Let's face it, if you want to perfect a skill, you need to practice. You need to study, review and repeat. No surprise, it's all the same when it comes to good writing. Take a quick poll, and you will find that there aren't a lot of people who want to jump in and practice writing. More specifically, if you politely ask a young adult or teen to practice writing an essay, journal entry, letter, research paper, etc., you are likely to hear, "you're annoying."
Unfortunately, a lot of new research and studies show that quality, thoughtful writing has gone the way of the typewriter. According to the experts at the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University, writing is a complex intellectual task involving many component skills, some of which students may lack completely. Those writing skills include mechanics, grammar, sentence structure, and spelling. It involves planning a writing strategy, communicating ideas clearly and concisely, constructing a reasoned argument, using evidence and sources and organizing ideas effectively.
Who wants to do that, when "Generation I" is texting, tweeting, snapping in their own new social media language that hardly employs any of the aforementioned skills.
The reality is that our students need to practice to have a more sophisticated skill set when it comes to writing. They will be writing essays on standardized tests, essays in English, literature courses, history classes and science reports. And then, of course, there is the formidable college application essay, which has been called a "high stakes competitive writing task." If you have a high school senior, or know one, this is crunch time for quality writing, right now.
If we need to start somewhere, let's try this: let's get our students thinking about the fundamentals of grammar. It may seem overly simplified, but there is a subject, a verb, adjectives and adverbs to bring description and interest to the sentence. Let the sentences tell, talk, speak, inform and even entertain. Let the writer become a storyteller to engage the reader. If the writer is seeking to persuade, back it up with facts, with evidence, with sources.
Writing doesn't have to be an obstacle. We know our teens are capable of creating content. The best written work never happens without practice, research, imagination, creativity, editing and revision.
Here are some useful tips for parents to help their student become a better writer:
While we, as parents might feel, "They should know all this by now", it's never too late for anyone to improve their writing skills. It's worth the investment of your time as a parent, and their time, to improve as a writer.
As a mother of three, I am all too familiar with the challenges my children face when tackling a writing assignment.
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