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Teaching my 9 yr old how to write

I am teaching my son how to improve his writing skills. Well in truth - after watching some YouTube videos on how some of these educational curriculum changes seem more harmful than helpful, I have stepped up my efforts in all of his educational needs.

Today we finished up on a simple writing assignment he was given, in short he was asked to choose ten out of his twenty or so spelling words and to write a short story. I have mentioned it before and I am not ashamed to mention it again – I am not a writer and by God I need all the spell checking and grammar help the word processer program can offer me.

This is the finished story
Notwithstanding, I think I can handle a bit of fourth grade level writing, of course it sounds easier than it really is. For instance like many a parent – I fell into the trap of simply dictating to my child what he should write. Luckily he had already come up with an interesting story and as I found myself correcting his work without allowing him to give any input or even explaining to him the how or why I was asking him to make so many changes – he quickly blurted out to me “But my teacher said I have to do the work!”.

Here is where teaching becomes difficult – How do you explain to a child what you want him to learn without actually giving him the answer? I was in a 2nd grade classroom the other day and I watched as a teacher tried to introduce the “Associative properties” of addition in math. No matter how many times she repeated her statements the students would not respond back with the correct answer. In the end she found herself giving the students the answers to the worksheet as she went along.

So, how did I do with my son? Was I able to avoid doing the work for him instead of helping him to learn how to do it on his own? Well, it took two days of one hour sessions to finish a decent short story of about two hundred words. The hardest part of the whole process was trying to get him to come up with the ideas without having to actually give it to him. Oh, it didn’t stop him from asking for hints nor as he put it “Can you start the sentence for me?” No, I had to find interesting ways to get him to think of an idea and then help him refine what he had created.

For example: a few of the words he chose were sandwiches, daisies and ambulances. So after establishing in the story that the three characters drove ambulances for a living I asked him to create a sentence that would 1. Keep the flow of the story and 2. Make actual sense. Why, because he was simply throwing sentences together – so I asked him: when people work what do they do that you can use to create a sentence with that uses the word sandwiches? He came up with the concept that people eat and therefore they wanted sandwiches. So I asked him: where could they get a sandwich – his response was, from a sandwich shop. Then I asked him how can we tie in another one of the words on your list using this very same sentence – it took a bit of frustration but we finally arrived at the sentence where they bought sandwiches at the sandwich shop that was named Daisies.

I have to give teachers credit – I was working with only one child, my child and there were moments there where I wanted to rip my own hair out from the frustration I was feeling. But in the end it turn out well – he still needs work and like all children he will forget and will need to have this repeated to him over and over again. But that is par for the course. My concern is – with some of these strange new teaching methods – what chance does a child have who doesn’t have an involved active parent to help?

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