Why do we write? Why are writing skills important? Because we all need to be able to communicate effectively and cogently — and preferably compellingly. We hope that our educational systems are focused on teaching the art of writing as we want our children to become confident and capable writers of more than 140 character Tweets and truncated texts. Some think writing is an innate skill. (“You can’t ‘make’ a writer. You are BORN one. Like Shakespeare.”). However, there is much proof behind the theory that good writing skills can be taught. And writing is like a muscle: to develop and tone we must target and practice.
But how? Oh, those pesky words, words, words….
In October, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) celebrates National Day on Writing, so let’s take a moment to focus on the importance of why our children need to hone their writing skills with this compelling quotation from NCTE: “Writing promotes the brain’s attentive focus to class work and homework, promotes long-term memory, illuminates patterns (possibly even ‘aha’ moment insight!), includes all students as participants, gives the brain time for reflection, and when well-guided, is a source of conceptual development and stimulus of the brain’s highest cognition.” Writing is, indeed, a skill that must be learned and practiced—the benefits are multitudinous.
Like most students, the gifted child encounters typical “writing hurdles.” However, the gifted learner’s mind—typically with the ability to think deeply and rapidly and probably accompanied by a staggeringly elevated vocabulary—encounters a jarring and halting frustration. When gifted kids want to self-express, they often struggle to calm the pace of their thoughts to where they can then clearly capture their ideas. Often the gifted learner does not have the ability to write at a level that accurately reflects the complexity of their thoughts; this discordance is disconcerting and disabling. The paralysis of perfectionism and defeat can take hold. They stop trying, believing this skill cannot be accomplished. And thus, the affliction that can plague any student can take over: the dreaded “Blank Page” menace.
If you are asking yourself what you can do about your child’s (or your own) need to be better at writing, here are the 2 most key suggestions: 1) Read, and then 2) write…something, anything! To this end, here are a few places to turn to for inspiration:
- Give you children fabulous and yet simple “composition notebooks” as a journals—black and white or bedecked with Peacock feathers or Star Wars X-Wing fighters—whatever makes them happy. Ask that they take a moment to document something they see or that happened to them. Their entries do not need to be “beautiful” or even particularly poignant. But just getting comfortable with self-expression in an informal way is to take steps to flex that writer’s muscle.
- Give your child access to a great read, because the more they read the more their minds can absorb the power and the beauty of words. There are many places to find great books, and here are a mere three that have great ideas:
o Try the resources listed for the young adult angle from the American Library Association;
o PBS has numerous book lists, such as lists for boys, Best Books for Middle Readers; and,
o for girls, try Empowering Books for Middle School Girls.
- NCTE has launched the #WhyIWrite campaign to celebrate and inspire us to write, “from fiction to poetry to emails to social media posts and beyond.”
If we do not take the writing process seriously as a necessary life skill and give it due diligence, then perhaps we will be settling for having our kids to just write good. Real good. Instead, work those writing muscles! Get out and let flow those glorious words, words, words.
Would you like to learn more about The Writing Center at The Grayson School and all our academic programs? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a tour or register for an upcoming Open House at our school. We would love to meet you and your child.