Steps to Help Your Child Become a Better Writer

Many students find writing to be a very daunting task, somewhat like climbing a mountain. They don't know quite where to start, and they may not have all of the tools they need. This is where a tutor can be of great help. Climbing a mountain is a step by step process, so too is writing.

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Below is a short sample of this process.

Lesson 1 - Learn to identify nouns, verbs and adjectives, articles and prepositions. For homework, I asked him to identify each word in the sentence, THE CAT SLEPT ON THE MAT. His work, shown below, is correct.

The is an article (2)
Cat is a noun
Slept is a verb
On is a preposition
Mat is a noun
English is this student's native language, and he doesn't struggle with grammar, so our focus today is on writing.

Lesson 2 - Write interesting sentences

Step 1 - I write this sentence on the whiteboard. 'The cat slept on the mat.' Now I know my student will tell you that this is one very boring sentence! I like to call these 'bare bones' sentences.

Step 2 - Now I ask my student to make the sentence more interesting by adding describing words (adjectives). It is my job as a tutor to help him find his words, by asking questions.
For example: What color is the cat? What shape is the mat? My student added 2 words. Now the sentence is a little more interesting 'The black cat slept on the round mat.'

Step 3 - I ask my student to think about words that describe size. What is another word for 'big'? He chooses to use the word 'gigantic' and adds it to the sentence. 'The gigantic black cat slept on the round mat'.

Step 4 - Next, I ask my student to create his own 'boring' or 'bare bones' sentence. Then I help him use his describing words to create more interesting sentences. I like to make my lessons fun. So, if periodically, my student chooses 'a purple cow' that is fine with me. We are just creating sentences, not writing a novel!

Step 5 - The student continues to practice making 'bare bones' sentences and adding descriptive words where he chooses.

This shortened lesson is just a small sample of the writing process.

At the end of each lesson I give my student three new words to learn. At the beginning of his next lesson, he must tell me what each word means and use it in a sentence. Having a strong command of the English language helps students become good writers.

How to encourage your child to write more often:

Write an email addressed to your child. If they are quite young ask them a simple question, preferably one that asks them to make a choice. For example: Would you like to wear your blue top or your yellow top tomorrow? Make sure they answer you in a sentence.

If they are older, you may want to share something you have read or heard. For example: Dear Michael, I read an article about bullying at a school in our neighborhood. What kind of bullying have you seen at your school? What do you think about this? Again, encourage him to write about what he has seen and what he thinks, in full sentences. Kids like to be asked what they think, especially by their parents.

Snail mail is still a great way to encourage a child to write. Buy a few stamps and ask your child to write a note or letter to a grandparent or family member they love. Grandparents delight in receiving a letter from a grandchild and will undoubtedly write back. I guarantee your child will check the mail each day!

Even though we all email, text, and tweet, there is still something very special about receiving a handwritten note in the mail.

One last thought:

If you say to your child, "how was your day?" you will likely get a one word response such as "ok" or "fine"

However, if you say "Tell me about your day" you'll open the lines of communication in a different way, allowing your child to speak freely about what they experience, think and feel.

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