My youngest boy in particular (currently aged 9) struggles no end to write things down. Its not that he has any real literacy problems, or struggles to understand, or can not pay attention. He just finds putting things down on paper a great challenge. While he does well with short answer style questions on a computer, and is able to absorb a lot of information during our more active lessons like bird watching or fire safety, our more formal sit down lessons have been tending to run to an uncomfortably familiar pattern.
His hands suddenly become really sore, or there is a cut on his finger which means he is unable to write, or his foot is so itchy he cant focus on anything else. Its tiresome, disruptive and completely transparent. If he escalates this enough, he sometimes manages to avoid the lesson altogether. Its not a pattern I like to encourage, but at the same time, I dont want to dedicate a bitterly argumentative day and build a hatred of education just to get through an hours work.
My wife was running a lesson with the boys the other day. Although the context was the periodic table, the lesson was really one on notetaking.
The boys took turns reading a page from the book, and everyone would take notes on what was being said. Then everyone compared notes to make sure they had all understood the same thing, and then wrote it out neatly in their book. The style of notetaking was entirely up to them. Whether they wrote full sentences, key words, or diagrams was of no real consequence. They just had to get a meaningful idea on paper.
There was the usual resistance, a number of distractions, and several tantrums, but with ruthless persistance, my wife pushed through all this with the consistent message that there are people here to help him. Far more than at school.
He finally took this message on board, and the results were fantastic. Both the boys were taking their notes, and they learned a heap of stuff. It was funny, but perhaps not entirely surprising, to see that my eldest boy writes his notes like he is coding.
My youngest boy ended up writing nearly a page of information in very neat handwriting. It looked completely different to his usual work. At first glance, I thought someone else had written it.
I was really impressed with the whole thing. It looks like it is going to mark a turning point in how these lessons progress.