Thursday, August 15, 2013
Spelling, punctuation, and the young writer
My 6-year-old son is an obsessive little writer. When we went to Cape May for a week this summer, and didn’t have a whole lot of paper or notebooks with us, he wrote stories on napkins. When he’d run through all our paper napkins, he moved on to the paper towels. Mostly he’s been writing Magic Tree House fan fiction -- stories incorporating Jack and Annie as main characters, with some of the same conventions (they go to the tree house first every time, and it spins faster and faster, until “everything was still. Absolutely still.”) It’s all very cute and fun, and I’ve mostly been like “that’s great, sweetie.” But on all of these books, he writes “Majic” Tree House. He’s seen dozens of the real books and has read this word many times, but still writes it as “majic.” So the question I’ve been pondering is whether it’s helpful or not helpful to bring up such matters as spelling, grammar, and punctuation with the young writer. Part of me says no, I don’t want to in any way second guess his creativity. He’s having fun. He’s writing purely for the joy of it. Writing is play for him and I’m in no hurry for him to think otherwise. But another part of me says that I’m bringing negative baggage to spelling and grammar and such that isn’t inherent in these things. I wish I’d had the finer points of grammar introduced to me far earlier. I also love the growth mindset inherent in writing a draft and then making it better. My son writes a story and then abandons it, rather than going back and doing it again and making it better and thinking about how he can improve it. That’s probably the part of writing I like best -- taking a rough draft and experiencing the joy of progress as I see myself making it better. So, those are the two sides of this argument. What do you think? It occurs to me that I could let him type some of his stories and he'd see the indication in a Word document that something was spelled wrong.