Never has it been more important to write clearly and in a way that communication is guaranteed.
“It is very tempting when we look at text messaging, emojis and all the language of the technologies of the 21st century to think that a skill like writing is obsolete. However, never has it been more important to write clearly and in a way that communication is guaranteed,” tells Patricia Hipwell, author of the popular How to Write What You Want to Say series.
In this time of students spending a large proportion of their time communicating informally via text messages, Snapchat and other social media, there is an increasing need to encourage and support their skills in formal written communication. Some children are avid storytellers. Others may need a bit more encouragement to sit down and write.
“As a parent, it can be quite frustrating helping students with schoolwork especially if you have a child who is a reluctant writer,” Patricia tells Raise.
Not only can it cause tension and tears during homework, but it can be a source of immense frustration for both parent and child. The best way to encourage your writer is to help build confidence in his or her ability to write.
WRITING TIPS FOR PARENTS
• You can’t write what you can’t say, so get chatting!
Ways in which you can help students become good writers and more willing to write is to remember: you can’t write what you can’t say, you can’t say what you can’t think and you can’t think what you don’t know. Build your child’s communication skills by encouraging plenty of conversations, asking questions and taking turns telling stories.
• Read with your child
Reading and writing go hand in hand. As a parent, the first port of call is reading to and reading with your child, listening to them read and gathering the information on what to write about from that. It is important to understand that if students do not have any knowledge on the topic they have to write about, it is going to be very challenging to write. The first stage in the writing process is to develop topic knowledge – this can be done through reading. Take the opportunity to support your child to read a range of books, newspapers, magazines, websites to build their general knowledge. Make sure that you choose both fiction and non-fiction texts to read, and ensure any unfamiliar words are explained and discussed.
• Build vocabulary through games & shared experiences
Scrabble, Scattegories, Boggle, Pictionary are all great games that encourage play with words. Crossword puzzles will also help children increase their vocabulary. Shared experiences such as making lists, writing letters to friends and family members, writing scrapbooks and holiday journalling all contribute to your child’s writing development.
• Act as a scribe for your child
If you can get your child to draw and talk about the topic and you scribe in note form, then writing for them is much easier because you’ve stored the ‘what’ then they can focus on the ‘how’. For an older child, parents can support their child in organising their notes on the topic, prior to beginning to write.
• Write to an audience
As children develop their writing skills, they begin to understand that they can write for others. Encourage your child to think about who they can write for. For younger children, you could write a story for a family member together. For example, writing a story for Dad for Father’s Day. Ask your child, “What would Dad like to read about? What sort of words would Dad use? How would Dad like this story to end?” In doing so, you teach your children to think about their audience when they make decisions about what to write and how to write it.
• The art of touch typing
Today your child will be expected to write both manually and electronically, so teaching them to touch type will help their writing progress. All schools in our Diocese provide access to “Typing Tournament”, an electronic typing tutor which teaches children to touch type through lots of fun games and activities. Children particularly enjoy battling the clock. Jump on with them and encourage them to beat their personal best.
• Plan, plan, plan
As your children grow older, they will be expected to write longer texts to show their understanding of what they have been taught at school. For these longer written texts, it is vital that children plan before they write. You can help by making sure your child always has a clear plan of why they need to write (their purpose), who they are writing for (their audience) and what they need to write about (their topic knowledge). There are many graphic organisers available online to assist your child in organising their ideas and knowledge before they begin to write.
• Check and correct
As a parent, you can always act as your child’s proof-reader or editor. Go over their work and help them find any errors to be corrected. Look especially for capitals at the start of sentences and full stops to finish sentences. Lines between paragraphs is also a good one to keep an eye out for. Read your child’s writing out loud for them to hear. They may be able to pick up any sentences that don’t make sense. Encourage your child to proofread their own work as they become more confident with this checking process. You can also act as an editor and help your child check that they have included all the right information and have addressed the task. Ask them where they can make improvements or suggest ways yourself.
• Celebrate their success
The best way to build confidence in your child’s writing is to let them know you are proud of their efforts. Display great writing up on the fridge. Post writing to family members. Have your child read out their writing at the dinner table after a meal? Any way to share their writing is a great way to celebrate their success.
• Talk to the teacher
Your child’s learning is a three-way partnership between you, your child and the school. Keep communication channels open and seek support when needed.
Janelle Santolin is the Consultant – Secondary at Cairns Catholic Education