Growing up, writing, in my family, seemed to come as easily as breathing. My brother and sisters and I were all avid readers and had no problem putting our thoughts down into words. In college, as a music major, I had a job proofing essays for the football team. Wow. It was my first time coming face to face with the realization that everyone in the world does not love writing as much as I do.
I was thinking about this the other day as my 4th grade son worked on an essay for science class. I was trying to come up with my next blog post and the thought hit me, I could write about writing! But no, was my first thought, everyone already knows how to write. That’s when I remembered my time proofing essays. So, maybe not everyone knows how to write and maybe not everyone thinks it’s easy to teach.
Before you start thinking I’m full of myself and extremely arrogant, let me hasten to add, I also have a sneaky suspicion that everyone might not be awful at math and science like I am. There might be people out there who don’t have to look up in the answer key in order to explain a math problem to their child, or settle for watching science experiments on Youtube because theirs always fail. If there are such extraordinary genius parents in the world, they should obviously be writing blog posts about how to be better at those things for me to read!
Back to the basics. Before your child even writes his first 5 paragraph essay, he will write a paragraph or maybe even two paragraphs! This doesn’t need to be a frightening thing. I know that when I say to one of my children, “Write a paragraph,” the first response is always weeping and wailing about the impossibility and extreme time consumingness of the project. But it doesn’t have to be hard. When we broke down our paragraphs into steps it became so amazingly simple that my son actually said, “That wasn’t so bad, Mom.”
High praise indeed.
Step One: Choose a topic. In our case we had the assignment of picking a celestial being to write about. My son chose Pluto. I’d love to tell you that we went to the library and checked out a selection of books about Pluto in order to prepare for our two paragraphs. That would be my recommendation to other people. In my case, with a medically fragile, oxygen dependent child, and 7 others hooligans who are well aware that Mom can’t yell at them in a library, I went a different path. Back to our old buddy Youtube. (No judgment here if you have an only child and still can’t find time to make it to the library. I just feel like if I have a good sounding excuse I should use it.)
We watched several children’s science programs on Pluto and took notes. Every time they mentioned a fact I had my son write it down. He started to do this in complete sentence form, which, while it made my writing heart happy to see, was way too time consuming. I showed him how to jot down just enough to remind himself of what he wanted to write.
It looked like this:
Step two: I had him decide what his two paragraphs were going to be about. He decided that paragraph one was going to be about What Pluto was, and paragraph two was going to be about Where Pluto was. We then divided up all the facts into those two columns. What and Where.
Step three: he wrote a topic sentence to begin each of the paragraphs. I explained, for the umpteenth time, that a topic sentence begins a paragraph and covers what the paragraph is about. Every sentence in the paragraph should go along with the topic.
At that point, we were running a bit short on time. It was almost lunch time, I had to feed the baby, make lunch for everyone else, get the house cleaned up, and fold at least a couple baskets of laundry before the physical therapist arrived to work with the baby. (See? All good excuses) So, I suggested that my son dictate to me and I would write down the paper. This might seem a bit like cheating, but for kids who have a harder time forming the letters on the page then forming the words in their mind, this can be a good teaching tool. Penmanship and spelling are great, but if you can’t get past worrying about them it will be difficult to make your words flow together.
My son used the topic sentence we had written and then looked at the facts we had written under each paragraph heading. He linked the facts together in ways that made sense and told me what to write. We then moved on to paragraph two and repeated the process.
Voila! A two paragraph report on Pluto that didn’t require tears, threats, or an insane amount of time:
Hopefully, writing comes easily for your children and you hand out 10 page essay assignments to your 2nd graders without a qualm, but if not, maybe this has given you a few hints and get you started to writing fun!
You know that family that shows up to church in the 15 passenger van? The one that homeschools? Ever wondered how they make it through the day or wished you could be a fly on the wall of their house? Well, I'm inviting you in. I'm 36 and I ride herd on 8 children (oldest is 12), 3 cats, 2 bearded dragons, and one puppy. It's loud, chaotic, and imperfect. Welcome to Life in the Big House!