Just recently I asked our son to build an erector set model with wheels and gears and then write a report on how he did it. Well as time drew on and the set was taking longer than I wanted it to, I asked him to pause and begin writing the paper. Thirty minutes later he handed me something that I knew wasn’t his best or even what he wanted to say. I told him it was okay and we would look at it again tomorrow. The next evening however, he came leaping into the kitchen with the fully completed erector set, telling me all about it. I grabbed a pad and began writing what he said. Full of dynamic verbs and descriptive adjectives, I knew his head was swarming with excitement and ideas. For five minutes he narrated how to build his model and what it could do. At the end he talked about how his model has many simple machines just as the human living cell must have always had 40 different cells to live and function. He talked about how Darwinism belief could not be possible. With his Christian worldview shining through I knew only the Holy Spirit could have done this type of idea connection to an erector set project. And I also knew that taking time to allow idea connection is necessary for quality writing to take place. Although this was an oral narration that I wrote down, I have seen many written narrations from this child and know when he has a connection with an experience or a story and when he doesn’t.
I would recommend to anyone with a child just beginning to write their narrations that you write or type the first few for them. Once they see how much they have to say and can write, they should build their confidence in their own writing ability and you can begin teaching them writing styles to apply. In my experience, once the confidence level came up, I was able to teach and suggest changes for writing styles. I do usually save the grammar lessons for source text, something other than then children’s written narrations. Many students would rather mark up a copy of a poem from the public domain than to think rewrite on one of their original written masterpieces. Institute for Excellence in Writing has many source texts in their spiral bound books they sell on a variety of subjects. From our experience with our 11 year old son, we had a tough time putting strong verbs and adjectives into something we had no heart connection to or experience. Our son was able to insert strong verbs and adjectives after reading a two page source text, however, the paragraphs he wrote were not near as interesting as some of his own narrations. I am convinced that was because he was not able to make an idea connection with the source text. The fuel was not there to empower his pen, or pencil in his case. However, as most science and math minds work, the practice of inserting strong verbs and adjectives, and creating opening and closing sentences was something he could do with practice. Coupled with continued oral and written narrations, he has been able to write well organized narrations. Not every time, but we are excited to see that this can be a stepping stone in helping him to become a better communicator for Christ.