Teacher Tales

The Story of the Kid Who Refused to Write

This middle school student came into my classroom and told me in no uncertain terms, “I hate writing. Don’t even ask me to pick up a pen because I won’t. They kicked me out of my last two schools because of it.”

I said, “Okay, I won’t ask you to write.”

His eyes got wide for a moment and then he said, “You’re kidding, right? This is a school, isn’t it?”

I flashed him a devious smile and responded simply, “We do things differently here.”

I kept my promise and never asked this child to write anything with his own hand. I discovered over time that his writing difficulties stemmed from a combination of learning disabilities, including delayed fine motor skills, horrible sequencing, ADHD, and giftedness with a healthy slice of perfectionism. He was brilliant. He had so many story ideas racing around his mind that there was no way he could possibly get them onto paper and do them the justice they deserved with his disabilities.

I started out by taking dictation for him. That’s how I discovered that he had great ideas and was very bright. It was also how I discovered that he had sequencing problems because the ideas were completely disorganized on the way out of his mouth. I had to ask him to slow down and clarify and explain things as we went so that I could make sense of it all. He really appreciated the fact that I took an interest in his ideas at all and was asking these questions of him. Most people in the past had tuned him out after the first few sentences. With a little help on the organization front, what was coming out as a jumbled mess turned into a fluid story that captured my imagination and excited him to no end.

Once we connected on an emotional level and I got him to loosen up, I managed to talk him into writing every 10th sentence on his own. Over the next few weeks, we worked our way down to every 5th sentence, then every other, until at last he was writing his story on his own with lots of praise and rewards in the Druidawn game.

Not long afterward, he picked up the art of keyboarding and did the rest of his work from then on using the lap top computer his parents promptly bought him.

Handwriting and organizing his thoughts are still hard for this child. They probably always will be, but that’s what secretaries and editors are for, right? The important thing is that writing no longer causes him anxiety. Now his wonderful stories can be expressed on paper and enjoyed by others. The last time I saw this child a few months ago, he was still working on his novel and was up to 200 pages. The new Eragon? We’ll see!

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