Anything of significance that we do (especially new or difficult things) requires a lot of us. Oftentimes, this is far more than we realize or even care to admit.
The challenge with new or difficult activities
To take on a new or difficult activity requires motivation, a clear idea of how the activity benefits us and some quick wins. If we don’t understand the purpose or aim behind our activities, end results and consistent follow-through can drop fairly quickly.
Let’s take writing, for example.
As teachers, we have writing activities to complete outside of grading student work, classroom preparation and parent-teacher interaction. There are reports to write documenting student performance and progress, lesson preparations as well as other administrative tasks.
Time to do, to absorb, to learn, to fail and get back up
Writing is challenging because we have to deal with multiple things on any given school day.
We need to be motivated enough to pull ourselves together and do what we believe needs to be done. We call on our resilience to keep us standing back up again every time we struggle.
We expect to have enough clarity that we may organize our thoughts effectively. We are able to recall and pull the right memories and past experiences and tap into our gut feel which, in turn, helps guide us as we move forward and make decisions.
We communicate often with other teachers as rarely do we do things alone. We may have leaders, influencers, stakeholders and administrators to whom we report to. We may have fellow teachers whom we look to for guidance, support and care.
We learn to figure things out for ourselves, we learn to prioritize. After a while, a lot of the things we need to do, happen almost effortlessly and without much conscious recognition.
Yes, as adults, we have gained skills.
We have had years of practice to get to the point we are at now. We have a history of shortcomings, setbacks and failures we can look to for guidance. We have the collective understanding we, as teachers, retain to lead the way. And we have the memories of our successes and triumphs to keep us moving forward.
Skills we need to develop in children
But children, young children, do not have this.
They do not have this rich tapestry to come back to and be guided by. The skills that we have are the ones that children need to build and strengthen. They are starting out and they need all the support, care and love we can give them.
As Rita Pierson, a professional educator who taught elementary school, junior high and special education, so eloquently said, “Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be”.
The challenge with writing
As adults and as teachers, we know that writing is hard.
We have big challenges with teaching writing.
Students may not want to write. They may get demotivated or not see the importance of writing beyond the classroom. Sometimes, a writing activity is seen as boring or it may take much longer than other tasks. Sometimes, they are struggling and failing and that failure is causing them to dislike learning or school.
Sometimes, these struggles relate to handwriting or spelling. Sometimes, it’s about expressing their ideas.
Students may also keep making the same mistakes. They may not refer to corrected work. They may not be learning from past mistakes. Sometimes, the amount of errors can be staggering. Stephen Noonoo in his EdSurge article, These are the 10 most common writing errors students make, discusses NoRedInk’s analysis of the most common writing mistakes made. According to the analysis, only 30 percent of students in grades 5 to 12 can identify the subject of a sentence.
Students may lack vocabulary which is a fundamental element in constructing sentences. They may struggle with spelling or grammar – subject-verb tenses, pronouns, prepositions and sentence structures. All of these may increase student anxiety about even beginning or finding the strength to continue.
Sometimes, this anxiety may be easy to identify, like when the student gets nervous before an exam. But sometimes it can look very different, such as an upset stomach or disruptive behavior. Anxiety, in turn, can lead to even more challenges with getting students to write more.
There is also the issue of student readiness – how prepared they are physically and mentally about these activities. Readiness is not the same as ability. Understanding the difference allows the teacher to give all students the best chance of learning. Readiness refers to how well equipped a pupil is to learn, which can include circumstantial or environmental factors. Student readiness may be affected by many factors including prior knowledge, developmental stage and general communication, thinking, reasoning and other skills.
These are just some of the challenges students face in learning writing.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have seen students face in learning writing? What have you done to help students learn writing?
If you are facing challenges in helping your students learn writing, consider having them participate in a short story event. Storyathon is an exciting online event where students are challenged to write a story in exactly 100 words. Join us at www.storyathon.com