Should Kids Be Given Rules When Writing?
Most kids only write for grades. It’s rare to find children who write to fulfill their creative needs or to pour their hearts out. If you ask schoolchildren how they feel about writing, most of them will sigh and tell you just how they dislike writing.
One of the culprits for students’ dislike of writing is probably the many rules teachers give for any kind of writing task. Some teachers won’t even allow students to deviate even the slightest bit from the task directives.
Should Writing Rules Apply to Kids?
Writing rules exist for various reasons. One of the reasons is to make kids’ writing easier to read.
Have you ever seen kids writing a wall of text with seemingly no punctuation marks whatsoever? We sure have. Have you also seen kids arranging the sentences in their writing assignments like a list, i.e. one sentence per line? We have seen that too.
Teaching kids to write in paragraphs where one paragraph contains only one main idea is essential. It’s a skill that everybody should have. If you see just how many college students unable to grasp this concept, you’ll agree on how important it is to practice this skill at an early age.
How many rules are too many?
Children begin learning the rules of writing and reading at the age of 3 to 5 years. Once they’re in school, they’re exposed to even more rules aiming to improve the children’s reading and writing competency. Often times, children feel like the rules are overwhelming.
For assignments like essays and scientific papers, following strict rules is a given. But what about the other types of writing? For example, when a teacher asks his students to write a descriptive text about their holidays, should the teacher put so much focus on grammar, spelling, and other requirements? Should the goal be to get as high grade as possible? Or should teachers let their students’ minds roam free?
Parents and teachers may not even realize that strict rules are binding the children’s creativity. Kids can’t pour out their thoughts into writing because they’re worried about breaking the rules. Being constrained like this may even lead to frustration and make children despise the idea of writing for fun.
Balancing it out
One solution is to give kids free writing time when we let kids be kids. We follow their rules instead of the other way around. Just let the children write whatever they have in mind using whatever approach they want. Even seasoned writers break writing rules once in a while, so why not let kids do the same.
The teachers’ role in free writing time is to give feedback on the content without worrying about the structure, grammatical accuracy, and other literary techniques. As long as you get the message, then it’s all good. In fact, according to the process-writing approach, focusing on language errors will not improve students’ writing.
Of course, when it’s time to write anything essential for grading, teachers must let the kids know what rules apply for the task. When possible, let the kids fix their own grammar and spelling mistakes using online tools. That way teachers can focus on fixing the other specific aspects of the task.
Kids are creative, and every teacher and parent knows that very well. To ensure that creativity won’t wilt due to excessive rules, it’s OK to let kids loose now and then. Teachers should weigh the pros and cons of giving directives when it comes to creative writing. In the end, it’s better to focus on the process than the product.