By Dr. Raymond J. Huntington
Perhaps your child has always struggled with writing or maybe he or she is just starting to experience difficulties. You can help by taking time to review all writing assignments and graded homework for issues and teacher notes, making your own observations of your child’s work, and sharing feedback with your child.
As you review your child’s written work, keep an eye out for red flags by asking yourself these five questions:
Did my child follow directions? If your student was asked to answer a specific question and instead rambled on about something off topic, perhaps he or she needs to spend more time on the brainstorming and/or outlining stages of the writing process. Read through the assignment together and help your child come up with possible topics and angles he or she could take with each. Help him or her take those ideas and develop a loose outline to write from as well.
Does it make sense? Whether the assignment is a simple book report or an in-depth essay, your student needs to learn to write clearly and communicate his or her main point in a logical and compelling way. Any time you read your student’s writing, make sure it reads well and is not confusing. Can you easily grasp what he or she is trying to say?
Are words misspelled and are there any grammar issues? By high school, your student should be a capable speller - so if spelling is a consistent problem, you’ll want to ask the teacher how you can help your child improve. Also look for improper grammar in writing homework. At the very least, take note of things such as run-on sentences, unclear wording, unnecessary commas, sentence fragments and the like.
Does the piece follow an outline or basic structure? You don’t need to be an English teacher to notice when a book report doesn’t do what it is supposed to do (summarize a story and put forth the student’s opinion on it) or an essay lacks a conclusion or compelling main point. The basic essay structure and the outline as a writing tool will become your child’s trusted writing companions as he or she navigates middle and high school. Be sure your child understands the underlying framework of a well-written report, essay or paper.
Did my child give this a final review? If an assignment is full of errors, it’s a safe assumption that he or shesimply wrote it, printed it and turned it in. Teach your student the importance of reviewing one’s work after setting a draft aside for a day or so. Fresh eyes can do wonders for the editing process, as can slowly reading aloud. Students must learn to be strong self-editors as they move into high school.
Help your student become a better writer now, and you will be arming him or her with an invaluable lifelong skill: the ability to communicate well throughwriting. The more your child practices, the more his or her writing will improve - especially with your support. Also remember that if writing is a continued source of frustration and struggle for your child, there may be other issues worth exploring. Call Huntington to arrange an academic evaluation to uncover any issues and develop a plan to correct them.
Dr. Raymond J. Huntington and Eileen Huntington are co-founders of Huntington Learning Center, which has been helping children succeed in school for more than 30 years. For more information about Huntington, call 1-800 CAN LEARN.