At the moment I’m doing some nannying work for 3 boys. Boy B had a writing assignment for homework which he left to the last minute and was struggling to come up with something to turn in. His topic was to write a news report on Humpty Dumpty falling off the wall. Boy B had some good ideas emerging but was frustrated and bored during the editing process.
I worked with Boy B on some writing strategies such as getting into character and reading the work out loud. I also reminded him to check he had answered who, what, where, why, when and how. He then added in some adjectives and managed to construct a title which used both an alliteration and a pun. Pretty cool work for a year 6 student but more importantly I could hear Boy B’s voice shining through in his story.
When I asked him to reflect on his work he seemed more concerned about what his teacher might be angry about how his book looked than that he had plugged away editing his work until he came up with a great story. I also noticed that although Boy B was using google to check his spelling, he was handwriting story. I asked him why he didn’t just type his assignment and apparently he had towrite his piece by hand.
Is this what turns kids off from writing?
Being forced to used outdated tools and worrying that their work doesn’t fit in between the lines at the expense of finding their voice.Writing is supposed to be a messy process!
Students need to go back and rehash sentences, move ideas around, expand and contract sentences, choose different words and recheck their spelling. This is so much easier for children to do on a word processor than on paper. Yet I’m guessing most kids are like Boy B. Still being told that they need to hand write their stories and then if they are lucky, they might get to publish their work on a computer if it is deemed worthy enough. This is entirely the wrong way around.
Everybody repeat after me three times: a word processor is not a typewriter.
I would rather let Boy B have a messy page, or better yet, use a computer to get his ideas out than have him worried about what his teacher might thing of his scribbling out. In fact I would rather have kids typing their stories then handwriting finished products if we must insist on spending hours drilling students on handwriting.
Of course the problem is that most schools don’t have enough devices to ensure each kid has a keyboard and the easiest way to allocate the resource for some teachers might be to let the earlier finishers get time on the computer. I would argue that the reverse is true. It’s the kids who struggle with the mechanics of handwriting who need to be put in front of a computer to get their ideas into written form.
Ah the purists say but students need to be able to hand write otherwise how will they learn how to write?
To which I wonder what is the real purpose of our writing? Writing perfectly formed letters or the ability to communicate ideas through words. Because the only time I have been required to hand write a document of any length in the last ten years has been for exams and teacher’s college applications.
And there in lies the problem.
Our education system still uses 19th century tools to assess 21st century students. We pass these outdated methods of working onto our new teachers to inflict more misery onto young writers who have a voice but who might not yet have developed the fine motorskills to handwrite but could quite happily pound away on a keyboard except we won’t let them.
To quote REM withdrawal in disgust is not the same thing as apathy.