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Inspired by a successful writing coach program in Montclair, New Jersey, the WriterCoach Connection puts lawyers, nurses, accountants, college students and retirees through a six-hour training program, then sends them to work with middle and high school students in Berkeley and Albany in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Each coach volunteers two hours a week, spending about 30 minutes at a time with a student - much more individual instruction than English teachers with 25 students or more can provide.
Coaches get continued mentoring by more experienced coaches. A total of 275 coaches worked with 1,435 students in two school districts throughout the 2006-2007 school year.
By GreatSchools Staff
If it is an essay, see if the teacher has given specific instructions about the introduction, body paragraphs or conclusion. Go over the sequence of ideas in each paragraph your child has written. Can you follow the thinking or are there missing steps that you need to understand his logic? Are transitions needed to link the paragraphs together? Talk about paragraphs that work well, identifying why they are effective. Discuss how the introduction and conclusion relate to the topic. Does the writer draw in the reader with his introduction? Does the conclusion include his thesis and sum up his ideas? The WriterCoach Connection coaches found these tips helpful in coaching once their kids had the beginnings of a piece of writing. You can read more on the WriterCoach Connection Web site.
As a coach, your role is to listen and help your child figure out what he is trying to say. "You're giving the child a sounding board to talk out his ideas," Mueller says. "You'll help him organize those ideas and support them with examples."
Writing is hard work that requires concentration. If you interrupt, you risk interfering in your child's thinking process.
Always start with strengths. Look for concrete details, sentences that are clear, words that are vivid, and praise them when you find them. Point to the phrase, sentence or paragraph and read it aloud. Tell her why it's effective: "I really like the way you understand the main character of the book," or "I love the colorful details in that sentence." You'll be showing her that writing isn't a mystical process but one that requires skills that she can master.
Ask questions about what your child is trying to communicate. Tell him if there's something you'd like to know more about, 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 to an audience. "Every writer has an audience," Mueller says. "Student writers may not realize this because they're writing an assignment for a teacher."
Your child may correct her own rough-draft errors as she revises her writing, particularly if you encourage her to read her work aloud - to you or to herself. But if your child makes a consistent mistake in mechanics at this stage, see if she knows how to correct it. If she doesn't, give her the correct form. On the final draft, encourage your child to edit her own work. Resist the temptation to make the paper "perfect" from your point of view.
What and how to revise is your child's choice, not yours. The "voice" he uses should be his, not yours. Offer a suggestion, and remember that your child must learn to do the thinking and writing.
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