Creative Writing for Young Kids ... A Key Consideration

Jared Cooney Horvath is a globally recognized Science of Learning expert committed to helping teachers, students and parents achieve better outcomes through applied brain and behavioral science.

The Writing is on the Wall ...

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:

  • What are processing capacity limits, and how can humans effectively combat this limiting cognitive factor?

  • How closely correlated are basic handwriting skills (word formation; punctuation; grammar; etc.) to effective written expression?

  • What are three strategic takeaways from this research that can help teachers at all levels strengthen their pedagogical approach?

Give it a watch, and let me know what you think in the YT comments section.


And, as always, if you find this video valuable, interesting and/or entertaining, you can support us by liking, sharing and subscribing to our YouTube channel ;)



Video Transcript

Hello everybody, and welcome to this week's From Theory to Practice, where I take a look at the research so you don't have to.


The article I've selected this week is called Relationship Between Automaticity in Handwriting and Students’ Ability to Generate Written Text by Jones and Christensen.


Now, to understand this article, we first have to wrap our heads around the idea of processing capacity limits. Simply put, human beings cannot think about too many things simultaneously -- we have a very hard limit to the number of items we can juggle in our mind at any one time.


As a simple example, here are a bunch of letters. OAB CSB SNE TFL IXO. Can you quickly and easily memorize all of these letters, or are there just a few too many?


This is a perfect example of a processing capacity limit. There's just too much information there for you to quickly hold on to. Now importantly, human beings can free up capacity by automating skills …                                                                 

Click to view remainder of the transcript ...

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