Write It, Live It:
Six Steps to Help Kids Write Their Own Lives
An activity in which kids write their autobiographies -- backwards -- to realize their dreams. Included: Six steps for writing a goal-oriented autobiography.
Here is an exercise that can be done with children eight years old and older:
- Have students sit comfortably with their eyes closed, and take several deep breaths. Continue until they are completely relaxed.
- Tell them to just listen to the sound of your voice.
- Guide them through a visualization exercise by using the script below. They will create their own image; however, in no way should you describe the event.
- Say, "Imagine you are sitting in a room, watching TV. On the screen, you see yourself doing something that you love to do, something that makes you very happy. You notice that what you are doing is also making other people happy. Feel how excited that makes you."
- When they are able to see that image (which might take more than one round of this exercise), ask them to explain in detail what they visualized. This will be their theme.
- Encourage students to write down what they've seen, or help them take notes about it.
Working backward, with help from a parent, teacher or a trusted family friend, allows a child to construct a plot or story line and iron out the details necessary to complete each stage successfully. Through discussion and gentle prompting, students will realize that everything is a process; that many things they want will take several years and/or steps to achieve. During this part of the process, for example, students might determine the grade point average, test scores, and class rank necessary to achieve their dream, and create a financial plan that will allow them to achieve it.
When my own students discovered their theme, they became more self-reliant and self-sufficient, and their self-esteem improved greatly. They were in control of their own destiny.
One of my seventh-graders discovered a passion for cooking. I said to him, "Elliot, I am going to tell you something that no teacher ever will. You don't even need to go to high school to be a chef --- but if you want to be a great chef, then you need to attend a culinary school." I then told him how my son Antony got a job washing dishes a few hours a week when he was 12. A couple of days later, Elliot informed me that, with his parents' permission, he had a part-time job washing dishes in a restaurant. He was already on his path to becoming a chef.
Destiny, another one of my students, had a learning disability and was in a wheelchair. She discovered her theme of loving animals, and decided to explore the idea of becoming a veterinarian. On a Friday, I encouraged Destiny, with the support of her parents, to find a job working in a pet grooming salon. Destiny reported on Monday that she found employment working for a veterinarian who owned an animal hospital, animal rescue and grooming salon. Working for this veterinarian had a wonderful impact on Destiny: it raised her self-esteem, and her grades improved immensely. She was earning money in her field at 12 years old, when most other kids her age weren't doing anything remotely close.
Simply by writing down his or her desired life story, a child's dreams can come true.