The written word is powerful and everyone starts writing with the same crooked letters and common misspellings. As your child grows, however, he’ll become a more skilled writer and be able to use that improving handwriting and spelling to convey more intriguing and in depth thoughts or a fun story all his own.
Often writing takes a backseat to reading and math in the list of core subjects. This isn’t surprising as man perceive early writing skills as less critical to a child’s academic success as learning to read or basic math. But being able to put thoughts on paper is extremely important and problems your child experiences with writing in his early years can create last issues with this skill.
The Art of Writing
Writing is simply taking a thought from your head and translating it into words you put down on paper. This is simple for many of us, but children, especially those just learning to read and write, struggle with even the most simplistic message. This is partially due to a block between brain systems and partially a problem overcome with practice and increased vocabulary.
Writing and the Brain
In girls, the communication systems of the brain are front and center. In fact, communication is tied into almost every process, but most importantly emotions. Girls can tell you what they think and feel and this is critical to writing. Once you can say a sentence out loud, “I like cats.” It’s easy enough to put that sentence on the paper for many with this level of connected wiring.
Many boys, on the other hand, have trouble communicating more than facts. This stems from the more isolated communication center in the male brain. In men, emotions aren’t connected well to language, and language isn’t nearly as interconnected in men as it is in women. This doesn’t men your son will always be a step behind your daughter in writing and communicating thoughts, but it does mean that your son might have to force the connection between his brain, his mouth and his pencil as it does not occur as readily.
When practicing writing with your child, this kind of block occurs when your child can tell you what happens, but can’t understand how to take that same story and put it on the paper. It’s as if he or she can’t connect his hand with his mouth. He can say it or think it, but can’t make his hand write it.
To overcome this, you must simply show him how to make the connection and then continue to practice with him until he understands and can get the words there on his own. Sit with a piece of paper in front of you and ask your child to write down a quick story about a particular topic. (It’s best to give your child a topic to start the creative juices flowing.)
If he struggles with writing it down, remove the paper and have him put down his pencil. When he’s relaxed, have him tell you the story instead. It’s likely he’ll have a nicely creative story ready to tell in his mind. Let him tell you the story and then summarize it back for him. If he agrees that you have the gist of the story as him to tell you the first part again.
After he tells you the first few paragraphs or lines, pull out that paper and ask him to write it down. He’ll likely balk, but simply ask him to write down the words he just said out loud. This is a bit easier for the child, especially with you reminding him what the story was about and helping him remember his lines. Keep writing the story in small chunks until he has it completely written. Lavish him with praise for a job well done.
Another problem many children have with writing is the limited number of words they have to work with. It’s one thing to say a word out loud in an answer or story and another entirely to write it down and spell it correctly. Most adults can easily name a time or two they modified an answer or changed words so that they wouldn’t have to try and spell something they know how to say.
If adults struggle with words, think of the deli mina many young children are in. They have what amounts to a handful of words they can reasonable spell, and they must use those words to tell a complete story. If your child’s not a risk taker in spelling and language, and many children are not, it’s likely he’ll freeze up simply because he can’t spell or can’t come up with the right words to describe his ideas.
The obvious solution to this problem is to help your child overcome these hurdles by being on hand to spell tricky words and teaching your child how to overcome deficiencies. An online dictionary or a paper version can help him figure out spelling in many cases. Learning to look things up in a dictionary is also valuable training for the future.
On an ongoing basis, you should be working with your child to build his vocabulary. The more words he sees in print, the more comfortable he’ll be writing them on his own. This is why reading ties in so strongly to writing. Reading the written word makes it easier to write. The more you read, the easier it will be to write.