Children too often are told to write but not taught to write. They are encouraged to fill journals, write book reports and follow a template to pass the writing test, but they are not taught how our written language differs from our spoken language. Steven Graham, a professor of education instruction at Arizona State University explained the "popular thinking is that writing should be caught, not taught." This idea gave birth to journals, and an emphasis on creative writing for the school age child with little instruction on grammar, sentence structure, and formal composition.
Our written language is different than our spoken language. Written language expected in academics and business has capitals, punctuation, sentences, and paragraphs. Unless one is writing dialog, written language is not just writing words down the way you speak. I remember a child who wrote the following sentence: A bear is like you know a mammal. Many children are expected to do a rough draft, edit and do a final paper without understanding how to get the thought into written form.
What are some of the activities that can help a child learn how to write?
- Familiarize them with written language.
- Read, read, read to your child. Even when your child is reading, read books that are at a higher lever then his reading level.
- Have a young child (ages 6 - 8) copy sentences from good children's literature. Start with a short sentence. Throughout the year move up to longer, more complex sentences. Remind him to use all the capitals and punctuation in the sentence. Many children need practice copying before they can fluidly put their own thoughts on paper.
- Read excerpts from children's books and ask questions about what was read. Repeat the answers in complete sentences. For example:
Child: the witch
Adult: Yes! Say, The witch gave Snow White the poison apple.
Child: The witch gave Snow White the poison apple.
- Teach children how words such as although, unless, if, and because are used in sentences. Direct teaching of how these words are used will also improve reading comprehension.
- Popular thought is that children with LDs should not be graded on spelling, grammar and punctuation. It is important that writing skills are re-enforced across subjects. A child should receive credit for a correct answer in history or science, but she should also be expected to use writing skills across the board. Answering a question with a complete sentence is not above the ability of an elementary child, especially a child who has been specifically taught writing skills.