Kids Hate Writing? Get ‘Em Out of Their Seats

outofseatIn my work with teachers, and in our fellowship programs at the WNY Young Writer’s Studio, I become closely acquainted with kids who absolutely hate writing.

What’s worse is that they believe they aren’t capable of it. Why? Well, mostly because they are unable to sit silently before a screen or page and push words out of the end of their fingers in a coherent fashion until every inch of white space is covered in text.

When I invite this same group of kids to do stand up and pace a bit as they plan, things go a bit better. When I teach them how to do a “brain dump” by scribbling each of their ideas on individual sticky notes, they say it brings them relief.

“It’s like I have a million little incomplete ideas swirling around in my head,” one writer told me last week. “It’s so overwhelming. But if I can get each of them down on a sticky note, then they are out of my head.” Once the sticky notes are displayed across the surface of a table or on a wall, they can be clustered, categorized, mixed and organized. Connections are made between incomplete ideas, and often, powerful and coherent conclusions are drawn.

Some writers need to move, and they need their writing to move as well.

And others can’t begin with print, so I show them how to doodle the arc of their stories across long scrolls of paper, create puppets for their protagonists, or design the characters on butcher paper, as you can see above. Once they realize that they don’t have to sit and type in order to write, they immediately sink into their process.

These are just a few stories, and they aren’t representative of all writers, of course. In my experience, it’s usually the outliers who make these unconventional practices their own. They fall at either end of a very wide spectrum: some are the kids who struggle most when asked to write in traditional ways, and others exhibit uncommon dexterity. Both kinds of writers seem to fall into a state of flow when writing begins to look and feel more like making.

I’m not sure why. I’m still learning more.

In the mean time, I’ve begun sharing much of what I’ve discovered with other teachers and parents and the kids I get to work with in classrooms and at The WNY Young Writer’s Studio.

I’ll be sharing a lot of that learning here, too.

Interested in helping some of your students make writing? Consider these six steps.

Are you noticing things about the connection between making and writing that I haven’t mentioned here yet? I hope you’ll leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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