Kids who don’t like to write? Hmmmm.

DaydreamingIn our  third grade classroom we give our kiddos a little survey to identify what they feel are their best and worst subjects. The”best” subjects are always nicely varied but, I’m sad to report, the trend is clear in their “worst” subject. The majority of kiddos year after year say writing is their biggest problem and least favorite. Come again? Children are the most creative, least inhibited bunch of peeps on the planet. How is it possible they view themselves as unsuccessful writers? Here are my two theories culled after more than a decade of teaching.

1. Kids think they are poor writers because we don’t let them write what they’re passionate about. We teach them about whales and then they write a report. We learn about pioneer life and then ask them to write paragraphs about it. While these assignments are important and absolutely necessary, we don’t often allow our students to write about what excites them, thrills them, confuses and scares them. In those topics lie the most powerful avenues for expression and the greatest opportunity for them to feel like successful writers. Writing is a means of moving people, and you can’t move people if you don’t believe in your subject matter.

2. Kids think writing spelling, grammar and handwriting. Er, no it doesn’t. I can craft you a neatly written, perfectly spelled and punctuated paper that communicates precisely nothing. Mechanics and neat handwriting are TOOLS, but they do not solely determine the quality of the writing. Writing is a messy process with lots of crossing out, erasing, fixing mistakes and revising. It’s got to be messy for a while, or it won’t be good at any point. The most important thing is determining what you want to say. If a writer can decide on that, I can help him or her acquire all the tools necessary to make that message the best it can be.

So how did you feel about the subject of writing when you were in school? How do your kids feel about it now? Giving away an Amazon gift card this month if you’d care to leave a comment. 

14 responses to this post.

  1. I always hated writing assignments in school… I felt like my mind would kind of go blank when I was asked to write about a specific thing, even if I had researched it. In junior high, I started writing quite a bit, though — basically just whatever came into my head — and I discovered that I could actually enjoy writing! And I’ve enjoyed it ever since! 🙂
    Since I don’t have kids of my own yet, I can’t answer that second question.

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  2. Posted by Shanda on August 30, 2014 at 1:41 am

    I loved to write when I was in school. I gave my all even in technical writing, embedded pizazz in my embedded clauses. 🙂 Among my peers, however, I was alone in the pursuit of good writing. Technical or otherwise. I wrote poetry and short stories as a kid and teenager, always reading and writing from as early an age as I recall. I was privileged to have a storytelling and reading family, and I am pretty sure that made all the difference.
    My students hated writing. It was always like they were visiting the dentist–some preferred the dentist! But there was always that one, that kindred little spirit jotting down ideas from the ether. 🙂 It will likely be that way always. Even though we shove stupid assignments (that have no relevance) down kids’ throats and expect Shakespeare, we sometimes do get a budding writer growing through the asphalt like a determined dandelion.

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  3. I was a first grade teacher for several years and from my experience, children who have no personal purpose for writing have no desire for it. Writing needs to have a purpose. For adults, and for children too. They have to feel that writing is relevant in their life in order to care enough to begin to love it. Have kids keep journals and let them write what they want. Whether its about their new video game or favorite show. Have them draw pictures and write captions. Have them write and draw comic strips. Give them fun writing opportunities. Mad libs, etc…the possibilities are endless. Having them write a 2 paragraph essay on the pioneers is like asking a fiction writing to write a book on how to refinish a hardwood floor (and visa versa to my non-fiction friends!) 🙂

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  4. Neither of my kids (young adults) are big readers but they both write reasonably well, although only technical papers and reports. I agree that web surfing and video games may have led them astray.

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  5. Posted by Valri Western on August 29, 2014 at 2:46 am

    I love to write, always have! Of course I grew up with a mother that graduated college as an English major and I went on to major in English also! I had two children that loved English & writing and one child that didn’t really enjoy it – she was more into science and math! I think it’s a travesty in this country that our kids don’t write much! I have two daughters that are teachers (one, an elementary teacher and one, a high school teacher) and they both say they wish kids wrote better!

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    • In my district, there is a push for kids to write more in every subject. The problem, as I see it, is the thrust is mostly non fiction writing which does not appeal to some kids. It’s hard to preserve a good balance. Thanks for the post, Valri!

      Dana Mentink award winning fiction author http://www.danamentink.com

      >

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  6. Hated to write then and still hate it. My daughter is great at it and I have no idea where she gets it from.

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  7. I loved to write when I was in school. I was so creative back then when my mind was less cluttered. My daughter didn’t really follow in my footsteps when it comes to a love for reading and writing. I think too many distractions (technology) may be to blame.

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