Nothing perplexes a mom who loves writing more than discovering that her children don't always appreciate or like writing. A little conferencing with my son's teacher last week revealed that he's doing everything he can think of NOT to write. When he does write? Painstaking. No details. No examples. No description. Pretty much an English teacher mom's nightmare scenario (though not quite as bad as the use of double negatives).
I cornered my son this weekend and confronted him.
"So what's with you and writing?"
"I don't like to write."
"I never know what to write about."
Could it be that right under my very own nose was a potential writer with writer's block and I didn't even know about it? Here is a seven-year-old in my very household no different than my writing students at the college. It's always hard for a parent to accept that her child might not be stimulated or skilled in the very activity that serves to put dinner on the table. Equally hard for me to accept is that though I deal with students who hate to write and don't know how to approach it every day at school, I was initially at a loss as to how to deal with my son and writing. Well, how do I deal with it with my students? I asked myself. The answer? One clause at a time.
Sometimes, with children writing is no different than trying to get them to eat Brussel sprouts or spinach. It's all about disguise, disguise, disguise.
" What do you wish you were doing right now, instead of writing?" I ask my son. This catches him off guard.
"I wish I was building a robot."
"What kind of robot?"
" A big gray one made of tin cans and red paint. Can we build one?"
"Write out the plans for the robot with a sketch of what it will look like and a list of materials you'll need. I'll get the materials." Bingo. Stubborn child writing what essentially amounts to a descriptive process analysis essay.
So the lesson here: Go with what they like and what they know. My son's teacher and I have ceased any attempt at making him write to a blank piece of paper. There is no 'what I did on vacation or this weekend' assignment. That draws a frustrated fearfully blank stare. We instead are channeling his enthusiasm for all things mechanical, for storyboards of what his robots will do after they are built. Writing now has a functional aspect to it for him. He can see its usefulness and its lost the abstract quality that made it so difficult to deal with previously.
In the weeks since we've altered his writing objectives, we've not heard one word about how he hates writing and his writing abilities have improved. We are getting more orderly, coherent statements with much more description. Yay!