Kids need clear writing expectations
By Daniella Dautrich
When you have kids, you step into the role of teacher every moment of every day. Your toddlers and teens alike look to you for guidance and approval as they navigate a complex world of social interactions, household responsibilities, and time management.
Clear expectations from you make all the difference in their learning experience. If children fail to understand what you require, the confusion quickly leads to frustration or discouragement. The realm of writing is no exception.
You might not have an antique desk and blackboard or the perfect “teacher outfit” for the first day of school. But when it comes to teaching writing, I’m confident you’ll be the poised and prepared Writing Teacher of the Year if you avoid two common pitfalls!
The Insecure Parent: “A” for Effort
If you feel inadequate when it comes to teaching writing, it’s possible you’re requiring too little from your kids. Because teaching and grading writing are stressful, you may only ask for 15 minutes of journaling each week or give a purposeless assignment here and there just to say, “We did writing.”
If writing is rather hit-and-miss at your house, so is grading. Sometimes you comment on your kids’ papers, and sometimes you don’t. You’re an encourager at heart and desire to praise any of their efforts. More often than not, you liberally give checkmarks, smiley faces, and passing grades. It’s possible their writing and grammar mistakes continue to multiply simply because giving realistic feedback is hard for you.
The problem isn’t your fun-loving or soft-hearted spirit! Insecurity about teaching writing creates low expectations and inconsistency. This makes for a haphazard teaching style that not only creates a stumbling block for overwhelmed kids, but quenches their confidence as well.
The Unrealistic Parent: “A” for Perfection
The pendulum can swing the other way too!
If you have a background in English, love to write or blog, or consider yourself a grammar geek, you may have especially high standards for your children. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—but it can become a problem if you don’t set boundaries or communicate your requirements.
Be careful not to impose vague standards of perfection on your kids (which set them up for failure). Weighing them down with unclear (or unrealistic) expectations can turn them off to writing. Instead, give your children achievable goals so they know what to aim for.
The Write Solution
Giving clear writing expectations will help you raise better writers and reduce stress. That’s why I’m such a fan of teaching writing skills the WriteShop way. Red-pencil corrections such as “too vague” may leave your child scratching his head and wondering what he did wrong. Instead, before he first begins to write, make tasks concrete and give him measurable targets such as:
- Write one paragraph of five to seven sentences.
- Include emotion words to add a stronger voice.
- Choose vivid, exciting words instead of dull, vague words.
Now, instead of marking your children’s writing as “too vague” or “too short,” you can instruct, guide, and correct with greater confidence. As you and your children practice communicating specific ideas, requests, and concerns, the clear expectations might just overflow into the rest of your home life as well.
Interested in learning more about WriteShop curriculum choices?
Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella blogs at www.waterlilywriter.com.
Photo: Steven S., courtesy of Creative Commons.
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