Thursday, May 27, 2010

Writers Block: Help Kids Break Down the Wall! by Alexis Montgomery

When you think of writer’s block, you probably picture a professional novelist; say Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, sitting at a typewriter or computer, staring blankly into space as they try to visualize a way to round out their character through the use of creative storytelling. But absolutely anyone can suffer from this common creative roadblock, so it should come as no surprise that kids suffer from writer’s block as well. Although children are often considered more creative than adults, they may lack both the knowledge and tools necessary to harness their ideas and translate them into coherent writing. As a teacher, it’s your job to work with them on ways to get past any anxiety they may feel at being forced to write and find a way to make it fun. Here are a few tips.

1. Give examples. Almost any kid can find a way to relate to a topic if you just get the ball rolling for them. If their assignment is an essay on their summer vacation, for example, they could write about a trip they took, a friend they made at camp, or helping their dad with the barbeque. Sometimes all they need is a nudge in the right direction.

2. Get them talking. Going straight from an assigned topic to writing it out can be a little intimidating. If a child is struggling, start asking them questions. Chances are they can answer almost immediately. Have them write down their answers and then prompt them to organize them into a list. From there they can begin to fill in the blanks.

3. Brainstorm. Have kids shout out (or write down) ideas that they think relate to the topic. Write them on the board in a cluster diagram (main ideas in the middle with branches pointing to related ideas or sub-topics). This should give kids who freeze up a couple of ideas to use as a springboard. No volunteers? Ask some pointed questions to get them started.

4. Start with a drawing. Not every kid is geared for linguistics. Some do better with pictures, so if they’re having trouble getting started, suggest they draw a picture or a comic strip that relates to the topic, and then have them write a description. Having something concrete to focus on may work better than an ambiguous idea.

5. Don’t begin with the beginning. If a child has a definite idea for the body of an essay or the climax of a story, have them write it out and work from there. Just getting started with writing may help them work out the rest.

6. Free write. Have a child who is stumped write any old thing that pops into their head, even if it’s gibberish. Getting into the right mindset for writing may spark an idea.

7. Take a break. Your brain, like your body, can become exhausted. Taking a break to stretch or get a snack might be enough for them to reboot and come back fresh.

8. Don’t push. Trying too hard to critique or help might only serve to give kids a complex, so let them get it out, make mistakes, and then offer suggestions in a passive way, such as by highlighting spelling errors or inconsistencies and then directing them to a dictionary or asking questions to lead them to specific conclusions. If they feel that they can figure it out on their own, they will gain confidence in their abilities.

These techniques should be quite helpful for grade school on up, but the best approach is to avoid these problems altogether by putting your child on the right path as early as possible. And you can start before they even learn to write. Preschoolers can be taught to tell stories through drawings. You can let them tell their own story, or dictate one and have them draw (or scribble) it out for you. Be sure to offer lots of encouragement and allow them to explore their own creativity. This way they can learn to frame a story long before they actually have to represent it with written words. Letters, after all, are merely pictorial representations of sound. You can also help them to write letters, lists, and messages to post around the house. Encouraging your child to express itself through writing from an early age will assist them not only in pre-empting or overcoming writers block, but also in developing their comprehension skills, which will help them in all academic subjects.

Alexis Montgomery is a content writer for Online Degree Programs, where you can browse through various online degree programs to find a college that suits your needs.

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1 comment:

Virginia S Grenier said...

This is great. I linked your post to my tweeter and facebook accounts.