Welcome to a new, month-long project here on the Wonder Farm! Come on in, and find a seat! For the month of September, I’m planning to focus my posts on a single topic: taking dictation from kids. I’ll be posting much more often than my typical once-a-week dispatches. I’m hoping that some of you will join me, try some of these ideas out with your own kids, and share what you discover. Please, let’s chat!
What is dictation?
Dictation, to me, is simply writing down something that your child wants to have written down. It could be a story, but it could just as easily be a theory about life on Mars, or a description of a fairy house just built, or the words of a ditty that you catch him singing as he eats his toast. It’s an easy practice, but there are ways to make it work smoothly, and I hope to discuss those here.
What’s the big deal about dictation?
This is what I hope to crack open and explore this month. I believe that taking dictation from kids is a powerful, but largely underused tool for helping kids develop their voices as writers. It isn’t widely used in schools, simply because that isn’t feasible, but I think it has great potential for homeschooling families. And it’s really for kids of all ages: from those just beginning to talk to older teenagers who might be struggling to express something in writing. It’s also a technique that kids who go to school can do with their parents at home.
Why are you doing this?
- Mostly because I think these ideas might be helpful to parents, and I want to share them.
- I’d love to have other families test these ideas out, so we can all get a better sense of what works and what doesn’t. I’d like to build a community of writing families here on the Wonder Farm.
- You may remember the William Zinnser quote I posted about a few weeks back, from Writing to Learn: “I thought of how often as a writer I had made clear to myself some subject I had previously known nothing about by just putting once sentence after another–by reasoning my way in sequential steps to its meaning. I thought of how often the act of writing even the simplest document–a letter for instance–had clarified my half-formed ideas.” I’m hoping that lingering with this topic for a month, and responding to those of you who contribute will clarify my own ideas about dictation. Which will help me write that book on homeschooling and writing that I’m plugging away at.
- I’ve just left my oldest child at college for the first time, 3,000 miles away, and my middle child has stopped homeschooling for the first time in her life, and started high school. As you might imagine, I could use a big project right now.
How do we start?
I recommend that at first you simply read along here, and ponder the ideas a bit. I don’t want to get you all fired up about dictation, and have you pounce on your child with your New Big Idea! Anyone who has homeschooled for any length of time has probably discovered this: the more excited you are about a notion, the more leery your child is likely to become. (Perhaps my kids have ultra-developed sensors to keep me at bay because I’m always buzzing with some crazy idea, but I think this is a fairly universal theorem.) One of the most important things to remember about taking dictation is that you want to do it because your child wants to–not because you think it’s a good idea.
But how will my child decide to dictate, when I’m the one reading here?
That, my friends, will be the topic of an upcoming post. I do hope you’ll come back!
How do I join in the project?
There are several ways you can participate. You can simply read along, and try out ideas that might work for your child. You can leave a comment–and I’d love it if you would–to tell how something worked, or didn’t work. You can ask questions of me, or of other readers, in the comment section as well. There will be opportunities to share writing which your child has dictated, if your child is agreeable. And if you write about dictation on your own blog, you can leave a link to your post in the comments, so readers can find you.
Please spread the word about The Dictation Project: on your own blog, with your friends, with your homeschooling communities. The more families we can get to join in, the richer the exploration of this topic will be.
Coming up tomorrow: thoughts on why taking dictation from kids can be such a powerful tool.
So what do you think? Any of you interested in joining along, if your child is willing?