By Kathryn Streeter
My 9-year-old son was a great student--he was fluent and eloquent during presentations and when debating an issue. But his ease vanished when he had to write.
As I wracked my brain, trying to think of a fresh, fun writing exercise he could do, my eyes wandered into my husband's home office, where he sat typing furiously--blogging! My son's eyes lit up when I suggested on a whim that he should try blogging, too. Blogging conveyed fun while writing a short essay did not. Perhaps your children will feel the same way.
Guidelines for your
1. Choose a topic. It should be something your kids absolutely love. Since I gave my son control over what he blogged about--the NFL, politics, cars, and sneakers were favorites--he owned his work in a new way. He felt energized and motivated. It was still an assignment, but it felt less like "work" to him.
2. Mentally lay out the argument. Focus on a particular angle. Is it clear, rational? Psst, it's not enough for your children to write about their love affair with fast cars. They'll need to dive into why Lamborghinis are superior to Ferraris, for example. You want them to be invested in their opinions. They need to have skin in the game.
3. Defend the argument. In the body of the blog post (flanked by a mini-introduction and conclusion), your children should state their case, using three main points to defend their view.
4. Focus on building a cohesive argument. Don't worry about getting spelling, grammar, and punctuation perfect. I told my son, "I'll only pay attention to your argument and how effectively you state your case." With this reassurance, friction between us over writing assignments abruptly came to a halt. He released the fear of messing up, and the weekly blogging assignments became a hit.
Over time, he learned how to develop an argument, whether for a paper or a speech (the latter is still his preference). Equally significant, he wrestled through issues he may not have otherwise confronted. In the process, he demonstrated raw leadership material. Unlike me, my son was endowed with decisive intuition. He didn't waffle as he played judge over disparate controversies. He didn't see both sides: With certitude, he declared a winner.
If you've successfully sold this writing hack to your child, you'll also appreciate its liberating versatility. As a parent, you can judiciously assign blog posts, whether after dinner on a quiet evening, while sitting under a shady tree in the backyard or at the park, or even on family vacations. Want to get started? Check out a list of kid blogger sites at kidslearntoblog.com/45-best-blogging-sites-for-kids.
Kathryn Streeter's writing can be found in the Washington Post, the Week, Austin-American Statesman, and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter @streeterkathryn.