Does writing have this effect on any of your children?
As soon as you tell them to open their notebook, it begins.
Their eyes bounce around like the ball in a pinball machine. It's impossible to focus on the paper before them.
Their once comfortable chair betrays them. It's impossible to find a stationary position.
The temperature in the room rises quickly. It's impossible to breathe and their thirst is unquenchable.
Finally, after much threatening some gentle persuasion, they pick up their pencil to begin to write.
But wouldn't you know it...
as soon as the pencil touches the paper, IT SHOCKS THEM!
And then these tearful words flow...
"It's too hard. It hurts. I can't do it."
"I don't know what to write. I'm scared of failing." 🙁
I know I'm not the only parent of a struggling writer.
So what do you write and how much do you write when notebooking with your children?
If your child's struggling with WHAT TO WRITE, focus your effort on oral narrations. Oral narrations train your child to be attentive and focused to the reading while at the same time putting his thoughts about the reading into his own words. Stop expecting them to write before they have something in their head to say.
Once he has something to say, he needs 2 skills to put the thoughts on paper:
- the ability to physically write the words
- the ability to keep thoughts and words in his head while he writes them down
Copywork, transcription, and dictation to the rescue!
If your child needs to work on physically writing the words, start with oral narration and copywork. Write down some or all of his oral narration helping him form complete sentences as he narrates. Then, have him copy some or all of the narration. Slow and steady wins the race! Start with 1 sentence and build up to a paragraph.
If your child needs to work on keeping thoughts and words in his head, practice oral narration, transcription, and dictation.
Write down some or all of his narration for him. Again, expect him to narrate in complete sentences.
For transcription, let him look at a few words of the narration and tell him he has to hold these words in his mind (no glancing back) while he writes them down. Work up to a full sentence.
When ready, move on to dictation where you read the narration (or play it back to him if you recorded it) expecting him to write down several words at a time and eventually whole sentences at a time (or even more).
Use copywork, transcription, and dictation separately and in combination to gently move your child toward independently written narrations.
This process takes the fear out of what to write while developing the skills needed to write.
So the next question is... HOW MUCH TO WRITE?
Well, it depends.
My son might write a solid, short paragraph relating exactly what he learned in an organized fashion.
Whereas, my daughter might write 2 full pages and never get to a single point.
Instead of focusing on how much to write, focus your efforts on the quality of their writing.
Use a ladder of skills (like the list below) to help your child progress from oral narration to an organized and interesting three-paragraph written narration. Build up your expectations with each rung of the ladder, but do not move to the next rung until he is proficient with the current one.
- Give an oral narration using complete sentences.
- Identify 1-3 main points or interesting ideas from the reading.
- Write complete sentences for each of the 1-3 main points/ideas using proper capitalization and end punctuation.
- Add 1-3 sentences to tell more about 1 of these main points/ideas (1 paragraph).
- Add 1-3 sentences to tell more about each of the main points/ideas (3 paragraphs).
- Slowly add more expectations for grammar, spelling, punctuation, style, etc.
This steady approach builds the essential skills your child needs to write... without the tears.
"Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out." -- Robert Collier
I know the whole idea of writing down your children's narrations can feel like the ONE THING that pushes you over the edge. Who has the time?! This is why we created the ProSchool Publisher. I can quickly churn out copywork pages and narrations in both print and cursive and with a line-height appropriate for each child. Check out this video demonstrating how to create copywork pages. I use this same process to type up my kids' narrations to use for copywork, transcription, and dictation. 🙂