Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Family Traditions

Recently, in an attempt to prepare my students for the MCAS long composition test, I had them write a personal narrative. The topic: “Family Traditions.” The first word that tripped them up was “traditions.” Many children had no clue as to what the word even meant. How could they start the writing process?

Unlike the real MCAS, I could tell them the definition of traditions as well as brainstorm some examples. Most children thought of holiday traditions but I also tried to get them to think of vacation traditions and any others they could think of.

We had many traditions in my family. When I was little we had a tradition of going to dinner at my grandma’s house on Sundays. The traditional Sunday dinner has become a thing of the past in many families, including mine. We spent Christmas Day with my mom’s side of the family at my great uncle and aunt’s house. Having no children of their own, it was not a kid friendly place to be. Picture, if you will, white furniture and carpeting.

One of my favorite vacation traditions was the brown lunch bag for the road trip. We couldn’t open the bag to enjoy its contents until we were officially on the highway. But we already knew what we’d find: a new comic book, quiet car games and candy!

These were designed to keep us quiet and occupied for the majority of our journey. Being voracious readers we were done with all three of the comic books in no time. (We traded back and forth.) My older sister, Cindy, could make her candy last, but not we younger two, Marcia and me. We gobbled it down then enjoyed a sugar rush followed by a sugar crash. Good times.

After modeling the above traditions from my childhood, it was time to set the children loose on their writing. A couple of students were able to accomplish the task with relative ease. The rest had melt downs. They couldn’t think of any traditions. They didn’t know where to start.

After reminding them to make a list, draw a picture, or web out their ideas, they still whined. Most of my students do not like to write. It is too much effort for them. Writing is hard and takes focus and an ability to visualize. I tried to get them to tell their story by painting a picture with their words.

Still no luck for my severest reluctant writers. Some days I feel like I’m pulling teeth trying to get these kids to write. My only hope is that I’m planting seeds for the future when everything clicks and these kids, hopefully, get turned on to writing.

I actually called a few families and explained their child’s difficulties. The homework for those kids: talk with their families about their traditions. As I suspected, the families did have traditions, the kids were just not aware of them.

The bottom line? Talk with your children about your childhood traditions. It’s your heritage and theirs as well. Point out your family’s current tradition. Chances are, you’ve got them, your children just don’t know it.

Are you continuing any childhood traditions with your family? Are you creating new ones? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

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