C Copying Written Text
What is writing all about? I’m sure if you asked a school full of educators you would get a lot of different answers. My background is in Special Education, so my ideas are sometimes a bit different than teachers certified to teach Language Arts and writing. But, when it comes to writing, if kids won’t do it, it’s not a thing anyhow!
There are many children, of all ages, who are reluctant writers. This reluctance can result from multiple reasons. One reason may be that they physically find it difficult. A second reason may be that they don’t know what to write about. A third, but I’m sure not the last reason, may be because they don’t know how to write “acceptable” work. By acceptable work, I refer to work that can be handed in to a teacher, or shared with someone, with pride.
Writing can be physically difficult. This is very hard for many people to understand. When we all learn to write, we may not be aware of it, but we put different pressure when using different writing utensils. Obviously, if you press too hard with a pencil, the point breaks. If you press too lightly with a pen, you may not see all the characters. If it wasn’t addressed when you were little you may still find that your hand gets tired or achy after writing for a bit. Kids seem to unintentionally press very hard with their writing utensils. Perhaps they think the harder they write the better the work, sort of like a hand and mind disconnect. Whatever the reason, if their hands get tired and achy, they won’t write.
Writing might also be difficult because children don’t know what to write. Even given a topic, there is still a lot that goes into writing. For example, if you tell a third-grade student they must write about their favorite vacation, they could do that in one sentence. What they don’t know is how to expand the idea to write enough about it. Helping children write an outline, they now have a visual reference of what information is appropriate for their topic. By showing students that ideas don’t always just flow like a written book, they may be less reluctant to try. Sometimes kids, especially the younger ones, think writing should be like what they see in a book. They don’t understand that professional writers also have professional editors!
This leads to the third reason I provided, that students don’t want to write if it is going to come back and be “all wrong”. Writing is graded in schools on different categories. If the teacher is looking for mechanics, then there may be marks showing a student all the commas they missed, or the fragment sentences they produced. If the teacher is looking for information in their writing, then there may be remarks that they don’t have enough information, or they need to “expand that idea”. This is very frustrating to students who don’t understand that writing isn’t done in one draft. With all my students I have always said that you will have more than one draft, no matter what. But the thing I emphasize is that you don’t have to change your writing, just add to it. That is a big relief for students. Sometimes when they are told to write a second draft, they believe they must write a whole new copy. That is a lot of work! Ease their minds by letting them know that the drafts after the first are for fixing and adding, not changing and taking away. Yes, there will be some things that have to be omitted or changed, but at the onset of an assignment, if a student thinks they will have to write the same thing multiple times, you’ve just lost them!
So, what do I mean by copying text? When kids are little and don’t know how to write complete sentences, encourage them to “rewrite” their favorite books. Copying the text is something that doesn’t seem “too hard” and seems almost like a “legal cheat”. I’m not saying they should copy text and call it their own! No, I mean copying text just as practice. Another way to encourage children to write is to have them narrate to you, you write it, then they copy it. If you write it in their words exactly, then it is still their writing! The best thing is you just took out the task of writing and thinking at the same time!
These little things can make a big difference in getting kids to love writing. Do you write at home? Sometimes one of the best lessons is watching a parent or sibling do the task. When I taught elementary school kids if it was time to write in journals, we all did it! Yes, the teachers and aides! This shows students that writing is important and is enjoyable.
With the technology that is available, teaching kids to type and write on a keyboard are important, but it is always important to write using a pen and paper! Nothing will ever take the place of conventional writing!