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Ten tips for improving teens' writing

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GreatSchools Blog

By GreatSchools Staff

5. Lend a hand

As your child’s de facto writing coach, part of your role is to listen and figure out what he’s trying to say. Ask how you can help. “You’re giving the child a sounding board to talk about their ideas,” says Mueller. “You’ll help him organize those ideas and support them with examples.”

6. Read it out loud

By reading what they’ve written aloud, children are more likely to notice any obvious mistakes. But remember: Reading requires concentration, so try not to interrupt. Otherwise, you risk interfering with your child’s thought process.

7. Start with the strengths

Always start with the good. Identify three strengths in your child’s writing, and point them out. Look for concrete details, clear sentences, and vivid words, and offer encouragement for what you find. Parents can point out the writing they like and read passages aloud for emphasis.

Explain what you find engaging — “I really think you understand the main character in this book” or “I love the colorful details in that sentence.” You’ll be showing teens that writing isn’t a mystical process but one that requires skills anyone can master.

8. Ask for more information

Ask questions to understand what your child is trying to say. Don't be afraid to tell him if there’s something you’d like to know more about, like an idea that’s not fully expressed. Don’t criticize or give the answer, but help him find his own answers. If you respond to his writing as a reader, you’ll be showing him that writing is a way to communicate ideas.

“Every writer has an audience,” says Mueller. “Student writers may not realize this because they’re writing an assignment for a teacher.”

9. Ignore grammar in rough drafts

Sometimes young writers will correct their own errors during the revision process, especially if you encourage them to read their work aloud. If your teen makes consistent mistakes in mechanics at this stage, ask him if he knows how to correct them. If he doesn’t, explain how to make the appropriate corrections. In the final draft, encourage your child to edit his own work, resisting the temptation to make the paper “perfect” from your point of view.

10. Respect your child as a writer

What to revise — and how to revise it — should be your child’s decision, not yours. By extension, the “voice” he uses should be his own too. Instead of doing the writing for your child, offer suggestions. Remember that your child must learn to think and write on his own.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

01/5/2012:
"what do we have to do "
11/15/2011:
"Even with these tips you can't expect someone to become a great writer, or even a good one. Writing anything more than a passable paper on a regular basis requires practice and experience in writing. One of the best things you can do if you want to write better is to read. If you read then you are exposed to all sorts of styles and ideas that you can then use in your writing. "
11/14/2011:
"My son is a senior in high school (Florida). I must say he has had excellent English teachers that encouraged him write frequently. He has also taken creative writing classes and loves to write. "
10/25/2011:
"I AM a 6th grader and i found this article fairly helpful. We don't do very much writing anymore in E.L.A., I did much more writing in 4th grade on Friday letters. Thx. "
11/10/2010:
"Thanks for the advice! I have a 6th grader that has weekly essays to write & much of this will help me to work with him to get it done. "
08/31/2010:
"ithink they should let the children tell them what they don't get"
07/19/2010:
"I believe you've nailed it! These ten tips are beautifully explained."
07/19/2010:
"Great Great ideas and techniques for writing. I plan to use these to help my daughter, my students and myself. Thank you for making a difference."
07/19/2010:
"WRITING HAS NOT BEING A PRIORTY I SCHOOL ANYMORE. THE TEACHERS HAVE TO TEACH MATH, ENGLISH AND SCIENCE IN ORDER FOR STUDENTS TO PASS THE FCAT IN FLORIDA. AND ALL OTHER SUBJECTS TAKE A BACK SEAT. WRITING SHOULD START IN THE LOWER GRADE LEVELS. "
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