Wednesday, January 23, 2019
WRITER 2 WRITER: THE DISCOVERY STAGE
KIDS WRITE, PART III
This is part three of a series about how to help kids not only learn to write well but to love it. Excerpts are taken from my book TEACHING KIDS TO WRITE WELL: SIX SECRETS EVERY GROWN-UP SHOULD KNOW.
Discovery (Cognitive) Stage of Development
Do you remember the first time you wanted to walk? You were most likely between the ages of eight and fourteen months when you first pulled yourself up to a standing position and grinned proudly at your parents as if to say, “See, Mom? See what I just did?”
As your legs grew stronger and your balance increased, you took those first hesitant steps, “cruising” along from couch to coffee table, to chair to couch again. Finally, with your parents coaxing you with open arms, you gleefully pitter-pattered across the floor into their waiting embraces.
What was it that first moved you, an infant, to make that first attempt to stand on your own? Some would say it was instinct, like little birds fluttering their wings to take flight, and for the most part they are correct. But I contend that there was something more.
Human nature is driven toward progress. Even the little baby somehow knows he is meant to do more than eat, cry, and sleep for the rest of his life. Like walking, communication is something to which human beings are naturally inclined. Children learn to walk and to talk by observing other humans walk and talk. Mobility, language, and many other basic skills are developed not by active teaching, but through passive observation. At first the child mimics what he sees or what he hears without fully understanding if these actions have any meaning. Later, he begins to imitate the adults around him, those whom he respects and, hopefully, loves. He wants to be like them, so he does what they do.
A good example of this is when a young child picks up a book and “reads” it. Maybe she holds the book upside down. Maybe the story she recites bears no resemblance to what is actually printed inside, but that doesn’t matter to her. What matters is that Mommy reads, and she wants to read, too.
When he was four years old, my third child came to me with a stack of papers in his hand. I had given him an old manuscript of mine to use for scratch paper. He took the manuscript and set up his dresser like a desk, with a penholder, a chair, and a supply of writing utensils. He spent hours sitting at his desk, scribbling on sheet after sheet of paper. When he was finished, he presented me with his collection of scribbles and announced it was his book. Needless to say, I was honored. Imitation is my favorite form of flattery.
Maybe instinct drove my son to learn to walk, but would he have known how to sit at a desk and write if he had not seen me do it first?
Children are naturally curious. They want to explore their world and learn all they can about it. As parents, we teach them how to color with crayons, how to brush their teeth, how to dress themselves. Children first learn that these behaviors exist by catching others in the act.
When it comes to writing, let your children catch you in the act. Emails, personal letters, grocery lists, calendars, poems, diary entries—whatever drives you to put pen to paper, make sure you do it where your children can observe you. It won’t be long before they will be writing, too.