A former colleague sent me an article the other day asking for my thoughts. The article, something along the lines of Reasons Kids Can’t Write and What to Do About It, was similar to others I’ve come across.
The text started with a description of a 6th grader who struggles with writing, listed a few possible reasons why, and gave five teaching suggestions.
The student was described as bright, imaginative, talkative, full of ideas, and prone to shutting down when it was time to get ideas onto paper. He was capable of more, but something was getting in the way.
We all know a student like this, right?
Then came the list of possible reasons this kid was so stuck:
- Poor posture
- Poor handwriting
- Poor spelling
- Inadequate time to practice
- Just may not like writing
Suggestions included seat cushions, better pencils, word banks, more time for writing, and a few more completely superficial reasons that have nothing to do with the true root cause of why so many kids struggle with writing.
Disappointment and frustration set in. This author left out a pervasive problem in young writers who struggle. Even when kids have ideas zipping around in their heads, they often don’t know how to organize them.
So when they write, their ideas come out in a muddled mess, or they don’t come out at all.
Some children naturally figure out how to organize their ideas, so their writing makes sense. Others struggle because they don’t readily recognize the patterns of language or they get bogged down by other executive function or processing challenges.
For something so fundamental, organization is oddly absent from too many instructional approaches for writing. If we want students to be successful writers, that needs to change.
Our research shows that SHOWING students how to organize language in an explicit way makes all the difference. When they can SEE how to organize all the ideas in their head, their ideas start to flow, and they take off with writing.
We’ve been teaching one of our methods, Brain Frames, for over two decades. Over and over, educators tell us they don’t know what they were doing before, but now they can’t teach without them.
Let’s get real about helping kids organize their ideas so they can write better. And let’s stop blaming pencils, ok?