We know about writer’s block in authors. We even know that when we sit down to write a letter or a memo we often have a hard time getting started. Yet, as teachers we expect our students to write with little notice on a topic we’ve decided on. We then place time constraints on their writing. Is it a wonder that so many of our children leave high school with such bad writing skills?
Of course, there are children who can’t begin writing even with the most detailed of prompts, days notice and given their own choice of topics. These are children with the ability to write but a disability that keeps them from even beginning the process. Many of these children have such an obsessive need to be perfect that they can’t begin writing because they need to see the complete picture, beginning to end, in their head first. Children who fall into this category are children with Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism, Emotional Disabilities, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, and other highly creative kids who just need time. Often the best way to get these children to discover their own ability to write is to let them write – give them freedom.
A website that gives children the freedom to discover their inner author is Big Universe. This site has a book authoring tool where anyone can write, add pictures, print and even publish their own book. My fourth grade students with learning disabilities authored some incredibly creative books on Big Universe, often making them into sequels. bookChrisL and bookMahtabA were just two of these authors.
The confidence this site gave my kids is incredible. Many of them began the year not able to write good sentences. When they saw they could create books, writing sentences was no longer a problem. They are all now able to write good detailed sentences and were even able to write to a prompt for the end of the year assessment. Thanks to Big Universe my students went on to fifth grade with the ability and confidence they need to be successful as writers.