It can be painful to watch my son write. He can talk up a storm. He has rich ideas and plot-lines, but when it comes time to put them to paper – poof! Everything vanishes. You would think that the fact that my son is so comfortable with using words and telling stories that he wouldn’t have a problem getting those thoughts onto paper. But writing is not that easy.
The Process of Writing
Writing is not simply telling something to somebody, it is saying something to others in such a way that they will want to read it. Kids with hearing loss are not the only ones to struggle with writing. But, the fact that listening-speaking and reading-writing are all intertwined means that they can be at risk when it comes to writing.
Writing is also more than simply written speech. Stewart & Clarke, in their book Literacy and Your Deaf Child: What Every Parent Should Know, talk about the four stages involved in the process of writing.
- Translating ideas into words
- Organizing the content
- Reviewing the output (editing)
My son doesn’t like this writing process. He prefers the “one and done” method – where he can scribble down his thoughts and move onto something else.
Despite the fact that schools talk a lot about process, in the end the focus is really on producing a writing product, and the tricky thing is that students need to learn how to produce at the right time and in the right class period.
I think about myself writing this post right now. It has taken me a couple of different go throughs to get the words just right.
I have to take what I have researched, think about it, and put it into words that someone is going to want to read. But, what I have, that my son doesn’t, is the luxury of time.
Sometimes when I come to my computer I am brimming with ideas and it’s all I can do to get them out fast enough. Other times I am dragging my feet and it takes me forever to get settled in. So, I get up, make a cup of coffee, throw some laundry in, then I am ready to write.
Helping Your Child at Home
Classrooms are not always the best place for your child to find help. In my experience, teachers are quick to intervene if there are serious difficulties with writing, but my son just cruises along on the surface. In fact, I was told that he doesn’t test low enough to warrant extra help. But, that’s a completely different blog post.
In order to “motivate” writers teachers often use comments like “Time to hurry, you should all be finished brainstorming now,” and “Come on focus. I see too many blank pages,” but these usually end up creating more anxiety.
So, we spend some time working on getting stuff out at home. We talk about how when you first begin to write it should be like “throwing up on the page.” That might be a little gross for some, but my nine year old loves it.
Here are some things we do…
Speak it out
Who says writing has to be confined to paper and pencil. My son is a talker. He can easily tell me half a dozen sentences in the amount of time it takes him to write one.
So, for some assignments I have my son dictate what he wants to write. One way is that I type, and then he works on fixing up different parts and copying it down. When he is copying it he often finds places in his writing that he wants to change, or words he wants to add, so he is editing, he just doesn’t really know it.
Now that he is in fourth grade I am trying to shift him into a more independent direction. So, lately we have used “speech to text” apps. Using these apps is also a sneaky way to have them work on their speech at the same time as they have to speak clearly for their words to be transcribed correctly.
The easiest way to do this is to simply turn on the speech to text function on your phone. Open a blank email and let your child speak their thoughts. You can then print out the email for them to copy into their writer’s notebook or loose leaf paper. We have also used the Dragon Dictation app, and there are numerous other apps out there.
I am a list maker. So, we make lots of lists at home. There is a lot less of a commitment when you are writing a list. I see a list as a very simple form of brainstorming. But, I don’t even call it that, because brainstorming can be a loaded word.
Sometimes we make a list that is related to one of my son’s assignments. Or, we just make a game of it. “Quick, you have five minutes to write down everything you know about hockey!” It’s just an easy way to get stuff out fast, in a low pressure kind of setting.
My son is very visual. So, when I can, I try to take advantage of this by using his preference for diagrams and illustrations. For example, he loves to draw comics. So sometimes when he needs to organize information for a report or a story I have him draw a comic. He knows exactly what goes in each frame and then at the end he has the visual to help him write about it.
Another suggestion would be to use mind-mapping techniques to organize thoughts before tackling a writing project. While I had much success with this technique when I taught in a classroom (plus this is my favorite way to get unstuck), my son is not such a big fan of it. One reason I think this might be is because he sees it as something extra he has to do. And, usually a teacher will hand out pre-made mind map sheets where there are a bunch of blanks to fill in, which puts pressure to fill all the blanks. If you use mind-mapping just have your child draw their own webs, maps, etc.
Writing takes time. The expectations in the classroom can be a little off center when you think about all the stuff that goes into the writing process. Providing some space at home for your child to play and experiment with writing can take some of the pressure off.
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photo credit: Caleb Roenigk