By Jason Marshall, Curriculum Coordinator at Faith Christian School
Students may find the idea of writing quite daunting. For reluctant writers, it can result in empty pages at the end of the lesson. As students get older and move up through school they will be expected to write for longer and also on-demand, in exams for example. Therefore, once a student has begun to increase their writing stamina, and they can confidently write for an extended period of time, we can begin to work on more specific curriculum aims. This usually comes with time as their ability to concentrate and hold a pencil for longer becomes second nature.
During the late primary years (4-6) and secondary years (7-12) we want students to be able to communicate their ideas effectively. During this phase of their education, students will be expected to write long pieces of writing. Whether it’s a science experiment write-up or a long essay in an exam, being able to concentrate and write for extended periods of time is a skill that, once developed, will allow students to work on the quality of their writing and focus on other skills such as spelling and grammar.
Good writing stamina could mean the difference between passing and failing an exam.
Good writing stamina is important because it means the student will write as much as they possibly can without tiring, which could mean the difference between passing and failing an exam. By Senior School (Years 11 and 12) students sit both external and internal exams each term. If they haven’t built writing stamina during the primary and middle school years they will struggle with the demands of senior schooling.
Research suggests that the best way to learn and develop a new skill is to practise. Building students’ writing stamina is no different, students need time to practise.
On the first day, time your child on how long they can write without stopping. During the next writing session, perhaps the next day, time your child again and see if they can increase their writing stamina by 1, 2 or 5 minutes!
Before a student builds their writing stamina they need to focus on the skill of handwriting and correct letter formation. When handwriting becomes automatic, children can concentrate on what they are writing, not how they are writing.
Learning the skill of handwriting can be compared to learning times tables in maths. Just as we know that in mathematics, a good automatic knowledge of the times tables can free up the brain for higher order thinking, the same can be said for handwriting. If it is automatic, children can concentrate on the content of what they are writing instead of focusing on correct letter formation (etc.). For the younger writers, their mind can be freed up to think of phonics, spelling, punctuation and the message they are trying to convey. If letter formation is laboured and cognitively difficult, the reverse is typically true; the student’s spelling is typically poor, their punctuation is lacking and the content of their writing can be disjointed, unclear or very brief rather than being clear and detailed.
This week when your child is writing, remind them to slow down and focus on each word they write. Regular and consistent handwriting practice is crucial for effective development of this important skill.