Originally published on the New Jersey Kids Online website
As children move through school, the writing demands increase rapidly. Students must first master proper letter formation, then learn to write words, sentences, stories, and soon multi-paragraph essays. Some students enjoy expressing their thoughts on paper, but for others, this task is downright daunting. Help your child develop stronger writing skills with the ideas detailed below.
Simply beginning the writing process can be challenging for many students. They often feel overwhelmed and at the thought of having to compose a well-written sentence or paragraph. To combat these fears, encourage your child to start by simply jotting down ideas about a given topic. For instance, if your child is asked to write a paragraph on why he likes winter, he can start by listing ideas about the joys of winter. He might write in list format, for instance: one can play in the snow, roast marshmallows, go skiing or snowboarding, travel, and spend time around a fireplace. Once these ideas are on the page, he can then highlight the three or so points he plans to include in his writing.
Create a Brainstorm Web
After your child has selected the points she plants to elaborate on in her paragraph, she should brainstorm these ideas in an organized fashion. While there are different formats she can use for brainstorming, a web diagram is a useful tool. She can, for instance, brainstorm for a basic five sentence paragraph by writing the topic in a rectangular box at the top of the page, connecting it to three circular bubbles beneath it (for the three key points, such as playing in the snow, skiing, and roasting marshmallows), and finally ending with another rectangular box at the bottom for the concluding sentence. Computer-based programs, such as Kidspiration can also serve as engaging multi-sensory options for brainstorming.
Once your child has listed his ideas and then created a brainstorm diagram, he can turn those boxes and bubbles into complete sentences to form his paragraph. Have him turn the “topic” box into a topic sentence, such as “There are many fun and engaging activities one can do during the winter.” Next, he can turn each detail bubble into full sentences. For example, “You can play outside building snowmen. You can go skiing or snowboarding. You can also roast marshmallows around a fire.” Finally, he should turn the bottom box into a conclusion sentence, which can express his opinion on the topic, such as “I love winter” or “Winter is my favorite time of year.”
Remember to self-check!
Many students have a tendency to speed through their work to “get it over with” and often forget to self-check their writing. Rather than telling them to simply “check” their work, teach them specific tools for how to go about doing so, such as the COPS acronym, which stands for Capitalization, Organization, Punctuation, and Spelling. Have her write the COPS acronym vertically at the bottom of her paragraph with a check box next to each letter. Once she is done writing her paragraph, encourage her to go back and check for each individual item on the check list (one at a time) and check off each one once she makes the relevant corrections.
Writing demands in school increase at a rapid pace. Help your child learn to effectively express her ideas on paper in an organized, well-structured manner and she will be well on her way to school success.