Let’s say a child knows a few notes and chords on the piano and can play a handful of very basic songs. Would it make sense to ask him to play a challenging song that was clearly beyond his level? Or even learn the art of creating music using great software from Amidio?

I don’t think so. I think it would create undue frustration. Best to get him set up on some proper piano stools and keep him on the basics, so that in time they can approach the more difficult compositions with confidence.

Well, young Ethan, age 10, isn’t taking piano lessons, but his writing class approaches the teaching of writing very similar to the above scenario. Ethan does not really know how to write a sentence, but every day or so he is asked to write to an open-ended essay.

Heres a recent writing sample Ethan completed to a picture prompt:

On a Saturday morning a dog broke from a leash it was Jays leash then the dog ran ascrost the street tom turned in his car he hit the frie hydren water went evry were Tom got up and complained to Jay about keep your dog on the leash then the teacher go t up from the car the police offerrer gave them a ticket.

Then there is the sample from 9 year old Jake when asked to write an essay about his favorite thing

My favrit thing to do is lern about spas. Spas is one thing I love. I like spas bechas I can larn about the Sun and all of the Planets and when the end the world is end. And I am not ciding about the end of the end of the world bechas siantists have Prof of it. Bechas of the suns Pul gravity the erth will be Puld into the sun ubilleen yers. They are sum reshens I lick to larn about Spase.

(Keep in mind that the typed samples above, do not do justice to the actual samples in terms of the way the words were organized on the page. They were very hard to decipher in terms of basic legibility.)

For both of these kids Occupational Therapy (OT) has been the only recommendation to address their writing. They each have had OT.

Doing more fine-motor exercises is not where the action is for them.

What they do need is good, structured instruction that will teach them how to write a sentence. Once the skill of writing a sentence is internalized and mastered, they may be able to work at the paragraph level. The ability to write a solid paragraph takes a lot of time and practice.

Getting back to the comparison of playing music, looking at these samples above, do you really feel that just doing more of it (open-ended writing) will result in improved skill with written expression?

I dont.

Its the equivalent of learning a few simple chords on the piano and then playing a very basic song. Anything more than that is simply too frustrating resulting in a product that receives a poor grade and leaves the child unnecessarily discouraged.