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Thursday, June 7, 2007

What if My Child Hates to Write?

It can be rather discouraging when a child simply dislikes writing. There could be one of many factors at work here. Let's explore some of the reasons a child may dislike writing and some solutions to address each of these factors.

The first factor is that perhaps your child doesn't like the physical mechanics of writing. Does he hold his pencil with an uncomfortable grip? Does he grip his pencil too hard and push too hard on the paper? Does he have improper letter formation that requires a lot more writing to form each letter? These things usually correct themselves, but not always. The best way to develop a love for writing is to require typing as a subject. My favorite typing programs are Mavis Beacon JUNIOR and Typing Instructor. My children were required to do their typing program every single day for a few months, and then only once in a while after that. They got even more practice as they wrote stories on the computer.

Some children don't dislike writing as much as they dislike having to pull creative thoughts out of their brains. I like what classical educators have to say about this: children need ideas put in their minds before they should be required to create new ideas. They should be filled with knowledge, ideas, concepts, truths, stories, literature, facts, and information. Then, they should be asked to write about what they already know rather than come up with new ideas or on the spot opinions. When they are older and have been exposed to great literature and a wealth of ideas, they will have a stronger knowledge base from which to pull creative ideas and thoughts. They will also have critical thinking skills and the ability to conceptualize abstract thoughts. At that point, they can create a great composition, story, persuasive essay, or whatever it is the writing assignment requires.

Another reason your child might dislike writing is because you, being the very thorough and wonderful teacher you are, used their writing assignments as the examples of what they needed to work on in spelling and grammar. Every writing assignment became a poster of their weaknesses and failings. I have heard many homeschool moms say that they use their child's writing assignments to pick out spelling words and teach proper grammar. This may be an economical use of their writing, but it is also a good way to discourage their love for writing. I often take my children's notebooks to conventions to show others. I had one mom tell me how pleased she was to see all the misspelled words in my daughter's notebook pages. My daughter was nine when she wrote those pages, spelling Mercury as “Murcury” and more. However, by age 14 she had developed a love and passion for writing—and scored post graduate level on her spelling! I never used her writing for spelling practice. She learned to spell using a spelling program.

One note of concern here is that a child who has intensely poor spelling should not be asked to write until he has learned to spell the most common words in the English language. You do not want to reinforce poor spelling by having him copy it over and over. If the misspelled words are relegated to new or words not often used, that's another story.

Perhaps the most common reason a child doesn't like writing is because God did not design him to be a creative writer. This child prefers to solve problems (especially math problems). He doesn't see the benefit of writing. It seems purposeless. Frankly, creative writing—writing to entertain—isn't necessary for every child. The only writing that is absolutely necessary for every child is academic writing. If the problems are not one of the above-mentioned issues, I would not force a child who has not been given a bent toward writing to do a lot of creative writing assignments. For younger students that dislike writing, I would require them to narrate constantly. Have them retell back in their own words whatever they read or have had read to them. This will go a long way toward good narrative writing. A child who can relate information clearly will find it easy to put those spoken words on paper. As he grows older, have him do just that. Put his short (or long) narratives on paper. In late middle school or high school require him to learn academic writing.

Creative writing is simply not for everyone. A child who dislikes writing can still make A's on writing assignments if he is taught how to organize his thoughts and learns to write a well thought out and organized sentence, paragraph, and essay. This begins and ends with oral narrations, for even if your child becomes a mathematician, he will be required to explain his knowledge orally. Thus, in the early years, don't worry so much about writing. Focus on his oration of thoughts.

If we had time, I would tell you the story of my husband who didn't care for writing growing up but learned to write a good essay and now makes a living writing perfectly constructed legal briefs and other legal documents. But since we don't have time, just know your non-writer isn't failing at writing. He's simply expressing his unique God-given talents, preferences, gifts, and abilities, which will all work together to usher him into God's special plan and purpose prepared in advance.


One more thing, I do not believe in forcing writing in early elementary school. Late elementary or middle school is when a child should begin writing. If the child has a natural inclination, by all means...cook the pie when it's ready! But don't force it before your child is ready or he will be convinced that he is bad at writing. It would be like sticking a third grader in an algebra class. The child would be convinced he's not good at math when he might be very gifted in math. A child who doesn't like writing could still make a great living that requires a lot of writing. It's the kind of writing that matters.

Until next time!

5 comments:

Valerie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeannie Fulbright said...

For my book, I would have him make illustrations and label them, rather than writing lengthy narrations. Oral narrations are great for retention. They don't have to be written down. However, you can type out his narrations, if you like.

Jeannie Fulbright said...

For my book, I would have him make illustrations and label them, rather than writing lengthy narrations. Oral narrations are great for retention. They don't have to be written down. However, you can type out his narrations, if you like.

Julie said...

My 1st grader is having a terrible time writing because he is aks to be creative and it's so hard for him. He gets frustrated and cries and just refuses. I would like to just say "it's not for him" and not make him do it. But he's in public school is required to. They say he will have more and more writing in the years to come. How to help him to be creative and confident?

Jeannie Fulbright said...

First grade is far too young to force a boy to write. Let his fine motor skills develop. Then begin to require regular writing in third or fourth grade. This is a journey, not a race.