Thursday, May 5, 2011
There is nothing more frustrating than watching my little girl work on a writing assignment for school. Try as I may to stay out of her business, I can’t help but inject some tidbits of wisdom into the project. Call me a concerned Dad; call me an anal retentive wannabe writer; call me a stickler for logic and detail. It doesn’t really matter what you call me, it takes incredible strength for me to encourage her to write the paper all by herself without partaking of the festivities.
You may have seen some of my work: The Eagle and the Fox, The Fox and the Grape, and my personal favorite, Elephants. There is a problem that I am all too aware of: my writing voice is nowhere near my daughter’s writing voice. My daughter’s thread of reasoning is also on a different plane than mine. Did I just use a geometry term? I’m sorry; I must still be in my math homework mode.
To help a young writer, from a teaching standpoint, it helps to deconstruct the story to its core. I like to use parallel examples from real life to help illustrate the theme of the project story. “What would you do if you couldn’t get what you wanted?” “How would you feel if someone said that to you?” I encourage original thought while attempting to guide the process in a linear fashion. Kind of complicated for sixth grade; but if not now – then when?
She spins, she squirms and she looks at me with those eyes. “What do I do next?
“What is the story about?” I say. “Just write about it, in your own words. What are the characters doing? What happens?” She pauses, stumbles and then reads me her entry. She looks at me again, with hesitation, waiting for my response. “It’s almost there,” I say. “Let’s clean it up a little. It’s not a complete sentence. Keep going. You’re doing great!”
She’s so close, but not quite there yet. I know she can write a meaningful, compelling story. I’ve seen her in-class journals. One of these days I know that she’ll impress me with a totally original story. She definitely has the potential; it just hasn’t fully sprouted yet.
Writing comes naturally for some, while it’s a chore for others. I’m hoping for a day, in the not so distant future, when it will come more naturally for her. I’m not prepared to help her write college level papers. There will certainly be more sophisticated tools by then, and a dad making some simple verbal suggestions will be an obsolete concept.
Photo courtesy of www.ieeeghn.org