How to teach homeschool writing with confidence
Teaching your kids to write is one of the most daunting tasks parents face. But once you discover how to teach homeschool writing in measurable, objective ways, your confidence will soar.
And guess what? When you radiate confidence, your kids pick up on it too! Let’s look at simple, practical tips to help the writing atmosphere improve at your house.
1. Give Clear Guidelines to Build Confidence
Make sure the writing assignment lays out expectations and gives good instructions. Your kids should never have to wonder, “What, exactly, am I supposed to do?”
Define the nature of the composition. Is it a descriptive writing assignment? Narrative? Biography? Book report? Be clear with your children so they know what you expect.
Limit composition length. If struggling students know they only have to write one 5- to 7-sentence paragraph, their confidence gets a boost!
Give step-by-step instructions. Unclear directions create anxiety. It’s not enough to just say, “Write.” Kids need to know how to write, so you’ll have to guide them through the steps. If you need help teaching the writing process, look for a writing program that gives this type of guidance.
Spell out the requirements, such as:
- Describe the object but don’t tell a story about it.
- Use one simile.
- Begin a sentence with a prepositional phrase.
- Find synonyms for uninteresting or overly repeated words.
Offer topic suggestions.
Lots of kids fear the blank page. But believe it or not, saying, “Write about anything you want!” can actually make the problem worse. Instead, suggest topics while still giving freedom.
- Let your child write from observation or personal experience. It’s less stressful than making up a story—unless your writing curriculum teaches children how to plan and write a story step by step.
- When possible, let them write about things that matter to them so their passion shines through. If the topic bores your kids, their readers will yawn, too.
2. Teach the Difference between Process and Product
How many times should a student revise a composition? Depends on who you ask! If you ask the student, she’ll emphatically reply, “Once!” Not only that, she wants you to love that paper, slap a gold star on it, and pronounce it stellar. Should you suggest a revision, you’re met with howls of protest.
But in the real world, rough drafts—unpolished writing—go by other names: phone messages, shopping lists, e-mails, timed essays. Chances are, just about anything else that’s printed and published has gone through more than one revision.
Your kids need to understand that writing is the process and the composition is the product.
What are the steps of the writing process?
- Brainstorming: Thinking through a topic using a graphic organizer or planning tool.
- Rough draft: Putting words and ideas onto paper without fear of perfection.
- Self-editing: Learning to identify errors, make simple corrections, and write a second draft.
- Parent editing: Using an objective checklist to suggest improvements to the revised paper.
- Final draft: Polishing the composition so the student can share it proudly.
Kids young and old can learn the writing process.
When possible, start early. Children as young as kindergarten can discover the simplest steps of planning and writing. They can also learn to make changes such as adding detail or ending a sentence with a period. WriteShop Primary introduces your early elementary kidlet to the writing process on a small scale—and in the gentlest way.
Upper-elementary students can learn fun and engaging ways to plan, write, and proofread their work. WriteShop Junior provides them with tools such as graphic organizers and self-editing checklists to make the tasks kid-friendly.
Teens reap benefits too! Through the writing process, they learn to follow a routine, pace themselves, and become accountable to deadlines. When your homeschool teens start junior high or high school, look to WriteShop as one of the most effective tools for teaching the writing process.
- Consider WriteShop I if you have beginning or average writers in 7th-10th grades.
- Take a look at WriteShop II for students in 8th-11th grades who are have completed WriteShop I or are ready for five-paragraph essay writing.
Much as we wish it weren’t so, kids don’t learn to write by osmosis. They need your instruction, guidance, and feedback.
3. Teach Writing Weekly during Your Homeschool Year
Parental involvement is the key.
It takes planning—and often, a good writing curriculum—to regularly teach writing in your homeschool. With littler ones, this may mean a daily investment of sitting together to practice new skills. Even your upper-elementary kids need you to model and teach writing skills.
The teens may not need you to sit with them through every stroke of the pen, but regularly set aside time to teach or review concepts and give constructive input. Read examples together and talk about what makes a particular paragraph boring or enjoyable. Look at passages of literature or student essays to find great word choices, sentence variations, and colorful description.
Stay on track with a plan.
Choose a writing program that offers strong parent support through lesson plans, schedules, teaching and editing tools, checklists, and objective grading forms. When you have a plan and feel equipped, it’s much easier stay on track, explain a new concept, or offer suggestions.
Whether you use a formal program or make up your own assignments, you’ll go a long way toward developing confident writers by giving them frequent practice. There’s just no substitute!
4. Give Helpful and Consistent Feedback
There’s a lot to absorb when learning how to teach homeschool writing. Part of the process involves grading your kids’ papers with wisdom and kindness. An arbitrary grade based on feelings (”This feels like a B-”) won’t help your student become a better writer.
Edit and grade wisely.
- Use objective checklists to help you pinpoint specific areas to improve.
- Value your child’s efforts. If you stick her paper in a pile and never respond to it, she won’t bother doing her best because she assumes you don’t care.
- Your kids want to please you, so praise the things they do well! An approving tone and encouraging words can go a long way toward soothing the sting of a critical comment.
Though we’re not all strong or confident writers, we can’t let that keep us from investing in our children’s writing. Remember: Writing doesn’t teach itself. Our kids need us. Really! And today, more than ever, there are tools at our fingertips to help each of us teach successfully.
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WriteShop curriculum will not only teach your child how to write, it will show you how to teach homeschool writing. Because WriteShop products offer schedules, tips, activities, lesson plans, and checklists, you’ll not only feel equipped to teach effectively, you’ll learn to edit and grade your children’s work with an objective eye.
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