In today’s competitive school environment, it’s critical that students know how to write effectively. Especially as children approach the higher grades, it is expected that they are not just capable writers, but that they are also able to research and gather evidence, communicate their thoughts and ideas in writing, and make connections between what they read and write.
As children move through school, how can parents help them strengthen those all-important writing skills? Below are some effective writing tips for your children:
Emphasize good organization. Whether children follow a loose or detailed outline, it’s wise to at least make sure an essay or story follows a logical flow from introduction to making its main points to drawing a conclusion. Children who follow a basic structure when writing essays and other assignments will find that their finished products are more cohesive and clear.
Encourage children to break up ideas appropriately. Long, drawn-out paragraphs make for difficult reading. Children can organize their thoughts by breaking ideas into separate paragraphs. Each paragraph needs to have a focus, and when it’s time to venture into a different idea, it’s time for a new paragraph. Before starting a new paragraph, children should include a transition sentence to bridge ideas together.
Teach them how to edit. Every writer will agree that editing is a vital step in the writing process. Children must review each and every sentence they write with a critical eye to identify wordy places and unclear messaging. This involves more than simply replacing a few words here or there. A good edit takes a piece from weak to strong and tightens every sentence so it is meaningful and easy to understand.
Talk about sentence and word variety. Nothing makes a piece of writing more lackluster than using too many sentences with the same structure and length. When writing, children should try to use different sentence starters (as opposed to beginning every sentence with The or It). It’s also a good idea to mix in simple sentences with longer, more complex sentences.
Stress the importance of the final review. Fresh eyes can do wonders for the editing process. Children should make it their practice to write first drafts, set them aside, then return to them for a thorough read-through. The final review needs to include checking for spelling and grammatical errors, and children can ask themselves questions while reviewing like:
Does this piece make sense?
Is the flow logical?
Did I follow the directions?
Can another reader easily grasp what I’m trying to articulate/communicate?
Discuss active vs. passive voice. Strong writing uses active voice, wherein the subject of a sentence performs the action (The car hit the tree). Passive voice, on the other hand, is when the subject of the sentence is acted upon (The tree was hit by the car). Passive voice is harder to understand, as the sentences do not flow as easily. It’s best for maturing writers to avoid these types of sentences.
Writing skills are essential in school, and the more parents can do now to help their children improve them, the better off their children will be by the time they get to college. When writing is a source of struggle for a child, Huntington can help. Call 1 800 CAN LEARN to learn more about the Huntington program and how we help children become stronger, more confident writers.
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