I recently received this question from a customer. The reason writing a paper can be daunting to right-brained children is because many of these learners think in images or movies. Those images and movies are full-color, detailed and wonderful. Can you only imagine having to break something like that apart and put the content into a sequence using words on paper? A picture is worth 1,000 words and yet even those 1000 words cannot adequately convey the images the child is seeing in her head. The attempts to translate that colorful image into a sequence of words to convey to another person what she is seeing often causes a huge amount of discouragement!
The first step toward helping your child begin to translate his mental images into a sequence of words is an intermediate step that will allow him to put his thoughts into another form of global whole. We will use an organizer like the one to the right so he can see all the elements at one time.
You can use a blank piece of paper and have your child draw the circle in the middle that will be his main topic first. The next step will be to brainstorm three main topics to replace the words “first category, second category, third category.” The title, first sentence, and last sentence will be written after the ideas are complete for the three categories. This format may be used for either narrative or descriptive writing. When I used this format to help me write (yes, even into graduate school), I would write all my thoughts down for the various categories—just everything that came to mind. I would then be able to evaluate which were repetitive, which were not important, and would also of course identify which ideas I really wanted to write about. These will be put in place in the squares under each category.
The next graph to the right shows some of the information filled in for a paper on tree frogs.
Many times I chose my categories AFTER I had brain stormed a lot of ideas I wanted to write about. This might be a difficult proposition for a young child, however, which is why I suggested identifying main categories first. Having the categories all on one page with all the other ideas will be a bit of a help to your child as she translates that image in her head into words that she can organize. At this stage in the process, we are just working on filling out the three categories well.
Bear in mind that this graph can be used with very small children just learning to write. The three categories would turn into three descriptors of the main topic. For example, “my birthday cake” might be the main topic. The beginning writer could just write three things about her cake such as that it is large, tastes like vanilla, and is in the shape of a big truck.
Conversely, the graph can also be used with more advanced children who will also include topic sentences in their categories. Having this global organizer will be so helpful to them!
When all the content of the categories are complete, direct the child to think of how she will write an opening sentence that will make the reader really anxious to read what she is writing about! Next, how will she close the writing? You might want to refer her back to her first sentence with an example. Say her first sentence is something like this: “Tree frogs are some of the most interesting creatures I have heard of.” Her last sentence could refer back to the opening sentence, but include one detail she finds most interesting about the tree frog.
At this point, the title should be simple to create. Try for something that grabs attention.
You're now ready to put your turn your completed graph into a piece of writing. See how easily the content of the well-completed graph translates into a sequential, left-brained wonderful piece of writing!
As you do this exercise, ask your child what he finds helpful, how he would change the graph to suit him best, and any suggestions he would like to make. After all, we learn the most about teaching from asking our children how THEY learn best, what helps them the most, and what they were thinking at any point in the process. Asking these questions helps us become better teachers and also helps the child understand more clearly how they learn and how they can help themselves.