How I got my 7-year-old to Write

25 Jul

The Problem

Well, my son came out of kindergarten from public knowing how to write decent sentences. Last year, I used various writing books to emphasize sentence and paragraph skills, and somewhat used my own method of teaching writing when he said he’d had enough of the books. The method so much wasn’t a problem as his effort and attitude towards it. He’d pretend he couldn’t write, even though I knew he could. It took a lot of pushing to get him to actually write at the level I knew he could write at.

This year I bought a couple of workbooks on writing that will lead him through the creative writing process (Just Write, Book 1 & Book 2, ordered from christianbook.com) and I figure I’d have him do some free-writing examples each week, as well as one book report a month, and research report that I will guide him through at the end of the year based on a country he will study all year.

Day 2 of homeschooling this year we were doing fine until I pulled out the blank lined sheets and told my son we were going to do a writing exercise. He was able to pick the subject, and then I wanted 3 or 4 paragraphs on his chosen subject – trees. I talked it out with him and tried to get information from him verbally about what to write, but to no avail. The child who had just chosen the topic to write about had NOTHING to say about it. I suggested this and that, even suggested a change of topic, but he wouldn’t budge. I figured we’d try again later.

Our second attempt ended even worse than the first. Grumbling, complaining, whining, and a discussion that finally ended in tears. This was no good. I left him in his room to calm down and then told him I’d be back because he WAS going to do the assignment.

The Solution

As I was heading downstairs to take a break while he was calming down an idea clicked in my head.  I had already set up book report sheets for him. What if I did the same for him for this? While my son was calming down upstairs, I spent my time downstairs typing up a new set of worksheets on my computer. When I went back into his room to discuss the assignment I was armed with my new weapon.

I went in with a clipboard and started firing questions at him questions. What do trees look like? Why do trees help people? Why do you like trees? He answered the questions happily (he was being allowed to talk – probably one of his most favorite things in the world to do) but still had a questioning look on his face. I filled out his answers on the worksheets I had made.

When we finished I then handed it to him and told him there was his “report”. All four paragraphs were laid out for him with his own ideas answered under the questions. He just had to take what I had given him (or rather what HE had said to me) and turn his answers into actual sentences and paragraphs. I demonstrated with the first paragraph and then told him my expectations and left him on his own.

The Results

Ten to fifteen minutes later I heard him calling proudly, “I filled the whole page with my writing.” I went up to check it out. What would I find? I hoped for the best but prepared myself for the worst. Pushing open the door I saw him standing there, notebook in hand. He held it out and said, “It wasn’t as bad as I thought!” The page was filled with his boyish scrawl.

My eyes scanned the page and then I read what he had written. It was beautiful! Good punctuation. Spelling to the best of his ability. Variety in his sentences! Proper indentations. Basically, it was as good as I knew he could write and more than I had expected from him. A miracle!

Maybe his problem is he has too much running through his mind at once and can’t focus on any one idea, or can’t get out all that he wants to so he just stops. He has used “webs” to write before but sometimes we are faced with the same problem of him grumbling and complaining about it. It helped a bit, but still wasn’t resulting in decent writing.

I tested the new “question” worksheets again this past week with a topic I knew he’d love – pirates. When I pulled out the layout for his “report” he read the top, saw the topic, and, rather than grumbling, had a big grin on his face! I let him be and came back to a decent-looking paper with four paragraphs. I think it’s possible I’ve found the solution to our free-writing problem. Thank God!

He has been working well with the Just Write workbook so far also, so I think we’re finally onto something. This week his book report is due so we’ll see how that goes.

The Layout

Our book report layout is available here for anyone that is interested. The general one is more based on what your topic is:

Paragraph 1Information

The basic info about your subject – what is it? what does it look like? what does it do?

Paragraph 2Something important about your subject or what it does

What does it do? Why is this important? How does this help people/things?

Paragraph 3An important aspect of your subject – something more you want the reader to know about the subject

What else is important about it? What else can you tell us about this subject? Why is this important?

Paragraph 4Opinion

What do you like about your subject? Why? What do you dislike about your subject? Why?

Knowing whichever topic you chosen, you can make the questions more specific to the topic. This just gives you and your young writer a general idea of paragraph layout and what kind of information the questions will dig for.

(Hopefully) Happy writing!

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