Writing, Typing, and Brain Processes

There are constant discussions about writing tools and writing styles – by pen or by keyboard, cursive or print – and how they affect literacy and learning. The discussions range from the importance of continuing to teach cursive writing in schools – does it help with learning or is it just for tradition – to an even more pertinent question of whether we should continue to treat writing by hand as an important skill at all. With these discussions, I have found that each medium is pit against the other as polar opposites; you can either have this or that. Either we keep cursive writing in the curriculum or we take it out entirely. Either writing by hand is important or typing is the way.

Scouring the internet to get a balanced viewpoint of the advantages of hand writing and typing, I came across a lot of articles that defined typing based off of the advantages and disadvantages of writing by hand. But, to me, a disservice is done by not exploring typing in its own terms rather than as a “how it differs from handwriting” kind of definition.

In my opinion, typing is not writing by hand, it’s typing. It has a rhythm; one that allows you to flow through a piece of writing coursing through your mind or pummel through a report that needs to be done. It’s convenient and fast but it’s also allow you to be more creative because you can get more on paper, or should I say, onto the screen.

With writing by hand, you feel what you write. As quite a few articles pointed out, writing by hand forces you to slow down. It works with the muscles in your brain, creating a muscle memory that can help you remember and learn and be more involved with whatever you are writing. (Cursive writing fans will be pleased to know that joining letters together helps children recognize groups of letters as words, minus the fancy curls which are not as important.)

So maybe the solution is not to choose one over the other but to understand how each works for us and employ it that way. In a classroom where students can enhance the learning process as they take notes or where we, as parents, teachers or influencers in their lives, want them to dig deeper, maybe they can be encouraged to write by hand. If the students have an avalanche of words in mind that have to be ousted immediately, then perhaps let them take the waterfall that is typing and run. All we have to do is guide them to know which is which.

So maybe the question we should be asking whether our students are being given enough tools that will help them express themselves in written form. What are your thoughts? Are they?

 

How Kids Write 4 Kids Winners are Chosen

Over the last five years, I’ve been asked many times how winners of the Kids Write 4 Kids contest are selected. Let me start by saying I’m actually not involved in selecting the winner.

We have a judging panel that consist of twelve people. Of the twelve, six of them have been on the judging panel since the inception of Kids Write 4 Kids in 2012. They all come from different professional backgrounds – writer, marketer, lawyer, doctor, director, and a production artist. But the one thing they all share is that they all read a lot of books–as much as one a week–and to me that’s very important. You need someone who has read a lot of books to recognize originality and what’s consider a good story. The rest of the panel is made up of guest judges that changes year after year.

They consist of previous Kids Write 4 Kids winners, accomplished published authors, such as Karen Bass, Margriet Ruurs, and Joyce Grant to name a few, and people in the publishing or education industry. You can visit our website to view profiles of our recent judging panel.

It’s with this mix that I believe we are able to select the best story for the masses. To date we’ve published ten titles and all of the stories are very different, ranging from murder mystery, humour, fantasy, fable, and even a collection of poetry.

The judges don’t actually read all the entries, only the top ten stories. We have two very important ladies that go through all the entries to identify the top ten stories for the judges. They are professional editors that work for a big publisher so they know what they are doing! All the stories go through a checklist that we also include as part of the entries submission. Here’re story checklist items:

  • Does my story have a title?
  • Does my story have rising action, a climax, and falling action?
  • Does my story make sense when I read it out loud?
  • Are my sentences complete? Have I checked the spelling and punctuation and grammar in my story?
  • Is my story consistent? Are places, people, and things described in the same way throughout?
  • Is my story fiction or a collection of poems?

Once they have identified the top ten stories, each story is formatted in Times New Roman font, and blinded (that is, all author information removed) with only the title included, so that all the stories are presented in exactly the same format. This is to ensure there is no bias on whether this was written by a 9 year–old-boy or a 13-year-old-girl.

When all the judges finish reading the top ten stories, each judge rates the story online. The judging panel never meets to discuss the stories, so no one is influencing one another.  Each story is rated based on three criteria:

  • Creativity and originality of plot and/or themes – 40%
  • Story structure, characters, and setting – 40%
  • Style and tone; the quality of writing – 20%

All the scores are then entered into an Excel spreadsheet with a formula that allocates the percentage from each of the criteria to produces an accurate score. The story with the highest score wins and gets published. Over the past two years, we’ve published the two titles with the highest scores.

Official winner announcement is made on June 1st and it’s posted on our website. This year, the two winners are Summon The Magic written by Emily Little, a grade six student from Northport Elementary School in Port Elgin, Ontario and How to Be An Abbott, by Olivia Simms, a grade eight student from Glashan Public School, Ottawa, Ontario. We also post the list of runners up to encourage these kids to continue their writing journey.

As a not-for-profit organization, we are 100% volunteer run so all of our judges and editors give their time without any compensation. There are no words that can express our gratitude for their contribution. If you are a published author or someone that works in the educational industry and are interested in being part of our judging panel for 2017-2018 Kids Write 4 Kids Creative Challenge, you can reach out to me at ivy@ripplefoundation.ca

About Kids Write 4 Kids

Kids Write 4 Kids is an annual writing contest that celebrates the best creative stories written by grades 4 – 8. The winning stories are published both in print and digitally for the world to read. All the books are available at Amazon, Apple iBookstore, and Kobo. To support youth literacy in communities across Canada, Ripple Foundation has committed to donate the annual proceeds from book sales to that year’s winner’s schools. For more information, visit our website and sign up to be notified when the next contest start.

 

 

The Twelve Days of Creative Writing Challenge

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…a festive writing challenge! The holiday season is in full swing, and while it’s a busy time, it’s also a great time to get creative. There’s something quite inspiring about the love, joy, and sparkle of this festive season. The challenge below is perfect for kids who have started to get restless with their time off from school. It’s a great way to keep them busy and stimulate their minds in an exciting way. Even better, the whole family can get involved, starting a new festive family tradition!

This challenge involves writing a short piece of writing progressively over twelve days. For each day, a festive word has been provided, which your child will have to incorporate into their writing. The piece can take on whatever form you choose: a short story, a letter, a diary entry, or even a poem–the possibilities are endless!

Words

Day 1: Celebration
The word “celebration” is a perfect fit during the holidays. What might be celebrated in your writing?

Day 2: Joy
Feelings of elation are constant throughout the holiday season. Why might your characters be joyous? Why might they not be?

Day 3: Food
It wouldn’t be the holidays without endless festive treats. What role does food play in your writing?

Day 4: Sparkle
The holidays are full of glittering imagery, from lights to tinsel. What sparkles in your piece?

Day 5: Wonder
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! What might be wondrous in your writing? Might a character be wondering something?

Day 6: Snow
Snow is one of the most iconic aspects of wintertime, and allows for endless fun. Is snow important to your characters? How might it benefit or challenge them?

Day 7: Wish
This season is certainly a hopeful one. Do your characters have something to wish for?

Day 8: Beginning
Approaching a new year means new beginnings. While it does not have to be the New Year in your story, what might be beginning in your plot?

Day 9: Sleep
During such a busy season, everyone is bound to get a little tired. How might sleep contribute to your plot? Why might a character want to or not want to, sleep?

Day 10: Giving
It’s fun to receive, but it’s rewarding to give to others. What might be given in your piece?

Day 11: Spirit
The term “holiday spirit” is often heard this time of year. What does this mean in the context of your writing? What does it mean to your characters?

Day 12: Family
At its core, the holiday season is about togetherness and family. How does the concept of family play into your writing?

Prompts

If you’re having trouble getting started, try using one of the following prompts for this writing challenge:

  • “It’s Christmas Eve, and Santa is sick! How will everyone in the North Pole come together to save Christmas?
  • Someone is trying to get home for the holidays, but they encounter an obstacle that prevents them from doing so. What is this obstacle? How might they overcome it?
  • Everyone has forgotten that it’s the holidays! Your main character, however, remembers. Can they convince everyone to celebrate with them?
  • What is life like for an elf or reindeer during the holidays?
  • The snowmen and snow angels that the children make during the holidays have come alive! What might they do?
  • Retell a favourite holiday memory in a creative format, such as a poem, song, or letter.

This challenge doesn’t have to end with the writing. Once the pieces are complete, you can have fun sharing them with family and friends. You could host a cozy literary evening, complete with hot chocolate and holiday snacks, where each family member reads their composition aloud. If your family tends to be a bit more dramatic, you could create theatrical renditions of each piece with creative costumes and props. These are great ways to spend time with your family over the holidays, beyond the typical dinner and gift exchange.

Feel free to share your experience with this writing challenge in the comments below!