Leaky Elbow Syndrome


I often joke about how many of our students seem to have holes in their elbows and their wonderful ideas drop out before they hit the page!
I think we forget how hard it is for children to coordinate ideas, handwriting, concentration, punctuation etc and get ideas down.
My favourite lesson every day is WRITING and I am amazed as I see the creative process begin anew with each lesson.
The blank page is transformed- one minute it is empty- the next there are ideas, “wonderings”, creative “splats” and sadly sometimes one word and a pencil that just won’t move!
When I ask children what they would like to write they describe how they have many ideas and just cannot choose. Sometimes they have a HUGE idea and they are frightened to begin because it will take so long to write or they feel they cannot spell the words.
There are so many variables and teachers need a very full tool-box and a huge dose of understanding to be able to effectively teach written expression.
We sometimes use story starters- especially when children are tired and we are approaching the end of the year.
As children LOVE random choices, we often cut these up and they take one as a lucky dip. They act as “circuit breakers” so their brains can zoom in on just one idea!
If I give them too many topics to choose from they will get into the “kangaroo caught in the spotlight” syndrome and simply stop!
I have given you some of our story starters here and invite you to try them out. We are always devising more and at the moment we are working on a new Christmas set.
We share all our writing strategies in our writing workshop for teachers- ALL KIDS CAN WRITE. Please contact me if you would like to attend the forthcoming ones in Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane or Singapore.


leaky armThe hole in the arm syndrome!

Many parents and teachers come to us with problems associated with reluctant writers. Their children are simply not able to transfer their thoughts to paper even though they have very creative ideas.

Many children are not able to sift through the myriad possibilities when asked to write freely – they often need some guidelines. These children often think on all levels at once and find it extremely difficult to order their thoughts and know where to start.

Some children are perfectionist in nature and know their written efforts will not be as good as they wish.

No matter what the cause- the effect is the same! Ideas and words just drop out of the elbow before they reach the pencil. I call it LEAKY ARM SYNDROME! It works in the same way as a leaking bucket- gradually all the ideas leak out and they are left embarrassed and unable to generate more.

We have been running professional development courses in Perth and Singapore to help parents and teachers stimulate writing and help children to overcome these difficulties and stimulate their “writing starter motors”.

Some of the suggestions we offer are:

• Give sentence starters and story starters – eg. It was a very stormy nights and …
• Use stimulating pictures to initiate writing responses
• Ask all children to keep personal journals
• Use guided visualisations to help children tap into their imagination
• Read a good story and ask children to retell it with a twist or some different characters
• We use paint charts to stimulate poetry and “stream of consciousness” writing.
• Let the child write one page or sentence and teacher/parent write the next one
• Encourage the child to speak their story onto a digital recorder or use voice recognition programs. Children LOVE to see their words magically translated into words!
• Pay more attention to the message rather than the spelling and editing when children are in the initial stages of writing.
• We also use some specific brain stimulation exercises to ensure ideas are travelling smoothly along all neural pathways!

We all have a writer’s voice inside so perhaps if we all write in journals and try our hands at some poetry our children will perceive that writing is a valued activity and try out their creative ideas!

If you would like further ideas or information about our methods, please contact us on 92714200 or 0409911135. You can also email us on victoriacarlton@iinet.net.au and don’t forget we are helping children find their WRITING VOICES during our January programs. The Victoria Carlton programs are held in Bayswater: 92714200 and Cockburn: 9414 7191


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