What do you do when a child tells you that they don’t like to write? As a teacher, I have had worked with reluctant writers many times. Even children that once liked to write, may not always be enthusiastic about sitting down to write an essay, story, or general assignment. The fact is that most kids have a time in their academic careers where they move away from writing.
I have worked with students over the years that will write the minimal amount for an assignment. That gets the job done, but does it show their potential in this area? No, it probably does not. Trying to mix things up and have some fun can be difficult within the strict curriculum requirements for state testing. Still, you can ease writing fears and anxieties at home and in the classroom for children.
My 7-year-old son is suddenly a reluctant writer. He has a lot to say, but when it comes to getting the words down, he is frustrated and does not want to be bothered. We incorporate technology to help encourage him when we can, but he still needs to learn to write using paper and pencil. What I have noticed lately is that he loves to write letters to people. His second grade class runs a school mail program. At lunch, kids can go over to a table and use the post office box to leave letters for people in other classrooms. My son is constantly writing to people there, yet in the classroom he avoids it.
This made me think about my college days. While in graduate school, I had to do several case studies. Many of the children that I worked with were not fond of reading and writing. We would read a book together and then do a writing activity called a dialogue journal. Using a notebook, you write letters back and forth with the child asking questions that predict events, discuss what happened in the story, and so on. This was quite popular with kids because they liked the interaction and often forgot they were writing.
Over February break, I plan on starting a dialogue journal with my seven-year-old. My idea is to do it Disney Style, of course. I want him to pick out two Disney characters that he likes (narrowing it down may be the hardest part). Then, we will both pretend to be one of them as pen pals. I have a feeling that I may end up being Dr. Doofenshmirtz, and NHL will want to be Agent P. The creative writing aspect of this is huge. Aren’t you curious what Perry would have to say in a letter to his nemesis? I hope that my son will like this so much, that he will want to expand on it and be other characters like Buzz Lightyear and Jessie. Once he is more at ease with the writing, we can focus on adding more details to his writing, checking sentence structure, and watching for spelling mistakes.
Another twist on this activity would be to use computers. If your child is old enough, set up a secure e-mail account for them. Rather than the traditional pen and paper, you can go back and forth strengthening typing skills while still working on getting their creative writing going.
So let’s brainstorm together. What characters would you love to write back and forth pretending to be pen pals with? Also, be sure to let me know if you try this activity out.