March 7, 2012

Writing Tantrums

It hurts to hear of the battles that can occur in the car on the way here.

The short descriptor, from mom, usually, upon entering my living room/waiting room, in earshot of the student, goes something like this:

"Now, it is nothing personal, Kendra, but _______ just whines or comes down with a psychosomatic illness before coming to his session. I tell him that he needs to learn some strategies to help him write, since he can't go through life hoping people with just read his mind." (she borrowed this from me)

Sorry, guys, I just don't hear about meltdowns with my girls, or at least they whine more directly, with me one-on-one, and with eye contact!

So when I drill down with the boys, once we have sequestered ourselves in my office, I discover that their "self-talk" (that was about 9 blogs ago) is dragging its voice along the rungs of the sewers (are there rungs in sewers?), and speaking severely limiting lies about their creativity, talent, expression, skill, and future success to the inhabitant of this inner voice, aka my student.

Ah...self-talk. Steven Graham, the consumate researcher on writing, says that changing self-talk via checklists and charts gives rise to self-regulation, and, "voila!" writing fluency. He makes it sound so easy.

I have read his articles and books, but got up the courage to call him this month and after many VMs, the famous guy was available for a 7-minute window! May I never be THAT popular or disorganized that I can't find a slot of 15 minutes to speak, learn, and teach, thus leave a tiny legacy. He did not give advice about the tantrums.

Back to the "I don't want to go to Kendra's, where I have to do that thing I am least proficient at...."

I am between a rock and a hard place, now. Who wants to hear some buttering-up lecture about self-worth and their progress made, when the truth is that it just feels hard to keep all the components of writing in their brain psyche? I am powerless, even with all my research-based factoids and curriculums dripping off my shelves. I despise that cheerleader "I Can"paraphenalia, but there is actually some research that points to results from the use of it. Something like:

I wish I could tell a story about when it was like that for me, but I loved writing as a kid, and the more I wrote, the more I was motivated to find tricks of the trade, and reasons for using commas, and ways to describe my incestuous, insincere uncle in words fit for my diary, and in ones fit for a school assignment.

So I tell a story about something I know THEY struggled with at one time. Today, it was Lacrosse. My tiny, but quite athletic, 4th grade boy - who I have worked with for a year - and whose dyslexia has improved greatly, has become quite the reader. He forgets how hard reading used to be. He also forgets that he did not want to try Lacrosse at this time last year. Now he isgung-ho to start up the season and has a rare confidence for a 10-year old who is smaller than every other boy on his team.

What else helps is that I point out EACH session, the small and incremental things they have done well. I have to pinch myself to remember.


Regarding Research Papers:

I told two 5th graders this month, who tend to "SURF" instead of take notes, and read images, instead of read text, and forget that they are forming the foundation of a research paper, that THEY got to choose the topic of, to get a timer, and:

Surf and Read for 10 minutes
Write and Take Notes for 10 Minutes