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Kids are brimming with ideas, jokes and stories. A lot of the times capturing those spontaneous ideas into words can be challenging. Also, not every child is the same. Some might take to writing quite easily while others might need some focussed mentoring. Writing is important. No matter what your children learn in high school or what career paths they chose, they will need to write to express themselves. Writing is not only an important form of communication but also an important emotional outlet.
Whether or not your child is a reluctant writer, they all need encouragement. We have spoken to incredible teachers and parents, collated their advice and created a list of 7 ideas for your budding writers to write.
Make writing a fun game. Use prompts to help your child string together the words. Make your own storyboard using post-it notes. Ask your child to write a sentence, could be a few words on each post-it note. Once they have written a lot of these have them arrange the notes on a wall or on a board. Let them play around by switching the notes and reading out loud to see how that changes the story or make it sound really funny. Have a giggle.
You could also use Story Cubes to enact a timeline and get rally creative with finding alternate storylines.
Young kids really love to be goofy. Find a story book and have your kids re-write the story by replacing words on the book by a funny chosen word, like ‘poop’ or ‘purple pizza’.
It is no secret that we all love to help. Kids do too. Ask them for help with writing things around the house. If you are making a grocery list, ask them to write that down. For young children who are just starting to write, this will get them familiarize with the idea of writing.
You could also use this opportunity to discuss with your kiddos what ingredients are needed to make s’mores or cake and have them write those down. This is a fun way to teach them the concept of deconstructing big idea into smaller parts.
Sometimes switching things from the traditional can help it make playful for the children. If the pencil and paper does not seem to work, looking for a digital solution could be helpful. Anytime you look for something like that make sure you find an app that has a place to draw because picture writing is an important first step in the writing process especially for children. The adding of colors into an imagination is always a fun thing for them.
Children love reading books or listening to you reading books. The idea of them writing their own book is a thing of pride. Have them write and draw on a few loose papers and have them staple it all together to make their own book. Encourage them to add a cover page and an author’s page to the book just like the books they read. Have them call it ‘My Book’. The joy along with pride that they feel having created that will help them be writers.
The stories we tell are our unique experiences. A lot of those experiences come from everyday life. Have your children draw ideas from things that they have done in the morning or a few days ago. Ask them to write about the time they had a play date with their best friend, or they learnt how to ride a bike without training wheels. Offer help by asking them questions like, ‘Then what happened’, ‘What happened next?’ Make it fun by taking a few pictures of their bike, printing it out and taking it to their writing sheet. Or use a writing app that allows to take a picture and draw on top of it.
I am inspired by the writing celebrations that I have been part of when my kids’ elementary school teacher invited parents to enjoy the stories that the students had written. Organize something similar at home. It can just be with the members of the family but you can make it fancy by laying down a fun blanket, getting popcorn and treats, and having designated time and day as the ‘writing celebration’ event. Gather around and have your kids read their story out loud. Use the days prior to the celebration to motivate your child to finish their story. You could also organize something like this along with your child’s playdate friends.
As adults we are compelled by the idea of perfect. I am not questioning the fact that we all need to teach our kids how to correctly write but don’t let correctness hamper their willingness to rite. Avoid correcting their spellings especially when they are just beginning to write. Remember that the concept of the story is much bigger than how ‘troo’ must be spelled. I meant ‘true’. While children are thinking about their idea and learning to translate their imagination into words you don’t want them to be bogged down by the fear of not getting every word right. That will come later.
The story is what matters.
If someone had told me a year ago, that I would spend almost the entire year homeschooling my two kids, working at home, and not see my friends or family in person, I would have told myself, ‘Wake up, you are having a bad dream’. But the pandemic was a reality, and it is still here.
What this past year has shown us is also our incredible power to imagine, adapt and survive. I am not just talking about the adults, the way our children have adjusted is quite remarkable. The past year was not perfect, but we have endured the imperfect times. So I thought this year, instead of starting it with resolutions, let’s start it by celebrating how far we have come.
Let us celebrate progress and not perfection.
So how can we apply this mindset to our children? The following are a few ways to practice this everyday.
More often than not, we get tied down to the idea of being perfect and getting it all correct. Celebrating progress does not mean hiding away what we do not know, it simply means to celebrate what we know today that we didn’t know yesterday. In the past year we have seen numerous examples where learning, working and getting through the day has been about making progress and not being perfect.
Life is more like a road trip and less like a commute to work. It’s not the destination but the journey that counts. If you have ever taken a road trip with your family or friends then you will know this that the most enjoyable parts of the trip are the times that’s spent on the road, figuring out which fork at the end of a street one should take. Your children will enjoy learning if they enjoy it as a process and not so much as an end-result seeking task.
When we are young we are not afraid of failing but somewhere down the line as we grow up, we start playing safe because we get penalized for failing. Practice saying these to your children, ‘You tried and it didn’t work and now you know that this method will not work. Let’s try another method.’ Reward them for trying, even if they failed. This is an important teaching that will keep on giving their entire life.
Make mistakes, take chances
Like Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus, says ‘Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.’ If we do not take chances, we lose the opportunity to grow. Never penalize children for making a mistake. At the same time identify a mistake as a mistake and work with them to figure out what they can do differently next time. Encourage them to try new things and don’t let the idea of ‘making mistakes’ deter them.
Start using ‘not yet’
Words matter and so how we frame our sentences in our everyday life has bigger implications. When you see children struggling with a particular task, say it out loud to them, ‘You haven’t mastered it yet’. Encourage them to say ‘I don’t know it yet’ versus ‘I don’t know it.’ It makes a big difference when the children repeatedly hear it or practice saying it, because they now can believe that there is a path forward to learn and grow.
This year, I am encouraging you to set aside resolutions and give yourself, your kiddos, your family and your friends a giant high-five for making it through a year – a year about which we will tell stories some day that will begin with ‘Remember that year…’.
But for today celebrate the possibilities. Happy New Year.
Hindsight is 20/20. Yes, it is always easier to look back and evaluate a situation while we’re looking back at them than when we’re in the present moment. This couldn’t be any more truer than the year 2020. For students, parents and teachers everywhere it was a whirlwind of an experience – the way we learn and interact in classrooms changed.
The digital medium definitely came to aid to support support student learning this year. At the same time this became a source of frustration for teachers, students and parents helping with online learning.
We are taking a look back at this year, what it meant for education technology and how this will affect education for years to come.
We coined a new term this year. Although Zoom launched in 2013, it was only this year that ‘zoombombing’ became a commonly used word. Classrooms have experienced interruptions during online lessons as internet trolls have marched in shouting obscenities and sharing obscene images. Schools have also seen a steep rise in cyber attacks with the rise in remote access by students and teachers, which exposed the vulnerabilities of some of these networks.
All of this has definitely heightened the need to prioritize cybersecurity efforts as well as prioritizing funding for these efforts. There needs to be higher focus on raising awareness about cybersecurity threats and privacy protocols, among school staff and employees and the role they need to play to keep the students safe..
Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN (The Consortium for School Networking) rightfully said “Just getting devices and broadband connectivity, Wi-Fi, that alone is insufficient if the network isn’t usable, isn’t safe and secure.”
This year has definitely shown us the huge gap between people who have sufficient knowledge and access to technology, and people who don’t. This inequities affected student learning and exposes a divide that has been persistent in the education industry for a decade. A research by the EdWeek shows that, in districts that have 75% or more low-income students only 57% of middle-school students and 74% of high-school students have at least one device. That percentage jumps to 87% and 96% respectively for school districts that have 25% or less low-income students.
As the beginning of the year threw us all into suddenly accommodating online learning, school staff everywhere struggled to get one laptop or device into the hands of each student. School district administrators everywhere scrambled to provide Wi-Fi hotspots to support student connectivity to online classrooms. Though all of this seems like a bandaid solution, it definitely is a step in the right direction. A lot of progress remains to be done in the years to come, and the digital divide will remain to be a challenge.
It is no secret that in-person interaction cannot be replicated via an online video platform and that is far more applicable for students. Teachers have reported a myriad of problems. Some of them include – students are not interacting with me, students have more trouble focussing on work at home than they have at school, students have problem using technology effectively for academic purposes, it is difficult for me to tell if my students are learning or they need more help. Close to half of the teachers reported that it is difficult to provide for the needs of students with disabilities. A lot of these problems are elevated by the racial and socio-economic differences.
As teachers were augmenting these shortcomings with added phone calls, extra time with the students, and focussed attention to students, an inevitable outcome was that they were slogging to keep up with extra hours on top of an already overwhelming workload. High quality remote learning is hard to do and is not a viable option at least not yet and not in-scale. The experiences of students and teachers vary depending on a lot of factors. Based on what we’ve seen, we have a lot of work to do before we consider remote learning as a long-term option.
No matter how the year went, I hope this year has been a lesson in resilience. I hope our children will come out of this year with the idea, ‘I did the best I could. I learned a few things and I will continue to learn…’