Learning Resolutions: Write More
Like any skill, writing improves with practice. On the one hand, contemporary society is text-rich and provides children with lots of opportunities for certain types of practice. They comment on social media, write emails, and send texts daily. On the other hand, these formats do not require much organization of thought. Nor do they require sustained concentration.
Writing can be intimidating because it places so many demands on cognition. Just holding a pencil or learning to keyboard are difficult for some students. Other students worry about their spelling as they work on compositions. All writers must balance remembering the words and phrases they want to use in a sentence while also keeping in mind their overall thesis in order to keep paragraphs cohesive.
Writing becomes less intimidating when writers slowly build up their endurance. In much the same way that young readers practice sustained silent reading, I recommend sustained writing as a regular practice. If this is not part of your child’s language arts curriculum, grab a journal and make it part of your home routine.
As I mentioned above, there are a lot of things to concentrate on when one writes. You can help reduce your child’s resistance to writing and ease the mental burden of getting started by not insisting on perfect spelling or ideal handwriting. Even fluent adult writers tend to correct these things in final drafts. You can also make writing appealing by keeping topics fun. You might, for example, ask your child to describe what he would feed a pet monster and why. Not every topic needs to lead to a fully fleshed-out story or essay. Some topics might be analogous to sketches in a sketchbook, seeds of something that may or may not develop fully into stories later.
Writing is also more interesting to students when they explore all of the different formats it can take on and purposes it can fill. In your child’s journal you might insert correspondence –to relatives, to Santa, to admired public figures. You could try drafting reviews of favorite products or books together and then typing them up for Amazon or Goodreads. A YouTube-obsessed child might like writing her own video script. Someone who likes to cook might want to write a recipe. Use any interest area of your child’s to motivate him to write more often.
Even if writing is a bit intimidating to you, you can’t go wrong with encouraging your child to write more often. Your goal is to make the practice a habit and something that seems fun and attainable. Then start slowly stretching out the amount of time that your child is able to write without interruption. Once the habit is well established, then start giving feedback about how well organized your child’s ideas are within his or her writing. You don’t need to be a Man Booker prize winner or an expert grammarian to help with this learning resolution.