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Writing at Home

Parents working with their children at home should understand that learning to write is a skill, like riding a bike.  As with any new mental or physical skill, time and practice are needed.  This acquisition period requires parents to teach and re-teach as students gain the knowledge to make it their own.

By the parent/teacher dictating as the child shares, story-writing can begin even before a child has mastered penmanship skills.

As the beginning writer masters the fine motor skills needed to write on their own, a gradual transition can take place from the parent helping get the ideas on paper, to the child doing the physical act of writing. 

Parents can use each written piece to access where the student’s current skills are and what areas need improvement. 

Comparing the student's work to something like the Common Core Standards allows the parent a means for evaluation.

Asking children to “Read your writing aloud to me,” and listening is more important than correcting every single mistake.

It is vital for parents of all writers to balance teaching conventions of spelling, grammar usage, and punctuation with teaching composition skills of creativity, voice, and style. This is especially important with primary writers, as everything is new.  While it may bother the parent that a second grader uses an exclamation mark after each sentence, an overgeneralization of a new skill is normal.  A comment like, “I can’t wait to see what other punctuation you are going to use in your writing this year,” will go far in developing the writer.

Primary writers should be moving towards writing solid pargraphs with a topic sentence, supporting sentences and conclusion. Betty Haslip, second grade teacher in the North Penn school district, encourages her students to learn this structure by folding a piece of paper into fourths.  One area is designated for the beginning idea, two areas for supporting facts, and the fourth space for a closing thought.

Haslip evaluates student writing in five areas:

  • Focus – A single point is made about a specific topic
  • Content – Ideas developed through facts, examples, details, opinions, reasons, etc.
  • Organization – Order developed and sustained within and across paragraphs using transitional devices and including an introduction and conclusion
  • Style – Choice, use, and arrangement of words and sentence structures that create tone and voice
  • Conventions – Grammar, mechanics, spelling, usage, and sentence formation

Haslip explained that when working with a young writer, who is struggling with numerous writing conventions, she focuses on improving their writing first in the area of capitalization, followed by punctuation and sentence word order, and lastly, spelling.

Allowing fifteen minutes each day after recess, Haslip has her second grade class free-write everyday.  Halfway through the school year, she asks the students to find something they wrote earlier in their writing journal to revise.  She revealed that the students are amazed over the improvements in their own writing from just a few months earlier, often exclaiming, “I can’t read what I wrote!”

Writing consistently at home provides the child and parent with a window into effective writing development, and unveils the improvements that have taken place in just a few months.