Unfortunately, all of her motivation to write was squashed when she was given assignments and her work had to be revised. I made some huge mistakes! I think it all happened in about one day. From that time until five weeks ago I've been working to relight her writing candle. Despite her talent for writing, it was a struggle of ups and downs for several years.
For a while she wrote from story starter sheets that contained prompts such as...... If I had a pet I would have a................... and My favorite place to visit is............... While these types of sheets weren't too objectionable, they weren't very motivating either. She completed them with a minimum number of words required to check the box and call it done.
Next we tried writing using the senses to describe things and tried more story and journaling prompts such as: Write about something nice somebody did for you, and Write about what it would be like to be a fish. We tried looking at unfamiliar story book pictures and using them to inspire a new story. We tried putting twists to favorite books such as Eric Carle's Brown Bear Brown Bear What do You See and creating book reports. We tried selecting a topic and doing research reports and writing letters to friends.
Last year many writing assignments were correlated to our history and science studies. All this time revision was kept to a minimum in that it was done rarely. Despite these efforts, writing was viewed as a chore and not a lot of fun. It wasn't horrible, but she hadn't had the passion I saw when she was so young.
Luckily, I'm happy to report that all has changed this year! We had a long summer break and I had time to reevaluate. It occurred to me that the problem was obvious. She hadn't been writing about what she wanted to write about.
My new plan was simple.
- Require writing every day.
- Let the kids write about anything they want.
- Write with all the children at the same time.
- Share what's been written when a paper is complete. (I write all the time on my blog, but the kids don't always see me writing. The see me working on the computer. Now I write with them and share too.)
- Don't correct mistakes or require revision. Instead encourage revision by suggesting the excellent paper be typed into the computer and published on my blog, submitted to a magazine that publishes writing of children, or submitted to our small history co-op group for publication in our unit study newspaper. So far this hasn't happened, but I haven't lost hope. I believe writing improves tremendously with practice. In addition, if there are major issues, they can be discussed at a separate time. For example, spelling words can be practiced at spelling time, or grammar time can be scheduled to discuss what's included in a complete sentence.
The results of these changes were astounding right from the beginning! At the end of the first week my 12 year old daughter wrote two full pages (front and back) describing her land. Her land floats around in the ocean and sits on a pancake-like inner tube that has a radius of approximately 100 miles. It's at a height of 10 feet above sea-level. Her two pages are filled with descriptive detail. I guess the past five years haven't been a total waste:)
My son wrote about the ten machines found in his land. There is an Enemy Keeper Awayer, a Transporter, and a machine that makes you get old or young in only 30 seconds. He described each machine with a short sentence or two.
My six year old spent much of her time illustrating, but stated that her land is similar to Oz. The green land is where the hedgehogs live and the pink land is where the sewing people live. There are slides connecting each of her color lands. Last week she told me writing is her favorite time of day.
What I have taken from this is nothing new. Kids are motivated when they are doing what they want. They need control and choice and then can own what they are creating. After all, I wouldn't like it too much if my husband came home and told me I had to write about my favorite cars from the 1950's. So why should the kids be excited to write about the food of the ancient Chinese? My goal is to get them excited about writing. They can learn about history during another part of the day, and if they would like to write about history during writing time that would be wonderful, but I won't be creating any more writing assignments in the near future.
I plan to continue this writing philosophy by throwing out new ideas during meal times and asking questions. I would really like to know what an Enemy Keeper Awayer is made out of and how big it is.
This post is part of the Homeschool Help Series of posts. Five other homeschooling moms with different perspectives write on the same topic each week. The posts are filled with inspiration and new ideas. I hope you will check them out.
Help - My Child Hats Writing - Savannah at Hammock Tracks
Five Writing Games Your Kids Will Love - Lucinda at Navigating by Joy
Teaching Composition - Chareen at Every Bed of Roses
A Love of Writing - Bernadette at Barefoot Hippie Girl
When Writing Brings Tears - Nicole at One Magnificent Obsession
This Post is Linked to:
Show and Share Saturday
Virtual Curriculum Fair
Saturday Show & Tell
123 Homeschool 4 Me
Tried it Tuesday
Living and Learning at Home
Hip Homeschool Hop