This week I met James, age 7 and a half. In my assessment of James, I found him to be extremely bright, with excellent higher level reasoning skills and a lively spontaneous personality. His reading skills were developing nicely, matching his strong cognitive abilities. Yet, James had a very rough first grade year. Openly stating how much he disliked school, James was becoming discouraged. What was the problem?
In a nutshell, James found writing to be an excruciating process and one that he had to face every morning.
For many kids (often the boys) there is a mismatch between their cognitive abilities and their ability to get the words out of their pencil and on to the page.
Open ended writing (e.g., “write about your weekend”) is particularly challenging for these kids. Getting started on the writing is particularly challenging.
This was indeed the case for James.
Dr. Mel Levine in his many books on learning issues points out how demanding the writing process is for kids (and adults). I have heard Dr. Levine say in conferences that writing is the single most difficult process of schooling. Think about it. If you were asked to write about your weekend, consider the many things that would occur for you to complete the task. Some of these would include:
· Visualizing your weekend
· Deciding what aspect of the weekend to discuss (major vs. minor detail)
· Word retrieval
· Word choice
· Fine motor
· Active working memory (concurrently holding information in your mind to act on it)
For young James it was all too much. James would like school much more if could approach writing in more digestible bites. He wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed.
Practicing simple sentences (e.g., “Dogs run.” “People walk) and building on these sentences in a scaffold-like approach would give James a sense of confidence.
I recommend that you get a hold of Diana Hanbury King’s, Writing Skills to learn more about the structured, step-by-step approach to writing development.