Page 2 of 3
By Carol Lloyd
“What accompanies the first tentative baby step? Encouragement, enticement and enthusiasm …”
Reeves’s observations about the difference between typical parental responses to a baby’s first steps and that of a child’s first writing assignments cut to the core of the matter. As Reeves notes, when babies start walking, we cheer them on with shameless pleasure, celebrating each new attempt and coaching them every step of the way.
But when older kids show us their error-strewn attempts at summarizing Harry Potter, do we bring down the house with our carefully considered praise? Quite the opposite, says Reeves. More commonly parents pick the writing apart and pour on the constructive criticism. Or, if they’re feeling especially caring, they may offer a blanket compliment like “Great job” for writing that may be many things but is not uniformly “great.”
In a word, we forget what we knew as young parents: that explosive exuberance and high expectations are not mutually exclusive. Reeves recommends approaching student writing with the same level of enthusiasm and exactitude that we approached our child’s first steps. Focus on what’s good and praise with as much detail as you can muster. Then when offering suggestions for improvement, use all of your mental powers to avoid general statements and give specific observations:
“Can you find a stronger word than interesting here?”
“That paragraph confuses me. Maybe if you just tell me what you’re trying to say, we can figure out what’s confusing.”
“This sentence has some wonderfully strong words, but I wonder if it should come after you tell us what happens in the story.”
None of this is easy. It requires engagement of the parental mind in a way that most homework help doesn’t. But since schools may not teach writing skills systematically, writing support is one of the most important kinds of homework help you can provide.
Though it’s standard for teachers to require their students to read X number of minutes per night, few teachers require nightly writing. Thus many kids master the mechanics of reading but fail to develop reading-comprehension skills.
Based on the idea that summarizing is an essential skill for more advanced learning — whether it’s writing notes for a chemistry exam or summarizing a novel for a high school English class — Reeves recommends devoting a tiny portion of reading time to summarizing. (This could be applied to second-graders and up.)
In other words, if your child reads 30 minutes a day, have them read 25 minutes and spend the remaining five minutes quickly summarizing what they just read. This daily practice of responding to texts works to develop both reading comprehension and simple expository writing skills.
Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you more
insights to help you help your child succeed.
Thank you! You will begin to receive newsletters from us shortly.
Great work! Only one more step. Now we just need you to verify your email address. Please click on the link in the email we just sent you to complete your registration.
Great work! Only one more step. Now we just need you to verify your email address. Please click on the link in the email we just sent you to submit your review.
Please click on the link in the verification email we just sent you to complete your change of email address.
Whoops! It looks like we still need to verify your email. To do so, please click on the link in the email we sent you. Can't find the e-mail? Click the button below and we'll send you a new one.
Thanks for registering. Welcome to GreatSchools, the largest online community committed to improving educational outcomes through parental involvement.
Thanks for verifying your updated email address.
Oops! You haven't verified your email address yet. To do so, please click on the link in the email we sent you. Can't find the email? Click the button below to receive a new one.
Oops! That email verification link has expired. Please click the button below to receive a new one.
Create an account to submit your answers.
Sign in with an existing GreatSchools account or using Facebook:
Your review has been posted to GreatSchools.
Share with friends! Post your opinion of on Facebook.
Welcome to GreatSchools!
For principals and school officials, we offer a special Enhanced School Profile (ESP) which allows you to update and add information about your school, as well as respond to reviews. If you are a school official, click Continue to start.
Please note that it can take up to 48 hours for your comment to be posted to our site. While you're here, we'd like to invite you to fill out a survey on your school's programs, activities, and extracurriculars. It only takes a few minutes and will help parents get a full picture of your school.
Get started now! You have successfully registered and can now start updating your Official School Profile. The information you provide is extremely valuable in helping parents and students learn more about your school, so thanks for taking the time!
Thank you for registering as a school leader. We just need to verify your email address. We've sent you an email - please click on the link in that message to get started editing your school's information!
Thanks! We just sent you an email – please click on the link in the email to post your answers.
Get timely updates for , including performance data and recently posted user reviews.