Updated: Oct 28
If your teen likes to write, story writing is a great way to start. As they grow older dabbling with different forms of writing other than story writing, slowly becomes a necessity. To be able to write well is about conveying something in a way that the reader can easily understand and appreciate. This is true, be it a story or an answer to a question in the exam. Getting a story published feels amazing but it definitely mustn't be the end. Writing is a process, a continuous journey that even renowned authors are a part of.
Writing for school and beyond:
Across syllabuses, the writing section includes prompts other than only story writing prompts. They include diary entry/narrative writing, formal letter writing, analytical paragraph writing, argumentative writing and even responding to real life picture prompts. Many of these writing prompts don't always rely on imagination but also on what the student knows about the real world.
Let's take the example of a prompt from the ICSE syllabus. "Plastic bags are convenient and hence should not be banned. Write your views for or against this statement." Simply forming an opinion is barely sufficient. The student needs to be able to support their point of view with apt facts from the real world to create an impactful essay. For instance, a person who supports plastic bags may point out that cotton bags are a drain on the earth's resources as cotton needs more water to grow. Hence, it might be more efficient to reuse and recycle plastic bags. To be able to substantiate one's opinion, knowledge of what is currently happening in the world is the key. Reading newspapers, being part of discussions that pave the way for such debates open up perspectives and allows discovery of new information.
Helping your teen to stay tuned with current affairs
It seems like a lot of teens like to stay tuned with current news in areas that impact them directly in some way. You might find your teen staying tuned with latest news about Marvel movies or comics or about their favourite K Pop bands. Ask them to write about something that is pertinent to them and is current, rest assured you will have a well written account. On the other hand ask them to talk about the war in Ukraine for example, the response is likely to be a lot more guarded. They realise that this a serious matter about which they may either know nothing about or know a little or know quite a bit. Either way, writing about it is a different ball game. It is evident that their writing and thoughts are going to be judged in this process. Another test. As if life isn't filled with tests already! Ugh!
Ask them to write about something that is pertinent to them and is current, rest assured you will have a well written account. On the other hand ask them to talk about the war in Ukraine for example, the response is likely to be a lot more guarded.
What if a current issue is not a standalone subject that they need to write about in an exam situation? What if there is a context, a group, a purpose to a discussion on the subject? What if it is a collective effort? Would that change things?
At the Young Executives' Club
Every time, a matter of current relevance goes up for discussion at the Young Executives' Club, as a facilitator of this program, I have observed how different teens rely on different sources of information. Some of them readily share information to inform others who are unaware of the issue being discussed. We sometimes even rely on news articles to get a better grasp of the matter paving the way for discussions and sometimes even in huge debates.
A page from the Young Executives' Club: The humble delicious chocolate that many of us enjoy had a different story in the background
Every teen was familiar with the company Nestle. What they did not know was that the company had got caught in a law suit in which they were being accused of abetting child labour in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is known for cocoa plantations but has a major scarcity of labour. Lack of access to schools made children easily available to work and remains one the main reasons for children to be working in the cocoa plantations. The plaintiffs had themselves worked there during their childhood and wanted to do their bit to put an end to this practice. The way out they saw was to stop Nestle from importing cocoa which would means no business for cocoa plantations.
The teens were familiar with child labour as some of them had studied about it but there were some who did not know about it at all. Discussing the facts of that case and developing arguments for and against Nestle, led the group to support one another understand the issue better and arrive at a conclusion. The concluding argument was that in the transaction between companies like Nestle and Hershey's(which was also accused) and the plantation owners in Costa Rica, was that of between a customer and a provider/producer. Accusing Nestle and Hershey's is the same as pointing fingers at the customer which evidently is unacceptable. Hence, these chocolate companies must be acquitted. This winning argument ended up being the concluding sentence to a raging debate that the teens had. In the real world the concluding argument that acquitted these companies is discussed in detail here.
How do these kind of discussions help with writing?
For starters, listening in during such discussions would enable teens to absorb information sans pressure, making it a lot easier to remember interesting facts/news. Hence when it comes to responding to a challenging writing assignment/prompt in the exam, their mind needn't go blank. Something discussed at some time could trigger a thought process, provide some information that could lead to a train of thought that could get transformed into impactful writing. "I don't know what to write" needn't be a thought at all while responding to such prompts.
"I don't know what to write" needn't be a thought at all while responding to such prompts.
We learn a lot from one another. As individuals we tend to believe that our perspective defines the world. Actively listening to other perspectives enables us to be a lot more open to ideas and information. We become a sponge. One never knows what information or which perspective could become handy. All that one needs to do is show up for group discussions where ever they happen and simply take it all in. As a bonus, we also write every week in response to a variety of writing prompts at the Young Executives' Club.
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Both weekday and weekend batches are available at the Young Readers' Club. While this program is for the 8-11 age group, the Young Executives' Club program offers spoken and written communication skills development course for the 12-14 age group.
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