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Writing for an 8yo boy

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For my older two dc I've used WWE and WWS but with my 8yo ds I'm not sure this is the best match. He really enjoys creative writing and will write long twisted stories on his own initiative. He also tries to write songs. I feel really unprepared for teaching creative writing. I'm mathy and one of the reasons that I have appreciated WWS is that it's so linear and logical. This boy loves writing BUT his mechanics are poor. He basically doesn't use punctuation. His spelling is terrible. He mixes capitals and lowercase letters all the time. I'm working on the spelling with Spell to Read and Write and I've been doing some dictation sentences with his spelling words and insist on proper form. I feel prepared for tackling the mechanics so I guess what I'm wondering is how to encourage the self-expression and creativity with such a young one. It seems to me that years of narration/dictation will suck the life out of him. I do own The Creative Writer but it seems like it would be a little old for him unless I did every lesson completely with him. Thoughts?

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FWIW, at 8yo I wouldn't worry about teaching or facilitating creative writing beyond giving him plenty of time and materials to do his own thing and being an appreciative audience whenever he shares something with you (all of which you probably do already).  I'd just keep working on the mechanics like you are doing, and I would personally do WWE with him as well.  It's lit-centric, gentle, and quick, and ime the results give a lot of bang for your buck.  Since he likes creative writing, he'd probably like the stories, and ime it's gentle and quick enough it shouldn't suck the life out of him and should leave him with plenty of time and energy for his own creative writing.

One thing you could do to encourage his self-expression and creativity is to let him talk your ear off about his writing and really kind of engage with him as he does: ask questions to clarify his thinking, ask questions that encourage elaboration, brainstorm with him.  I mean, kind of a joyful, engaged interest: like how people who are into a fandom engage with it.  Paying really close attention and really thinking through all the logic and the implications and such, but in a "because I love it so much" way, along with just squeeing over the good bits because you enjoy them.  Just kind of entering into his creative writing world with him and giving him the gift of an engaged, thoughtful audience to interact and brainstorm with (if/when he wants it).  Not just being an appreciative audience, but a thoughtful, interacting one as well.

Edited by forty-two
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Agreeing with forty-two ... kids who like and are good at creative writing don't really need creative writing instruction. My girls who like to write stories and songs don't really connect those activities with "composition" as a subject in school, because the end goal of both activities is so radically different. The not so fun and less creative writing assignments like summaries and outlines and essays and whatnot are the ones that they need explicit instruction for, and WWE/WWS have got those bases covered for you.

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First, a quick side note: there are actually 3 very separate activities that go into writing:
1. thinking of what to say
2. the physical act of getting it from the head down the arm and through the pencil onto the paper
3. and then managing the spelling and grammar usage/mechanics (punctuation, capitalization, etc.)

Each of those 3 activities is processed in a separate area of the brain -- and not all 3 areas mature/develop at the same rate -- so simultaneously juggling all 3 activities into fluid, well-thought-out, and largely proof-edited writing is just not something that most children can manage before about age 10 -- and for some it is not until much later. There are adults who never manage to simultaneously juggle all 3 activities. That's where teaching that writing is a multi-step *process* right from the beginning can be very helpful. Because trying to manage all of those activities simultaneously is such work, there is a tendency for kids to feel their writing is "sacred" (LOL), or to have extreme reluctance to go back and revise and then go back again and proof-edit. If you can start that process early on, and break each stage of writing into a separate "bite" done at a different time, it is less overwhelming, AND it allows time for the child to mentally shift gears to better engage the different part of the brain needed for spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Just my bonus thought for the day. 😉
______________________

Treasured Conversations might be a good fit -- it incorporates grammar basics with intro to writing, and is for grades 3-5. Another plus: it is a downloadable pdf, so no worries about shipping to Canada. You can see several samples at that link. You could do TC with DS daily, and then encourage him to pursue his own creative writing projects by providing him the time to do so, helping him "publish" by scanning and printing his works, possible set up a blog for him with limited access (only family members and close friends who have the password for access) -- etc.

Wordsmith Apprentice is another option. It is more independent and more about creative writing -- but it is also less formal than WWE et.al. It teaches some basic grammar along with the writing in all 4 areas (Descriptive, Narrative, Expository, Persuasive), through a goofy fun cub-reporter theme, where the student writes for the different newspaper departments. There is a suggested schedule, but the program is quite flexible and can be broken into as big or small of daily "bites" as your student needs or wants to do.

Another idea is to do something a bit more formal, but alternate regularly with supplements that encourage creative writing with prompts and project ideas. Some creative writing supplement ideas:
- Draw and Write Journal
- Write Your Own Book
- Story Starters (gr. 1-3) or Cliffhanger Writing Prompts (gr. 3-6)
- Complete Writing Lessons, primary (gr. 1-3) or intermediate (gr. 4-6) -- both available used through Amazon, etc.

Or just do internet searches for creative writing ideas or prompts -- things like:
- making a poster about a book just read
- writing a review of a movie or book, and assigning how many "stars" he thought it was worth
- creating his own comic strip
- giving an oral presentation or making a slideshow presentation on the current history or science topic
- lots of cool ideas in this article - Scholastic Parents: "Writing Activities for Ages 8-10"
- writing prompt ideas from Journal Buddies

BEST of luck in finding what works best for this DS! Warmest regards, Lori D.

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I think it would be useful to work on mechanics instead of working on developing writing skills. You say he's doing that all on his own. Let him continue doing that while you work on the things which will make it possible for other people to read what he writes. 🙂

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2 hours ago, forty-two said:

FWIW, at 8yo I wouldn't worry about teaching or facilitating creative writing beyond giving him plenty of time and materials to do his own thing and being an appreciative audience whenever he shares something with you (all of which you probably do already).  I'd just keep working on the mechanics like you are doing, and I would personally do WWE with him as well.  It's lit-centric, gentle, and quick, and ime the results give a lot of bang for your buck.  Since he likes creative writing, he'd probably like the stories, and ime it's gentle and quick enough it shouldn't suck the life out of him and should leave him with plenty of time and energy for his own creative writing.

This is exactly what I would suggest, too. 🙂

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6 hours ago, forty-two said:

FWIW, at 8yo I wouldn't worry about teaching or facilitating creative writing beyond giving him plenty of time and materials to do his own thing and being an appreciative audience whenever he shares something with you (all of which you probably do already).  I'd just keep working on the mechanics like you are doing, and I would personally do WWE with him as well.  It's lit-centric, gentle, and quick, and ime the results give a lot of bang for your buck.  Since he likes creative writing, he'd probably like the stories, and ime it's gentle and quick enough it shouldn't suck the life out of him and should leave him with plenty of time and energy for his own creative writing.

One thing you could do to encourage his self-expression and creativity is to let him talk your ear off about his writing and really kind of engage with him as he does: ask questions to clarify his thinking, ask questions that encourage elaboration, brainstorm with him.  I mean, kind of a joyful, engaged interest: like how people who are into a fandom engage with it.  Paying really close attention and really thinking through all the logic and the implications and such, but in a "because I love it so much" way, along with just squeeing over the good bits because you enjoy them.  Just kind of entering into his creative writing world with him and giving him the gift of an engaged, thoughtful audience to interact and brainstorm with (if/when he wants it).  Not just being an appreciative audience, but a thoughtful, interacting one as well.

I appreciate this. I'm quite short on time and so this is rather appealing to me. I can talk while I cook but I can't mark writing then. I just didn't want to short change him. I think that he feels a pressure to out perform his 16yo brother but obviously in most areas he just can't compete. This is one area that I think that he might stand a chance to form his own identity apart from his brother. I guess my follow up question would be what materials do you think would be helpful to him?

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15 hours ago, rose said:

He mixes capitals and lowercase letters all the time.

This can be an indication of SLD Writing=dysgraphia. I'm not saying it is, just saying it's a flag. And yes, some kids with dysgraphia are gifted at writing and the ones who most want to write. Do you have any family history of dyslexia or writing difficulties?

15 hours ago, rose said:

His spelling is terrible... I'm working on the spelling with Spell to Read and Write and I've been doing some dictation sentences with his spelling words and insist on proper form.

I used SWR for years with my very ADHD struggling speller, sigh. She was making progress, just it was hard. She needed to *see* the words a lot. It also turned out she had developmental vision problems and extremely poor visual memory. You could get his eyes checked by a developmental optometrist and see if they find anything. Vision problems could explain this writing tsunami he's got going, yes. You would go through COVD to find a developmental optometrist. It's at least worth checking just to make sure it's not part of the problem. 

Dictation in general is really good. I go back to that question of his visual memory, whether there are any developmental vision problems, and then whether there's an SLD. I feel VERY STRONGLY with you about the need NOT to suck the soul out of kids who struggle but actually have a lot to say. So you'd really like to know whether there's an SLD or a vision problem or something going on before you push this hard as a willfulness thing or not trying hard enough, kwim? 

As far as spelling programs, SWR's shortcomings are not helping kids see patterns quickly and not teaching the rules of syllibication explicitly. It leaves a lot to inference and throws a lot at them at once. You might look into SPELL-Links. I'm just saying that was the problem I saw with my dd, that she wasn't seeing the patterns and wasn't getting it organized in her brain. SWR was the best we had, so we made it work. And we really worked at it. Like I was doing three approaches a day (SWR *and* computer software *and* 45 minutes of dictation) and she was just holding her own. Now maybe we have some better tools.

I think he'll probably pass this, but I would give it to him anyway, just to be sure. https://bartonreading.com/students/#ss  It's the Barton student screening. It's free, only takes about 10-15 minutes, and it's NOT a test of dyslexia. It screens for basic phonemic awareness and working memory needed to succeed at any OG-based program (which SWR is indirectly). Hopefully he passes, but you still might do it just to be sure. 

15 hours ago, rose said:

I have appreciated WWS is that it's so linear and logical.

When were you wanting to do this? I did it with my dd in 8th. Maybe 7th? I'm fuzzy on it now. She definitely was not ready when she was in 4th like some people talk about here, and she's a very intelligent, high-scoring person. She was also later told she probably has SLD Writing. 

15 hours ago, rose said:

He really enjoys creative writing and will write long twisted stories on his own initiative. He also tries to write songs. I feel really unprepared for teaching creative writing.

Ok, so here's the thing. Can he get out his non-fiction narratives and expository writing easily? When you say he's writing long, twisted stories, on the one hand that's really good!!! On the other hand, that's going to go back to that SLD Writing question and whether he has some organization issues. We want to see narrative language development. https://mindwingconcepts.com/pages/methodology  Here's a page to get you started. It explains the stages of narrative development. So narratives lead/transfer DIRECTLY to expository writing. We don't care if he's writing fiction or non-fiction, but we care that his narrative language is developing. If he has EF (executive function) deficits, an SLD, ADHD, or anything else going on, the narrative language could be affected. 

You should let him do creative writing, yes. You should weave it in as tasks in your history, give him creative writing prompts every day, give him handwriting opportunities (since you're wanting to practice it and think it's comfortable) that are creative, etc. You should DEFINITELY do creative. But you should also check to make sure he's developing his narrative language and expository language structures.

For creative, which my dd was too, here are things I used.

                                            Don't Forget to Write                                     

                                            Unjournaling: Daily Writing Exercises That Are Not Personal, Not Introspective, Not Boring!                                     

                                            The Anti-Coloring Book: Creative Activities for Ages 6 and Up                                     

The Jump In tm has a series of prompts, with a page for each month. We used those, but she was a bit older. At 8 we were using the anti-coloring books a lot. There's also                                             Listography Journal: Your Life in Lists                                       

There's so much creative stuff out there, and I agree with you that doing it is GREAT. It's not so much that you need to *teach* him as that you let him do it. Don't get him so busy he can't and do weave it into the day in small chunks because it will give him joy. Use it any time you can for assignments or ways to work on skill, because it will make those tasks more joyful.

But as far as actual writing instruction, personally I'd be going back to that question of whether there's an SLD or a vision problem and focusing on the basics.

-ability to get it onto tech/screen/paper

-working memory to hold your thoughts

-narrative language and ORGANIZATION, not rambling

Here's some info on the "Simple View of Writing" which is what Lori is sort of referring to. https://www.ldatschool.ca/literacy-skills-handwriting/  and a 2nd briefer link https://pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/2018_LSHSS-DYSLC-18-0024?fbclid=IwAR3qVPq800bdIEQMg4z9tOsgm0RFZs7nHdfEDcqbeFWYxy8JTaabafbjrv4  Basic idea is 

writing = transcription + working memory + executive functions

Technically working memory is under EF, but whatever. So transcription= onto tech via dictation, onto screen via typing, onto paper, anything, and it includes your spelling, physical act of getting it down, etc. Working memory= holding your thoughts, your mental RAM. It could be low in spite of his long narratives, yes. In fact, the more rambling they are, the more likely it is. The EF=>organization. That's where we want to see that whether he's doing narrative or expository that the narrative language development is happening.

My dd had PROLIFIC narratives at this age, oh my. What we didn't realize were the EF deficits. I think if he were a strong writer and not having trouble with organization and expository, we wouldn't be having this discussion and you wouldn't be making this post. And it's really hard to look at a dc who is cranking out so much and say something is WRONG, kwim? It seems really good. But it's really dangerous to buy into that, because then you're missing the EF deficits underlying the long, twisted stories. So look at the MW/SGM charts I linked you to and it will probably be clear. The more gifted he is at writing, the more important it is that you figure out how to teach this. He clearly has a lot to say, but he might need some help with organization, with getting it out, maybe with vision or physical causes as well.

What happens if you ask for a non-fiction narration? I think an 8 yo should be able to do what MW calls descriptive, comprare/contrast, list, sequence, and *possibly* cause/effect (that's a stretch) without a problem. If he can't do those basic structures as a narration given a source that gives him the information, then I'd be concerned. 

WWS was actually really good for my dd, but we did it a lot later and with a lot more attention to structure. I had her map the projects using Inspiration software. It was really dry, so we did it fast, skipping things she could already do easily like the Copia. 

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On 5/21/2019 at 5:09 AM, PeterPan said:

This can be an indication of SLD Writing=dysgraphia. I'm not saying it is, just saying it's a flag. And yes, some kids with dysgraphia are gifted at writing and the ones who most want to write. Do you have any family history of dyslexia or writing difficulties? ...

 

Thank you so much for all this food for thought. My ds8's older brother is mildly dyslexic with his main trouble manifesting itself in his writing. My 16ds still can't properly use capital letters or punctuation. I've never had any testing done but I strongly suspect that I could be diagnosed as autistic, with moderate EF disability. It really hadn't crossed my mind that ds8 might have similar difficulties to myself or ds16. 

When I mentioned WWS I wasn't really thinking of trying to start that anytime soon with ds8. I was just mentioning it because that's about the scope of my experience teaching writing and I'm not sure that it will fit ds8 very well when we get there because of how constrained the assignments are. We're actually still picking our way through WWS2 with my 16yos. Dd could probably get into something more mature but ds is definitely NOT ready to move on from there.

I think for the time being I'm going to stick with the SWR and delve heavily into WWE. I'll probably modify it a bit. I'm not sure he needs much copy work. Just this morning he copied on his own initiative an entire hymn with only a few spelling errors. The spelling is only an issue when he's trying to do it from memory. Narration and dictation work would probably help him though. I'll also start looking at him a little more closely to consider SLD's.

Edited by rose
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You might take time, when you have it, to look through some of the free information on the Mindwings/Story Grammar Marker website. It's basically all the stuff you know in theory you want to do (narration=working on narrative language with the idea that narrative language naturally leads to expository writing), but it's paced out and more explicit to work for kids who have SLDs or SN. If you look at some of the free graphic organizers and materials they share on their blog, it might be enough that you'd be like oh sure, got this. It would step up what you're already doing. You could look at their videos explaining the Braidy doll and just use that to inform how you're doing narrations now. So the same thing you're doing, but less random and more intentional building the skills. 

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Have you looked at Brave Writer? That seems to be the favorite writing curriculum for creative types. I haven't tried it out myself, but I've read a lot about it. The reviews are all glowing.

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