Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Joy of Scribbling

How many of you love to write?  Probably not many of you are jumping up and down about it.

If you have pre-school age children, they are likely the most prolific writers in your home. They are fascinated by trying to control a pencil, crayon or marker. Don't have an abundance of paper? No problem! They will record their thoughts on any available surface.

What about your school age children? Do they love to write just as much? As a teacher, I often heard the mantra, "I hate to write!" Honestly, I struggled to not agree with them.

What is it about writing that appeals so much to preschool children, but brings out dread in older children and adults?

Just like with reading, we only get better at writing by doing it. School gives children plenty of opportunities to write, so we should have great writers, right? Yet, even some of the students who love to read, don't enjoy writing.

The difference between our pre-school and school age children and their love for writing is very simple: choice.

Typically, students have few choices about what they write in school. While many of us feel like it is important to give choices to students as to what they read, we feel very limited in the amount of choices we can give students in writing.

The standards for writing are fairly specific about the kinds of writing that should be expected from students in each grade level in addition to what they should have mastered from previous grades. Being creative inside those expectations is something that teachers are relearning.

Authentic writing, writing that is important to our real lives, is something that we have lost touch with in education. Few teachers ever experienced authentic writing in school.

We were taught to write five paragraph essays with an introduction, a body and a conclusion. The essay, like all paragraphs, should have a topic sentence, supporting details and a conclusion.

The best writing teachers have always known to make writing authentic, and most teachers, I think, have tried to include some real-world writing in their teaching. Many teachers, though, have not felt like they had the time or haven't known how to do this.

We all know the joy a pre-school child has sharing their scribbles with us. They have some very engaging and complicated ideas shared on a piece of paper when they read their writing to us. (Sometimes it is on the wall or a piece of furniture.)

Usually, it is something very important like a letter to someone they love,  a book they are writing, or the menu for the restaurant they opened in their rooms.

As we continue to push literacy in the state and across the country, I hope we can bring the love of writing that pre-schoolers have into the classroom.

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