By Vivian Blair, Upper School Creative Writing
Writing is a craft, and to get better at writing, students must write frequently. It’s a process, and each student needs to do the work required to get better. Parents often ask teachers if they can help their children with writing without overstepping appropriate boundaries, and the answer is “yes, of course!” Parents can use these four tips to help as writing partners.
Tip 1: Help writers rehearse their structure. Ask planning questions about sequencing and correlations, such as “Where is your thesis statement?” or “What is your plan for organizing this essay?” It’s okay to write down what the student says, but resist the urge to “clean it up” or use “better” or “bigger” words. It has to sound like the student, not like a parent.
Tip 2: Help writers elaborate. Ask “What do you mean here?” or “Can you explain this more?” Students tend to say more than they write, so when they explain, the reader is more able to follow their line of thinking. Again, transcription is acceptable, but resist the urge to give them words. Use the student’s words.
Tip 3: Work with the examples, rubrics, and checklists given to the student. Most teachers provide students with examples and rubrics for writing assignments. Remind your student to check his/her essay against those examples and rubrics.
Tip 4: Unless research is specifically required, remind students to avoid the Internet! The work needs to reflect the student’s thinking—not the parent’s thinking or the thinking of someone else.
Writing is hard because writing requires thinking. Teachers know the students will struggle with these concepts. The goal is to improve the student’s writing, and the good news is that it is in the struggle that they learn and improve!