Sunday, August 18, 2013

Let's Talk: Writing

When I mention that Morgan was going to work on creative writing over the summer or that he's doing non-fiction writing during the school year I get a lot of questions about getting children to write. Here's the thing, I don't have the answers you're looking for. I don't. It's that simple.

Morgan, much like myself, enjoys writing. I didn't come up with some lovely idea to make him enjoy the process. When he was little & we'd go on long car drives I made a family game when the boys got really fussy. I started a story & told three lines, then each person in the car had to take a turn to add to the story. Morgan often requested the game.

Morgan is the child who stays up later then he should telling stories to his little brother. These are not stories he's reading from a book, but stories he makes up on a whim. They might be inspired by something he heard or read, a picture from a book, or a simple desire his brother has. There's often a lot of laughter & retelling in the morning for the super ooey gooey bits they loved the most.

Morgan is drawn to books & he's not afraid to try new stories or different genres. He can easily handle listening to a more dramatic story & then switch paces to comedy. He, also quite like myself, prefers historical fiction or any story based on real events or people. That doesn't mean he'll snuff fiction, but rather befriend is & treat the characters like long lost friends.

He writes his own comic books, has mini books he's made squirreled into every spare corner of his bedroom, has notebook upon notebook that has a picture or story on each page, & finds great joy in pens that have many colours within them. {I know exactly what you're thinking Mom..}

When I ask Morgan to narrate to me he finds it an easy thing to do. He delights in it. He can retell a chapter or book so well that when you read the book you can see where he retold some sections word for word the way they were written. It takes no prodding or encouraging. Where once a blank paper frightened him to get started these days it only serves as a fresh start.

But how did I make this happen? I didn't. It's that simple. I had nothing to do with it. How can I be sure? Let me introduce you to Jayden.

Jayden despises writing. Copywork is second on his list of arch enemies {his words, not mine} second only to glue. Don't ask about the glue, they seem to go back a long way in their hatred for each other. While Jayden doesn't mind hearing a good story he knows exactly what he likes & isn't willing to quaver & try something new without a huge fight about it.

Oh the amount of times he's had break downs over us putting an audio book on he was sure he would hate are more then I can count. The amount of times he's fallen in love with the book we've put on despite those break downs is equally more then I can count.

Jayden would rather be outside in the sand pit, jumping on the trampoline, riding his scooter, or playing on the swing then anywhere else in the world. In fact, if I'm keen to pull up a quilt near any of these places & read to him he's in heaven, but if I insist that we sit down inside he's less likely to be interested in the reading at times.

When we go camping I'm often intent to be sure we have a book in our supplies, especially one I know he'll love, because it's the one time he requests, without fail, that I read. He loves to fall asleep while camping to me reading to him. All though I'm not sure what that says about the book or my voice..

While Jayden has a notebook here or there that he's written stories in they are only a page or so long. They generally involve the main character dying in some odd & unusual way bringing the story to an abrupt halt.  They are amusing, if not slightly disturbing, such as the story about the frog who kept mocking the little boy so the boy hit it with a baseball bat. That was the entirety of his story. He painstakingly wrote out every bit of it over a couple of days, then roared with laughter at the horror on our faces when we got to the end. Less you panic too deeply about the frogs he eventually wrote a sequel consisting of three sentences in which the frogs friends came back & bopped Jimmy on the head with the same baseball bat so he understood how mean it was to hit people with it. Thankfully, we don't own a baseball bat.

Jayden struggles with narration & the idea of complete sentences. He's not at all itching at the seams there to get into the writing book Morgan is using this year, all though he has no issue with Morgan reading his reports to him or telling him about this or that interesting thing he read about in his writing assignment for the day.

Writing is simply not his thing. In fact, if given the choice I'm pretty sure he'd rather poke himself in the eye with a pointy stick then be made to suffer the horrors of writing. Funnily enough Mr S completely agrees with him. He too is a man of few words, unless you count his dreadful Dad Jokes that we must laugh at or risk injuring his feelings.

Mr S once found on old school paper that contained a story he'd written in Grade 2 or 3 about a snail. It too had a miserable end to it's life when it was run over with the lawnmower. While Mr S found it funny in Grade 2 or 3 he now finds it slightly disturbing. Which means I should probably not mention to him what I do when I find snails in my strawberry plants!

I'm not saying writing isn't a valuable skill, especially for those going on to university level schools. I'm saying that for some people it comes easier then others. Some people are born to write & others have to work hard on those skills, & that's okay.

For some, like Mr S, it's a bad comment on a paper that turns them off to writing. While he's never been super fond of writing it was a note from a teacher on a paper he'd spend hours working on. Something down the lines of, "This is amusing.." when he'd not meant for it to be funny at all. For Jayden it's simply the fact of sitting still when there's so much in life to do. So much to see & so much to climb.

I try to make the blow a little less hard for him & at his age still let him gather all his ideas together & then spill them out as fast as he can while I type like crazy & Mr S stands there & wonders if the keyboard will catch on fire. {So far so good, if you're wondering..} I won't say that Jayden loves to write using this method, but he certainly doesn't hate it either. It allows him to get his thoughts on paper quickly before he loses them. We can rearrange them with cutting & pasting. We can edit it with the flick of a few buttons & then print it out allowing him to share something he's quite proud of.

Truthfully I use the same method with Morgan, allowing him to gather his thoughts & then let them tumble out all at once in the order he thinks they are best at. I'm more willing to give him suggestions along the way, once all the thoughts are on paper. Things like, "You've used this word several times, can you think of another word that means the same thing? Want to look in the thesaurus?" Or, "Do you think it's possible for this to happen before that? Tell me why!"

It works for us. I'm looking forward to a summer of writing for one & a summer of science for the other. They'll both be exploring things that they enjoy & that's totally okay with me.

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