There is no shortage of useful tips and strategies meant to help young students write more expressively: don’t be afraid of mistakes; practice makes perfect; keep a daily journal; writer’s block is a myth; etc.
Unfortunately, these tips are all but meaningless to the child who lacks a command of basic writing skills such as rote alphabetic knowledge, letter formation and simple grammar.
Just as a new driver still learning the rules of the road will struggle to drive effectively, so will a child still learning the rules of handwriting struggle to write effectively.
This is a perfect example of a foundational tenet of learning that I often evoke, which is that facts always precede skills.
Although this may seem obvious to some (especially if you’ve hung around me for any length of time), it’s a key factor that is too often overlooked -- especially in an educational system organized by age-group as opposed to skill level.
For instance, it might seem reasonable to assume that a capable second grader should be able to demonstrate a certain degree of creative writing ability. After all, when you were in second grade you had relatively little trouble expressing your ideas through the written word.
However, it's pretty clear that this hypothetical (yet common) assumption is informed by personal bias and experience. In truth, expecting strong writing ability from a young child who has never received any explicit writing instruction/support outside of school is probably unrealistic.
And, when we consider that in some countries academic tracking begins as early as first grade, it’s easy to see how an innocuous assumption like this might carry long-term consequences.
In my newest From Theory to Practice video, I explore a piece of research that lends some hard validity to this idea:
Relationship Between Automaticity in Handwriting and Students’ Ability to Generate Written Text (Dian Jones and Carol Christensen)
Here are some of the questions I tackle in this installment: