Yesterday I started a discussion on writing that ended with this graphic:
Now think about that six- or seven-year-old child who has been asked to write. We can only give our focal attention to a few things at a time. When a young child is learning to write, their circles look more like this:
I think this great moral teacher here throws down the gauntlet in challenge of an educational fallacy which is accepted, even in the twentieth century. That futility is the extraction of original composition from schoolboys and schoolgirls. The proper function of the mind of the young scholar is to collect material for the generalisations of after-life. If a child is asked to generalise, that is, to write an essay upon some abstract theme, a double wrong is done him. He is brought up before a stone wall by being asked to do what is impossible to him, and that is discouraging. But a worse moral injury happens to him in that, having no thought of his own to offer on the subject, he puts together such tags of commonplace thought as have
come in his way and offers the whole as his 'composition,' an effort which puts a strain upon his conscience while it piques his vanity. (Home Education p. 244-245)
When they do begin writing, it is not with completely original composition, but rather narration. This allows the child to continue to practice those subskills of writing at a higher level, without having to create new content. As they read and narrate, they are also subconsciously picking up on various styles and lots of vocabulary, which then leak into their narrations. The formal study of grammar, beginning on a small scale in upper elementary school and then at a deeper level in middle school, makes explicit the patterns of the English language that they likely already knew implicitly through their reading. Once students have mastered the subskills to at least some degree of automation, original composition becomes so much easier because all of the skills can remain in their proper spheres of awareness, and years of reflective reading have given him something worthwhile to say.
I hope this post helps those who may be struggling with Mason's model of writing instruction (or, perhaps more appropriately, the lack thereof). I'd love to hear your thoughts, so be sure to leave a comment below! Enjoy the rest of your day!