Essays (or Why I'm Pulling My Hair Out)

I'm not a writer "Thanks Captain Obvious" but I do have to teach writing. I'm so bad at teaching writing skills that I sent my son back into the public school system to have them teach him the basics for me.

Do I need to say it? You know it was an utter fail. As a matter of fact all his teachers knew how bad he was, but because he was so advanced in everything else we couldn't get him remedial help. Just let me point out that his teachers were exceptional and tried to help as much as they could within the system. 'Nuff said, right?

So I've tried all kinds of writing programs. And I mean at least a whole school year of curriculum money on writing alone. It's out of control. But he has to be able to write. He's a great speaker - the boy can talk about something and we're great. Putting it on paper - well, not so much.

So last week I assigned him a 500 word essay. "What?" Why would I do that to a non-writer? I let him use the computer to type it and I let him pick his favorite subject - video games. I gave him a short list of rules:

1. Don't worry about punctuation and spelling
2. Just type what you would say if you were telling me (for the zillionth time) about these games

and I set him in front of the computer and walked away. And he did print me out three sheets of paper, of more than 500 words all about Sonic the Hedgehog and his various game incarnations. What he actually handed me was a 500+ word sentence.

So we've been editing the 500 word sentence this week. We started with capitalization. We moved onto punctuation (this took two tries so far - one for commas and one for periods and other various missed punctuation). Breaking one long run on sentence into normal sentences is hard! Today we tried to make some paragraphs. He's making corrections right now and then we will have to proof read one more time.

Did either of us learn anything from this exercise? I learned I probably should not say "type like you talk" because he rarely slows down, and saying "no punctuation" was probably too vague. I'm hoping he learned he can write. Even if we have to fix it, getting it from head to paper was the point of this particular exercise.

Will I do this again? Yep - and I'll even give the same directions, because my son hates reworking his stuff, so I'm sure he's learned that some punctuation should be included in the first writing. And I'll keep doing it until I have no hair left to pull!


  1. That is a great way to start that ball rolling. Writing is hard to teach, especially when their verbal communication skills are off the chart. Take a deep breath and jump in again and perhaps tell him this time, to put a period or whatever at the point where he would normally take a breath and see if that helps.

  2. I love that idea. We will be working on another one soon and I will try that. I've been listening to him though, and I'm not sure if he takes a breath while talking lol


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