Is your child getting enough writing instruction and writing practice at home?
Since I do not believe a student can write "too much", I'm going to say most everyone can step up his or her writing game. For starters, all students should write, in some way, every single day.
Fifteen minutes of additional writing per day will substantially improve the quality of your child's writing ability. Just 15 minutes for grades third through eighth. So, if you normally spend ten minutes a day requiring your child to write, increase that to 25 minutes. By the end of the year, you will see a remarkable improvement. Be honest, are you not writing every day? Well, on those "non-writing" days, add 15 minute writing activities. Trust me, it is good for them.
There is plenty of research to back me up on this, too. Sure, many of us may disagree on how to teach the best writing lessons, or even what are the best writing practices, but students must write. And, honestly, they are not writing enough.
Oh, of course, there will be griping and whining - probably on both the student and the parent side of things. However, better swimmers swim for hours and better runners run for miles. It is the practice that precipitates improvement.
And, before I sign off, it would benefit us all to understand why daily writing is so important. Dr. Steve Graham has done plenty of research and enough writing of his own to authoritatively state that more writing results in better reading comprehension. As well, frequent and consistent writers increase their ability to both learn and retain information. Aren't those things we all want for our children?
Get creative, have fun, and increase your child's writing at home this week. Do you need ideas? I can help. Visit me at www.writeonwebb.com.
Poor kid. All she wants to do is tell a story or explain an idea. However, every clause is critiqued - every sentence scrutinized.
Sometimes it is perfectly okay to let our children express themselves for the sake of sharing their thoughts. How liberating!
One writing activity my boys didn't fight me on was the "Paired-Shared Journal" we did. It never got "corrected"!
Here is how it works. A parent grabs a notebook or composition book. She writes the first entry. Simple.
One year I wrote on our first day of school, "Derek, if you could learn about anything you wanted this year, what would it be and why?" I left the crisp, glossy notebook on his desk. The assignment was to write back to me within 24 hours. As I recall, Derek's response was all about squirrels (spelled squerrels). I had no idea he was intrigued by squirrels! Not only did I get a little peek into my son's passions, but I started the ball rolling. Certainly, by later studying squirrels, I had a perfect opportunity to teach the correct spelling, too, but that came later.
He would leave our journal by my bedside after he wrote it in each day. By morning, he would find it once again on his desk. After he responded all about squirrels, I asked more questions. At times, he asked questions. As the year progressed, our topics did as well. Sometimes things got personal. Derek quickly learned this was a quiet, safe place for us to "talk". When his older brother hurt his feelings, he wrote to me about that. By the end of the year, I had captured far more than writing lessons. These now worn, dull, bended pages remind me of a time and a boy who was once nine-years-old and loved bushy-tailed rodents. Priceless.
Pair up with your child this year and make your own "Paired-Shared Journal". Your child has some great ideas and thoughts to share. Discover them.
1. Plan some fun for the whole family. ✅
2. Clean, reorganize, or complete a project needing attention at home. ✅
3. Spend time in the fresh outdoors on a daily basis. ✅
4. Spend overdue time with friends or family members. ✅
5. Read a book (or listen to one) purely for enjoyment. ✅
6. Take pictures and journal your summer memories. ✅
7. Sleep in or stay up late... or both!✅
8. Spend time in cool waters while enjoying the warm sun. ✅
9. Serve others. ✅
10. Find inspiration, wisdom, and advice intended to rejuvenate, prepare, and excite you for a new school year.
At the start of any summer, I just jump in feet first with the top nine "to-dos" on my SUMMER checklist. Quickly, I begin enjoying the change of pace and scenery of my life. The kids are home and so am I.
Midway through July, I begin to get antsy about a new school year - new lessons - new ideas - new opportunities - new students - new families - a new season.
While I am still in a relaxed mood, with my journal by my side and coffee in my hand, I like to read books, blogs, and posts by moms and teachers who inspire me to get creative and who breathe new, fresh motivation into me.
Since I'm still in "vacation-mode", it doesn't feel like work, but I know it is working on my heart and mind equipping me for what is to come: THE BEST YEAR EVER!
Please don't underestimate the positive power that other moms can provide in your life. Let's talk. Let's share. Let's grow. Together we are MomStrong! www.facebook.com/groups/118470985432746/
Want to join me? If you have a favorite inspirational book for moms, or for educators of all kinds; perhaps a great daily devotional, or anything that sparks your fire, please share it in the comments below.
Disclaimer: The book images above are personal choices and not affiliates of mine.
Whether midway through elementary school, or well into the middle school years, there are four common mistakes many students make when writing for any academic assignment.
Mistake #1: He didn't understand the writing prompt.
Poor guy. He felt prepared, got a good night's sleep, and even had a healthy breakfast. Yet, when he read, "Using evidence from the following articles, construct several explanatory paragraphs in your expository essay," he was lost. Students today are expected to know the differences between expository, persuasive, descriptive and narrative writing styles.
Mistake #2: She didn't organize her thoughts before writing.
Can you blame her? The stress of writing a five paragraph essay can be overwhelming to most 12 year olds. Most young writers just want to jump in and start writing. However, an organized paper makes all the difference. What is the main idea? How can that be supported? Was it wrapped up in the end? These simple organization skills can make writing easier, too. Much like Google Maps, knowing the correct direction can make all the difference in getting there.
Mistake #3: He didn't read his own work once he finished.
Done! And, he's out of there. So many young writers simply can't wait to be finished writing. Once the pencil stops, they think the process is over. However, so many kiddos could improve greatly simply by reading what they wrote. Was something left out or incorrectly spelled? Did that sentence even make sense? When students learn to read and revise their very own work it empowers them as writers.
Mistake #4: She isn't using academic vocabulary.
"Cool" is just easier to spell than "intriguing", right? That is what many students will say. Students are incorrect in thinking that properly spelling common and boring words is more important than misspelling a more academic and interesting word. The fact is strong vocabulary choices take writing to a whole new, more mature level.
Yes, it is a lot to learn. Yes, it takes a good deal of valuable instruction. Yes, it needs to be consistent. Yes, young writers need encouragement and personal feedback. Yes, there is help for anyone thinking, "My child needs better writing instruction."
Would you like to claim your child's seat for my next online writing course? I can help.
Journaling. Evidence points to its existence since 10th century Japan. For decades, psychologists and researchers have studied the power journaling transfers to our human minds and bodies. There are multitudes of articles and blog posts outlining the many intellectual and social benefits associated with journaling.
For me, journaling is an important piece of my personal tale. My history: a treasured chronicle of special moments and life events. Thousands of pages, developed over decades, hold my thoughts and dreams, secure my fondest memories, and cradle my pain and fears. My only regret is that I did not start journaling sooner.
Imagine thumbing through the pages of a journal you made when you were only ten. Who were you then? What mattered? What worried your young self? What things made you laugh? Where did you go and what did you do? How interesting and revealing a peek at your past would provide!
Sure, by encouraging journaling for our children, we are:
And, yet, the true gift derived in doing so will not be realized for years and years to come. The true prize will come when our children experience their childhood once again from the eyes of their adult selves. Priceless.
Let me get you started! For ideas and resources on how to start a journal with your child, please visit me at www.writeonwebb.com. And, don't forget. Children mimic the values and habits of their parents. Are you keeping a journal? My favorite grown-up-journal has to be "The Five Minute Journal". If you want to know more about them, here is my affiliate link.
Should you be intentionally assigning copywork practice to your child? The tradition of completing copywork has been around a long, long time. Some may refer to copywork as an old-fashioned technique, even a prosaic practice. Does the word conjure up the image of Little House on the Prairie? Or, do you cringe at the memory of writing, "I will not chew gum in class," a hundred times?
Well, I'm here to tell you that the practice of completing intentional copywork lessons absolutely should be added to your lesson plans. Let me share the what, when, who, and why associated with this meaningful method of language practice.
What is copywork? Copywork is the practice of copying words or sentences, by hand, from one source to another source. It may be as simple as a handwriting book that instructs young writers to practice cursive while writing "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog". In some homes, it may consist of children memorizing a bible verse, virtue, or proverb by copying the lines word for word into a personal devotional book. Some children may copy a favorite poem or song lyrics as their writing exercise. The key, in my opinion, is to make it meaningful. In fact, the more meaningful the better. Valuable quotes, classic literature lines, and inspirational ideas all make for excellent copywork training.
When is it best to have children do copywork? Once a child can hold a crayon or pencil, copywork may begin. The first step may be as simple as modeling a letter from the alphabet for the child, and then having the child copy it to the best of his ability. When learning sight words, in kinder and first grade, students can copy their words. In early elementary, students can copy full sentences. Certainly, the older the child gets, the longer the copywork passages become.
Who benefits from copywork? Any and all students who need the English language properly modeled to them will benefit from copywork. Yes. That is everyone.
Why is copywork worth the time and effort? When done correctly, copywork is worth the time because it offers a perfect teaching moment. In most cases, it is not intended to be an independent practice activity , and especially not at the beginning of any new writing lesson.
The modeling of copywork is the critical piece often overlooked. Three main targets should be addressed when doing copywork with your child. First, the parent should read aloud the word or sentence, pointing to the words, or have the child should read it aloud. Next, as the child looks from the word to his page and back, memorization will begin to take place. Students are memorizing sentence structure, word placement, and the spelling of words. This is the perfect time for a parent to cover the page and ask the child, "Can you spell that out loud without looking?" Finally, as copywork is strengthening hand-motor coordination, it is the perfect time for parents to help a child readjust pencil grip and realign paper placement.
Unfortunately, when a child is left to complete copywork independently, he is not actually reading what he is writing. Likely, he is not focusing on the memorization that is taking place. And, lastly, he may be forming poor penmanship habits. Until a student has truly mastered the proper technique of copywork practice, I encourage parents to sit with their child and use the opportunity to teach, correct and encourage.
Some educators will argue that copywork is no longer necessary; being dull, meaningless, and simply a waste of time. Knowing that it can connect children to valuable thoughts and ideas, model correct penmanship and sentence structure, and lend itself to perfect one-on-one instruction, I would argue those points. That being said, however, when copywork practice is done poorly, it certainly is dull, meaningless, and wasteful. My advice is to be sure that the copywork practice you choose has value and is given the proper attention it deserves.
Perfection is not the goal. Thank goodness! However, benefits build over time for those who possess good writing abilities and practice specific techniques.
Good writers have:
1. A higher level of confidence.
2. An ability to build trust through their words.
3. The knack of sharing personality and a friendly voice.
4. A skill of persuasiveness.
5. An air of professionalism.
As parents and teachers, it is our responsibility to equip and prepare the young writers of this generation for the writing demands of tomorrow.
In the excellent book, Writing With Ease by Susan Wise Bauer, the author points out the indisputable fact that mankind survived many centuries without written language. The only communication was verbal, and it was quite sufficient. Well then, do we even need the written word? Why bother learning to write? And, does learning to write well even matter in our world today when technology will auto-correct our spelling or point out a grammatical error before we even finish a thought? After all, writing does not sustain life. Or, does it? In my opinion, it absolutely does. We are informed, comforted, nourished, and bolstered by other's ideas. Books, articles, blogs, letters, editorials, reviews and speeches have impacted our world in some of the most monumental ways. Ideas, in and of themselves, are not enough. Thinking and then writing those ideas clearly and in an impactful way can influence a person, a community, or even the world. In today's world, with all of the great technology available to us, we can write and be heard. Perhaps you have something significant to share with this world. I bet you do. That is why writing matters.
Recently, as I began to think about Spring-cleaning, I decided it was time to put away our ‘Busy Boxes’. As I rummaged through these boxes, I found remnants of items that once put smiles on my children’s faces. When the boys were younger, these cubbies were a favorite reward. What they didn’t realize was I was using them for something much more important than just a treat or surprise.
As we know, the typical Homeschool mom deals with many interruptions in any given day. During those times, it is nice to know there is a ‘go-to’ other than Minecraft or Zoboomafoo (although both were great in their time and place). Years ago, I created these cubby boxes for that moment in time when electronics were just not desired. So, when “Independent Learning” needed to happen, it was that lucky moment when the boys could go to their ‘Busy Boxes’.
All along, I had been filling these containers with things I had found at the .99 store, or the dollar bins at Target. There were some boxes filled with art supplies. Other boxes had games and puzzles. Most likely, the most treasured box was the one with tools, locks, and gadgets. My boys enjoyed any opportunity to go and see what new items may have appeared. This created a ‘win-win’ in our Homeschool world. When I needed them to continue learning, creating, and thinking all on their own, they saw it as free-fun-time. This investment in small amounts of time and money made all the difference.
If your eyes are following these words, then you have likely completed Steps 1- 3 and are well on your way to creating an effective writing portfolio for your child. Congratulations! This is work that is worthwhile.
Step 4: Collect and Direct
Now that you have administered a writing assignment, you will collect the work, hold a "Portfolio Meeting" and direct your young writer to focus on new skills to practice.
For example, my fourth grader has written on the prompt I provided in Step 3. Writing Portfolios - Step 3 I have reviewed his writing and made some comments. We are ready to meet.
In our meeting, I first want to compliment my writer. I will tell him I enjoyed his title and that he clearly addressed a beginning, middle, and end. His great penmanship should be complimented as well. Expressing some positive findings will empower your writer.
As you determine the most important "fixes" or improvements needed, limit yourself to sharing no more than three on which to focus. Too many errors will produce an overwhelming and defeatist reaction.
I use the meeting time to make comments on my writer's "Portfolio Record Sheet".(Please email me a request if you'd like a copy.)
In my case, we are working to fine tune a "big idea" into a "small idea". Students typically write too little about too many things. The opposite makes for a better personal narrative: describe much about one detail. For example, instead of "My Day at the Zoo" wouldn't you rather read "The Giraffe Who Stole my Lunch"?
So, my young writer now has some instruction and a new direction as he revises his work.