The Art of Letter Writing
If you think deciphering vanity license plates is challenging, take a look at the letters your child exchanges with his friends. Have you ever tried to interpret his instant or text messages? Between trying to decode the fractured spelling and phonetic paraphrases, his use of the English language is puzzling at best.
Generating Good Grammar
Communication methods have drastically changed in the past 10 years. Many children find sitting down to hand-write a letter an obsolete and inefficient option. They would rather pick up the phone or sit at the computer to communicate instead of writing a letter or card.
Slang phrases, words and spelling have become common practice for today's generation. Due to the nature of limited time and space, instant and text messaging options designed for instantaneous communication and responses promote the use of slang and phrases.
Children don't have to learn or practice penmanship to send e-mail or transmit instant messages or text mail. Instead, they rely on built-in programming options to aid in writing reports. Automatic spelling and grammar checks eliminate the need for kids to apply the skills learned in English and composition class and further promote the extinction of letter writing.
Getting Your Child on Board
How can you generate enthusiasm for your child to use his grammatically-correct English skills and vocabulary? Creating appealing alternatives to instant communication can be tricky, but are worthwhile for kids to explore. If your child does resist penning a personal, hand-written note, there are a few options to sitting at the computer or using the cell phone to communicate:
1. Start a sharing journal.
Take him shopping for a journal or notebook in which you both can write your ideas, hopes and daily frustrations to share with each other. You'll both gain insight into each other while promoting a penchant for writing.
2. Set an example.
Spend time together writing holiday, thank you or birthday cards. He'll realize your passion for writing letters to friends and loved ones. He'll also have the chance to model your actions and priority for written communication.
3. Establish no electronic communication days or times.
Choose one evening a week to turn off the computer and cell phones. If he has late-breaking information to share with a buddy, he can write a reminder note and tell him the next day. A break from technology gives him the opportunity to reflect on what and how he communicates with his peers.
4. Find out why he doesn't like to write.
A child's creativity can be spurred once you know what is stifling it. Sometimes children rebuff writing letters because they are insecure about their penmanship, spelling errors, use of vocabulary or sentence structure. Talk to him to uncover any insecurities or writing blocks. Perhaps he feels there's no time to write a letter or he sees it as more of a chore than as communication.
5. Make writing fun.
Introduce him to a variety of ways to utilize the written word as a form of expressing himself and his abilities. Offer him the chance to work crossword puzzles, mad libs or word games to stimulate vocabulary. Another option is designating one weekend afternoon as "no-talk time." The entire family has to write notes to each other, follow previously written clues to find hidden surprises or treats around the house or play word games. You'll create a fun environment for him to learn to express himself as well as spark his writing abilities.
6. Pick a word for the day.
Use tools such as calendars that feature a word of the day or a hand-written list of words where he can select one word a day. Learning how to properly spell, pronounce and use a new word in a sentence gives him tools to structure letters and reports. He will gain confidence in his writing from learning new vocabulary words to use in his writing as well as his speech.
7. Keep supplies handy.
If he has to hunt for writing supplies, he's likely to lose interest in writing. Storing an interesting assortment of writing tools in an easy-to-access location helps stimulate his writing energy. Keep personal stationary and an array of pens, pencils, erasers and colored paper in an easy-to-locate area around the house or his room. Ask for his input when purchasing different types of writing implements to further promote his enthusiasm.
8. Don't be an editor.
If he's writing a letter to Grandma, remember that the message and motive is often more important than the delivery. Although it may be tempting, resist the urge to stand over his shoulder and edit his spelling or use of punctuation. Give him the freedom to express his personal thoughts without the fear his work will be criticized.
9. Ask family members to help.
Enlist his favorite aunt or cousin or a sibling away at college to be a pen pal. The responsibility to respond to Grandpa's recent letter increases his interest to author a return letter. He'll keep in touch with family members while he realizes an alternative to instant communication.
10. Dear Diary:
Encourage him to keep a diary or private journal in which to write his feelings. Expressing his emotions in a secure and safe environment offers the chance for him to develop his writing style. Writing in a diary may uncover a love of poetry, fascination for short stories or his autobiographical nature.
Incorporating writing letters and notes in his communication repertoire will enhance his vocabulary and confidence in his abilities. He'll also enhance the skills he's learning in school that will be a benefit in college and throughout his adult life.