Encouraging Creativity: Out of the Mouths of Babes

Feb 24, 2017 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


Our IEW forum is a robust community of parents, teachers, co-op facilitators, and hybrid school instructors all coming together to support one another in implementing IEW. Every once in a while, a forum thread is just too good to not share it with a broader audience. This is just such a thread! Enjoy reading how Jill Pike, IEW Accomplished Instructor, encourages a parent on her daughter’s fledgling writing skills!

Original Question:

“My daughter, 9, has been working on learning sentence openers. She is consistently using very awkward -ing openers. For example, she might write "Walking wetly, the duck moved toward the pond." We discussed that when you use an adverb, you should check to make sure that you really want it to apply to the "verby" part of participial opener and not to the object of the participial phrase or the subject of the sentence (she does understand all of those types of parts of sentences). I have been having her "correct" incorrect sentences, which she usually does successfully. Yet she still comes up with the awkward constructions in her own writing. I think we've been at it for about 6 weeks. Should I just drop the -ing opener? Should I allow her to use the awkward openers and correct them later in her writing career? Or is there something else I should be doing to teach a less awkward -ing opener?”

Jill’s answer:

“Think back to when your daughter was learning to talk. You probably loved the little phrases she came up with. In our family, we still use some of those kid-invented phrases in our home: O’cheese (Mac ‘n cheese), Daddy Ketchup (BBQ sauce), and Loder (yogurt—took us forever to figure out what the kid meant!). The constructions that she is using in her writing are no different—they are really very clever ways of saying something.

“The goal of the sentence openers and the dress-ups are to add variety to the writing and make it come alive. Your daughter’s construction does just that: Walking wetly, the duck moved toward the pond.

“Although I have never heard that particular phrase before, I can totally picture “walking wetly.” Not only is it strong, it is so unusual that it made me smile and want to read more. Also, I don’t think she is using that -ly adverb incorrectly. Adverbs can modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. In her phrase, “wetly” answers the question “How did the duck walk?” It is totally legit—at least in a kid’s eye. As adults we’ll complain that “a duck can’t walk wetly!” but that doesn’t really matter because a kid would get it.

“Use the sentence to start a conversation to help her write what she was thinking, or at least come up with a clearer opener. I would say, “I love your ‘walking wetly’—love the alliteration! But I am not quite sure what you mean by ‘walking wetly.’ Can you tell me a bit more?” Then help her say what she wanted to say, or help her come up with an alternative. Talk about what a duck would sound like/look like if it were wet: “Squelching with every step” or “Dripping green algae” might work instead. Since the duck is heading toward the pond, it isn’t wet yet. Is it looking forward to something? “Looking forward to a swim” or “Wanting breakfast” or “Quacking incessantly” might also work. Give her lots of options to convey what she was thinking, and let her pick.

“To encourage you, here is a paragraph by Andrew Pudewa’s daughter, Fiona, when she was about your daughter’s age:

Regretful Experience by Fiona

One exceedingly hot summer’s day in the sky the hawk who was peacefully flying about, noticed an un-friendly parakeet picking at his tail. Regretfully, he turned around, lost his balance and was tragically heading for the ground when he overcame and got back his consciousness and lofted back in the air and was a little sprained but his notion was to strike back at the parakeet but when he got there, the little pest wasn’t there. Then at that exact moment realized he wasn’t doing the right thing by frightening but by simply asking politely and now he was terribly hurt so he decided to write a short story about his regretful experience.

“All of that is just three sentences! You can imagine Mrs. Pudewa’s angst as she read it. But Andrew told his wife, ‘This is wonderful! Don’t squelch her creativity as you help her fix it.

“Most of my children wrote like this as well. It has always been a headache to help them edit their work while maintaining my own sanity, but I promise you that they grow out of it into wonderful adults. It is worth the time and effort!

“Your daughter is only nine. There is plenty of time for her to mature and start writing like the rest of us. When that happens, you’ll pull out these early compositions and laugh just as you do with her first people drawings when she was four. It is perfectly fine for her to do this.”

We hope that Jill’s wise words to another parent may bless you as you endeavor to teach your own students. If you haven’t already, we encourage you to join our forum!

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