Help Your Kids Learn to Write Better Essays July 06 2008

Teach Your Kids to Write Better Essays

Writing good essays is essential to success in school and the workplace. Yet writing is a skill that cannot be learned on the spot; it is complex and challenging. With so many writing curriculums, writing prompts, and writing methods available, it can become a challenge just deciding which writing method will work best.

The problem in teaching writing in particular, lies in the fact that we can teach only so much about how to write a good essay, and then students have to learn the rest on their own. That can make a teacher concerned with one very real fact: that they will end up teaching students all about writing; but not teaching them how to write. But the bottom line is that to teach them how to write, we must teach them all about writing. The writing process, how it can be used as a tool to communicate, and how writing and reading are related.

NCTE (the National Council of Teachers of English) has several guidelines recommending effective writing instruction. It is easy to see how these recommendations, while not necessarily speaking only of expository writing, show that expository writing could be one important and effective way to help improve student writing.

National Council of Teachers of English Guidelines

  1. Everyone has the capacity to write, writing can be taught, and teachers can help students become better writers. With a good writing curriculum in place, every student has an opportunity to be a great writer.
  2. People learn to write by writing. The opportunities a student has to utilize the writing skills a teacher has implemented, the better they will become
  3. Writing is a process.  Expository writing requires alot of trial and error. They should be given the opportunity to write, revise, re-write and re-write again.  More often than not, children are not given the chance to work extensively and exclusively on their writing skills.
  4. Writing is a tool for thinking.  The process of writing is really a process of thinking. It is for this reason that expository writing requires multiple drafts and revisions.
  5. Writing grows out of many different purposes. Students need a variety of experiences with writing, and should experience writing to communicate information, to express emotion, to describe, to persuade, and to create.
  6. Writing and reading are related.  Having a reflective experience of writing will allow students to also be carriers and communicators of knowledge and also helps them to become more careful readers and organizers of knowledge.
  7. Writing has a complex relationship to the way we talk. It is much easier to write in the everyday language that we use. This makes expository writing especially challenging, and especially needing attention.
  8. Literate practices are embedded in complicated social relationships. Teachers have the unique ability to create a community in which expository writing can be grown, shared, and improved together.
  9. Composing occurs in different modalities and technologies. Expository and narrative writing, hold the possibility of linking to resources and easily sharing and "publishing" works done with a wide audience.
  10. Assessment of writing involves complex, informed, human judgment.

Expository writing seeks to inform, explain, clarify, define or instruct. Narrative writing tells a story or part of a story. These are the two most widely used types of writing styles taught in schools due largely to the fact that most states test students on these two types of writing genres.

Write Reflections is the most complete writing curriculum available in that it teaches both writing styles and provides the teacher with writing prompts, examples, visuals, and lesson plans that are suitable for each grade level. Melinda  Michalec, the creator of this innovative writing program recognized the need for writing to become a school-wide responsibility.

Too often, it is the fourth grade teacher who carries all the weight of preparing students in half a year's time for state writing exams. With Write Reflections put into place at an entire school, it is now all grade levels working towards a common goal-students who can write focused, organized, and detailed essays by the time they reach 4th grade. Even if this program was started in the 4th grade, the results for test scores have been phenomenal.

Each grade level has a list of mastery skills that students are to learn by the end of the year. These skills begin in kindergarten and build on themselves through the fifth grade and beyond. This writing curriculum is designed to teach students to plan before they write. A webbing system is in place throughout all grade levels in or to teach expository writing in which they need to write the standard five paragraph paper. The web is color coded using the colors of the rainbow as a guideline for students to follow.

For narrative writing, a BMMME graphic organizer is used. BMMME stands for beginning, middle, middle, middle, and ending. Teaching the same graphic organizers throughout all grade levels has given students renewed confidence in their writing ability because of this predictable planning style. For a sample of 2nd grade writing plan and free sample, click here.

Primary students will write most elaborately about what they know best… themselves! Your job is to open their eyes to the extent of their own knowledge. The written word is being employed by more people on more occasions, but the quality of that writing is deteriorating.

The slang of modern-day mobile texting and instant messenger chat language styles is slowly seeping into the everyday language of adolescents as the age of mobile texting and email leads to shortened words and phrases. This makes it more important than ever for children to be taught how to write well at school.

Teaching your kids good writing skills in the primary grades, will ensure that they will grow to be successful writers through high school, college, and the work place.