I got a rather panicked phone call at work a couple of days ago. My son was on the other end.
Nearly crying, he said that he had to write an essay.
"How exciting!" I said.
"Exciting? Exciting?? This is the worst thing ever, Mom!" came the wailed response. "You know I can't write. It's going to be awful!"
Poor boy. I remember feeling panicked about a lot of things when I was his age - but writing wasn't one of them. It came naturally. I'd had lots of practice writing to my grandmother and aunts in England. And stories and poetry and book reports... And journals.
"Slow down, honey. Did they give you a topic?"
"School Reflections. And it has to be FIVE paragraphs long!!!!" he said, winding up again.
I got him to tell me what each of the five paragraphs were supposed to be about: Beginning, People, Events, Future, Conclusion. Heck, at least they even said what it was they were looking for... I told him to forget about the first and last paragraph for the time being.
Let's talk about People. Who were the people who made you feel welcome at school? Why did they make you feel special? He began rattling off names and what they did. Good.
How about Events? Did anything stand out in your head? Really? Field trips and concerts? What was good about them? Did you learn anything?
And how about the future? Where are you going after this? Are you excited or scared? How do you think it will be different from what you're doing now? He began listing things out loud - at which point I told him to go get five sheets of notebook paper.
Write down everything you can think of that has to do with each paragraph. For the beginning, you need to write about what you're going to talk about. You didn't get here until the third grade, so you can do a little school comparing too - what did you really like about where you wound up? And for the end, you just need to summarize what you've already written about.
I could hear the pencil scratching furiously on the other end of the line and he hung up on me.
He called back a little later. "Thanks, Mom! There sure was a lot to write about - and I got my paper written!!! It's just a draft, but I have to turn that in tomorrow. The final copy is due on Thursday. Thanks!" and he hung up again.
I could feel the relief coming over the phone line. My boy is not a natural writer. He panics at the very idea of having to write a story or an essay or a report. This isn't going to work going into middle school where there are all kinds of things that have to be written.
So this summer, we're going to work towards an ease with writing. It doesn't have to be good writing but he needs to not panic at the very idea. I think a summer journal is a start. And maybe some letters to faraway family. And some short stories or essays.
Have you had a child that felt this way about writing? What did you do? Do you have suggestions for writing projects? I'm open to ideas!!!