance to initially free-write on a regular basis, they will develop a desire to write.
How to Do Free-Writing with Your Child at Home
If you’re looking for educational activities for the home, free-writing is a great one to use. And it doesn’t require a lot of preparation. It’s great to help children hone their writing skills both during the school year and summer.
- Set a timer for 5 to 10 minutes
- Give your child a piece of blank writing paper
- Have your child write until they hear the timer buzz
-Kids don’t have to use correct spelling or grammar
-Kids can write as much or as little as they want
-If kids are not inclined to write anything, then start by having them write one sentence for the duration of the allotted time
-Kids can write about any topic they choose