Many times in Facebook groups, I’ve seen a question from desperate mamas about how to help her children who are reluctant writers.
Believe me I’ve been there. My son is still a reluctant writer.
But when I saw those posts, I started sharing some of my experiences and I came up with seven strategies. Maybe these ideas will help some of you who have this same struggle.
Before I get into the ideas, let me just share a little bit about my son and I. First of all, I have a BA in creative writing. I LOVE writing! I especially love journal writing the old-fashioned way with pen and paper. I got good grades in college because I thrived on writing essays.
So flash forward many years later when I discovered that my son, Sam, has dysgraphia. This is a disconnect between the brain and hands. He was a reluctant reader years ago and is a reluctant writer.
I came to realize that he has a difficulty in getting the thoughts in his brain out of his mouth and onto the paper.
But how could I break down the writing process step by step? I love writing and it comes naturally to me. How was I going to teach it to him with all his challenges?
Knowing that having Aspergers is a factor, I began to seek for answers. I am still in process but what I have done so far has worked.
I started with the fact that he is a visual and kinesthetic learner. So here are the five steps I took:
1) Reading aloud. Throughout our schooling time, reading aloud to Sam has always been a huge part of our homeschooling. We read mostly high-quality literature, especially classics, and interesting informational books.
2) Sentence building. I used poetry magnets and wrote on blank magnets. I used a variety of the parts of speech. Often the words came from our unit study’s vocabulary. I had him arrange the magnets in sentences. I started with a sentence with some words left out and gave him several choices. We built up a word bank and displayed these on our freezer, which is in our schoolroom. I have also used index cards and games I bought at the school supply store.
3) Asking questions. This is something I instituted this year. I read a few paragraphs and then I ask Sam some questions about the passage. He must answer me in full sentences. It’s annoying to him, but he does it.
4) Dictation. I dictate to him some sentences from the books we’re reading and he types them into the computer. The spellcheck is turned OFF. At the end, I have him correct a sentence from the book that I purposely get wrong.
5) Copywork. I have him copy some sentences in cursive handwriting. If he has a struggle I emphasize it. For instance, he was confused about commas, so I made sure the sentences have parenthetical clauses.
6) Dictating sentences to me. Using the vocabulary words, I have him dictate sentences to me. He likes to be creative, so I let him think about any subject he desires. If it’s about cats, so be it!
7) Creativity. This is something I want to do more of. One time last year, we wrote Haikus. Sam suggested we have a poetry war. He would write something about what I’m phobic about, which is bees, and I would write something about what he is phobic about, spiders. We each wrote the poems and illustrated it. The result was delightful and he had a lot of fun!
These are the basic tools that I use to help Sam with his writing. It’s not easy but I know that he’s benefiting. Of course, this is all done in the context of spelling using his vocabulary words. I used KONOS for grammar (the Obedience book) until I felt he was getting stuck.
Many of my ideas come from Total Language Plus and the research I’ve done online regarding reluctant writers.
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