Teacher Tales

Adventures in Teaching Creative Writing

Why is writing so hard for some kids, particularly boys? Have you ever thought of all the skills you need to have in place in order to be an effective writer? Let’s have a look, shall we? In order to be a good writer, you have to…

  • Have a good grasp of spoken language and be able to speak coherently – children who have speech problems often have writing problems.
  • Have full use of the fine muscles in the hand and arm, including pencil grip, wrist strength, and forearm position – many children have delayed fine motor skills or low muscle tone.
  • Have proper sitting posture in back, neck, shoulders and arms – poor posture causes quick exhaustion and may be a sign of binocular vision problems.
  • Have eye-hand coordination – the brain needs to have proper communication with the hand, telling it where to go on the page.
  • Have visual perception enough to align words on a page - some children misalign their words, starting at the center of the page instead of the edge, and slanting the words off to the side, leaving half the page or more unused (also a sign of a developmental vision problem).
  • Be able to read and understand written words.
  • Be able to organize a wealth of thoughts in order to convey smaller, concise ideas in a logical sequence (sequencing difficulties are the most common cause of writing delays).
  • Understand how words are spelled and the basic concepts of grammar and punctuation, which utilizes auditory and visual memory as well as major sequencing skills – punctuation is heard before seen. (You have to be able to HEAR a period, comma or a question mark or you’ll never understand where they go in a sentence).
  • Overcome perfectionism enough to take a shot at it, even if the first draft doesn’t look as good as desired (gifted children are most often the guilty ones in this area – they need it to sound like a professional wrote it and can’t forgive their own errors or amateur abilities).
  • Be emotionally and mentally engaged in the task of writing for sustained attention and motivation (in cases of ADD, just sitting still long enough to write is an agony in itself)

So in short, to be able to write effectively, a child would have to have language, speech, fine-motor, gross-motor, visual-perceptual, sequential, auditory-processing, memory, and physical, mental, and emotional coping skills all strong and intact.

Considering all that’s involved in simply putting words onto paper, it’s a wonder any of us can write at all.

Of all the important skills listed above, however, one of them has the power to correct all the rest single-handedly. Can you guess which one?

When children are excited emotionally and mentally, they overcome all kinds of obstacles they never thought they could accomplish. They could have every single delay mentioned above – the process of writing could be a sheer agony for them, and they would still become great writers if their imaginations were on fire and their emotions were captured and engaged. When properly motivated, kids will do impossible tasks and not even complain about it. Learning disabilities require work, lots and lots and lots of hard work and practice to overcome. The only way to get kids to work at it is to motivate them emotionally.

I have found that befriending my students and engaging their imaginations has worked better for me than any formal therapy could (though I highly recommend a combination of both!).

The following is a compilation of experiences I’ve had in trying to motivate some of the most reluctant students to write.

Please consider sending in your own stories so that we can add them to this list of wonderful adventures in overcoming writing disabilities and/or reluctance.

Teacher Tales:

The story of the boy who hated to write by Miriam Darnell

The Anime Fanatic by Miriam Darnell

Saved by Druidawn by Miriam Darnell

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