I'm in the midst of teaching my third child to drive and I had a flash of insight tonight. You know what is really cool about teaching kids to write? It is completely safe. It is completely different from driving instruction. Tons of metal and massive oak trees are not involved. Errors are not dangerous. Paper is cheap. In writing, you can let them make mistakes. Don't feel compelled to correct them every time. My sister recently posted a story about having mixed up her kids' lunches (one got 2 granola bars one got 2 baggies of carrots-- you can imagine the consternation.) She posted the illustrated letter that her son wrote to her complete with 2 dejected looking boys one of whom had 2 gunola bars. (39 For the First Time ) (She's funny-- read what she has to say.)
That letter was worth at least 50 worksheets. He had a reason to write it. Nobody had to make him write it. Nobody made him edit it and it got everybody's attention. So much so, that his mother and now his aunt have written something in response to what he wrote. Powerful stuff. You could build a better than average writing curriculum out of these few things. Motivation. Approval. Genuine Response. Error correction can wait. Misspelled words and missing commas are not oak trees.
I actually had to sign my name to the following statement in my son's sixth grade language arts curriculum on the first day of school this year: "basic skills...are the very foundation of good writing." I restrained myself from disagreeing with the teacher on the very first day, but I totally disagree. Thinking is the foundation of writing. Thinking like: "I've got 2 granola bars! That means my poor brother has 2 bags of carrot sticks! I need to alert someone to this outrage!" A kid who has lots of reasons to write, will have lots of experience writing. A kid with lots of experience will gradually want to correct errors and bring his writing into line with the conventions he sees in print.
Writing is the basic stuff of education. It has been sorely neglected in our schools. We have substituted the passive reception of information for the active expression of facts, ideas and feelings. We need to right the balance between sending and receiving. We need to let them write.