Tools to Help Your Student Succeed in a Homeschool Writing Course
Teaching your child to write well is one of the most valuable lessons you can give him or her. It's important that your student knows their role in a writing course. Making them aware of your expectations can help them succeed.
Focus: The student has made his/her "big idea" clear. Basically they are able to communicate what exactly the paper or essay is about. A strong opening usually facilitates this goal. Another area of focus is defining what form of writing the student is expected to present. The four forms of writing are as follows:
1. Narrative: A narrative piece usually tells a story. It can include non-fiction such as autobiographies, biographies or memoirs; or non-fiction such as novels, short stories or fairy tales. A narrative assignment needs to include character development and introduction to the plot line in the beginning, the climax of the story in the middle and a resolution of the story in the conclusion. There always needs to be at least one character and a conflict that needs to be solved.
2. Descriptive: Literature, poetry, advertisements, menus, classifieds, catalogs all use descriptive writing. It is a great assignment to help your student develop their ability to use figurative language. They can use metaphors, similes, onomatopoeia, alliteration, personification, and hyperbole. Descriptive pieces enable a student to develop strong imagery and use words that are strong to the senses. The reader should be able to imagine how to see, hear, feel, touch, and/or smell what the author is describing.
3. Expository: Research papers are expository writing. This form of writing exists to give facts. It is vital that your child learn to master expository writing if they intend to go to college. They will need to develop a main idea and provide additional details to support this evidence including facts, quotations and references. Students should not include their opinions in an expository paper. News stories, articles, and reports are all examples of expository writing.
4. Persuasive: Persuasive writing is a style in which the author is trying believe the author's opinion. Political speeches and courtroom arguments, movie, theater and book reviews and newspaper editorials are examples of persuasive writing. The big idea is what the author wants the reader to believe. The body of the paper should include information that supports that opinion. Good persuasive writing includes facts and strong arguments to make the author's opinion sound logical.
Tips to Help
Content: A writer needs to communicate their ideas in a clear, and unique way. They need to use vocabulary that is up to their grade level. When discussing content, it's good to include the issue of plagiarism. A student's writing needs to be his or her own original thoughts.
Organization: A well-written paper flows naturally from beginning to end. The reader should be able to discern a clear introduction, body and conclusion. Are the student's main ideas supported with details that were researched and documented? Does each sentence build on the sentence before it?
Mechanics: The mechanics of a writing assignment include correct punctuation, grammar, usage, spelling, and paragraphing. Unless it is a creative writing assignment, slang should be avoided. Make sure students avoid run-on sentences and sentence fragments. Grade-level vocabulary should be used in an appropriate way in a student's essay or paper. Students should check that there are no errors in tense and number agreement.
Imagery: One of my favorite writing teachers always encouraged me to "show" my reader what I wanted them to see rather than "tell." Precise, colorful words that paint vivid pictures in the mind of the reader are much more effective. Strong verbs, synonyms, adjectives and adverbs help students achieve this aspect of good writing. Encourage students to employ this tactic in their assignments
Style: Students should strive to have their overall writing be clear and has a distinct sense of individuality. It is their unique style that differentiates one author from another. Sentences should vary in the way they begin. I've always had my children check how many times they use the same word in a paragraph and challenge them to vary their vocabulary. Reading great authors will help students understand this aspect of writing.
Neatness: Neatness is an important element in a well-written assignment. If a paper can't be read then all of the student's hard work is lost. If the assignment is handwritten it should be easy to read with well-formed letters. It is good for students to learn to type their assignments as preparation for college. Typed papers should be formatted to certain standards.
Time Management: Giving a student some deadlines is always a good idea. A paper can take a child forever to complete without helping them to manage their time wisely. A clear timeline of when certain aspects of an assignment are due will be an invaluable asset. When giving your student an assignment you may not want to keep the topic open-ended. Some students have a hard time deciding what to write about. Giving them a choice of subjects can really help the process. Your series of due dates to move the assignment along can include: Day 1 - topic, Day 5 - outline, Day 10 - first draft, Day 15 - final draft. Your timeframe will depend on the expectations of the assignment. Naturally a 10-page research paper will have a later due date than a two-page essay.
Resources For Rubrics
A writing rubric can be an invaluable tool to both the student and teacher. It makes grading the assignment easier for the teacher and the role of the student if a homeschool writing course is clearly defined. The following websites offer printable writing rubrics for a writing teacher's use.
Every teacher wants their students to succeed. Give your children the tools and parameters they need to accomplish the goals your education plan sets for them. Make sure they know what you expect from each assignment. Allow them to participate in the process by asking them what to include in your grading rubric. The ability to communicate ideas, opinions and research through writing is a powerful asset in any future occupation.