A friend’s grandson, upon opening a ‘some-assembly-required’ box, asked, “Where’s the constructions?” He was looking for the construction instructions—the ubiquitous step-by-step procedures for putting things together, for getting things done consistently and well. These kinds of processes surround us all our lives from morning hygiene rituals to starting a car, to making a pot roast. In my college writing classes we call this process analysis—the basis for standard operating procedures (SOPs), policy manuals, guidelines and the like in the work place. In the home, these lists are called chores and expectations for family living. An important way to formalize and create buy-in to those patterns of activity is for the child to write them out. They can start out small: How I make my bed. How I brush my teet. How I comb my hair. I ask college students to do this in preparation for more elaborate process descriptions. After that it’s possible to move onto more elaborate ‘constructions’. For example, ask the child to watch and make notes as a parent makes cookies or lunch or changes a tire on the car. Then have him write out his observations following the formats, perhaps, as found in a cook book or automobile manual.
There’s gold in them thar’ hills. Ask the producers of all the yellow and black …for dummies books (my favorite, Ventriloquism for Dummies). If your child has an aptitude for this kind of concise, clear writing you could put him or her on a fulfilling career path as a process engineer, trainer, manager, instructional designer and the like.
What to write about…
How about writing ‘constructions’ so grampa can use his cell phone, or digital camera or get online?
How about the steps to prep a wall before painting?
How to do the laundry?
Make a pizza?
How to give a dog a bath?
Any and all the things we do in daily life are grist for developing logical thinking and clear writing not to mention building confidence and competence.