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[Small talk] Writing sentences is hard, mum!

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

Small talk - posts are real-life stories about self-regulated learning. Thought SRL was just an abstract theory? Think again!

Two days ago, my 7-year-old got to choose between easy 🥳 and more difficult 😰 exercises for his homework. He chose the easy one. You can read all about that here.

I wish I could write how I purposefully allowed him to make his own choice and respected his autonomy. Let me share the honest version: I let it be because some hungry twins claimed they were about to die if they didn’t get food within the next couple of minutes.

Today, I was given another chance to TALK to him about choosing the difficulty level of his homework.

He - again - was given the option to choose between exercises. And he again could choose to either

✅ tick boxes, or

✍ write full sentences

I sat next to him this time when he was about to choose.

Him: I want to make the green ones again!

Me: Ok. Do you remember what I shared with you the other day?

Him: Yes.

Me: I have to cook dinner again, but what do you think about this? You can pick the green one and I start preparing dinner. Or you can pick the blue one and we’ll do it together. Dinner can wait 15 minutes.

Him: The blue one, then! Yes, let’s do this together!

Me: Ok, great. Let’s see. (Sending the other two kids off to play and closing the door so we had a quiet place.)

We read the assignment:

Read the four words. Create a sentence with each word and make sure you use its plural format.

  • key

  • doctor

  • language book

  • sparrow

Me: Ok, let’s do this. What if we make this exercise a bit more FUN? Him: Yeah! Me: Shall we make a funny sentence with these words? Him: Yes (Started laughing, he sure was into that!) Me: Ok, what’s the plural of key? Him: Keys Me: Ok, so we’ve got that. Now, what can we do with keys? Him: We can forget them! Me: Yes! You know what, maybe daddy forgot them? (Making it more personal and close to him.) Him: Yes, he does that! Me: (It’s me who loses her keys, but hey, it’s supposed to be fun for me too, right?) Me: Where could he have lost his keys? Him: At his work!

And so we proceeded with the other words. We tried to think of ways to connect each of the sentences, making it a longer - funny - story. He enjoyed it very much. He was proud.

Me: You see, writing sentences can be fun! We just thought about how to make this more pleasant. (Helping him see this was a strategy we choose to use and it helped us get the harder exercise done) Him: Yeah, but I think it was just more fun because I could do it with you!

Ignorant me 🤦‍♀️.

Of course! How could I forget? (Let’s embrace the last ‘mummy is the nicest person on the planet’-years. 😍)

Right after he wrote his last sentence, dad came home from work.

What did my son do, you think?

  • Run straight to dad to show him his story.

  • Put his homework in his school bag and forget all about it.

I heard his dad laugh.

I heard him laugh.

It sure made me laugh.

Homework can be fun! And so can (self-regulated) learning!


Curious about the funny story, here’s a Google Translate (which probably makes it even funnier):

“Dad forgot his keys again at work. Now he can't go to the doctors about his black eye. He had tripped over language books. Then sparrows flew into his eye.”

Anyone with a 7-year-old knows it for a fact.

This is a funny story 😉.


Hindsight notes:

Writing sentences isn’t something that triggered my son’s immediate interest.

It’s hard to do and he doesn’t like making mistakes. Who does?

So, we searched for a strategy to make it more interesting. This is actually called ‘interest activation’ in SRL theory. There are two types of interest activation strategies. Both of which we used in this example.

  • You can try and increase your INDIVIDUAL interest. This type of interest refers to a rather ‘stable’ orientation towards a particular domain (like writing). You can increase it by thinking of ways a task is related to a domain you like. Example: My son likes reading and stories. The few times he did take the initiative to write, was when he was making up his own stories. By helping him see that this exercise could be turned into a story-writing activity, I wanted to increase his interest.

  • You can also try and increase your SITUATIONAL interest. This refers to a more emotional state you can trigger by changing the situation. It helps you raise your short-term interest. Example: My son was much more interested in the difficult exercise because it meant he could work on it with me. Having me around makes it much more enjoyable. As a result, his interest in the exercise increased.


➡ Did these posts about ‘task interest’ trigger YOUR interest 😄? Have a look at these articles featured by the Educational Psychologist. I just added them to my reading list!

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