Writing is a skill. It doesn’t matter how old your child is. To become better at writing they need to practice. So, how do they practice? It all depends on their age and the purpose of the writing. It also depends on whether you were thinking about penmanship or actual writing ability.
Penmanship and Handwriting
Penmanship is a disappearing art. Many schools find that it takes too much time from the day to practice writing legibly. There are so many things to learn! Some argue that the art of writing is disappearing as technology takes over more avenues of our communication. Of course, if we spend more time typing and texting, penmanship is an unnecessary skill. But, is there something that we’re losing as we migrate toward faster communication?
We are creating a disadvantage for students who don’t practice handwriting. There are many studies and articles about the things that we benefit from through handwriting. Posted in 2016, this article from psychologytoday.com covers some of the benefits of handwriting, along with some other scientific references that support handwriting.
As students begin school and learn to write, they realize that just like speaking what they think they can write what they think too. It just takes longer for the writing process. It’s a good thing, though. Thinking about what you are going to write down on a page helps you to solidify in your mind what you are really trying to say. If the writing assignment is too easy, scribbles or chicken scratch happens. Even the student can’t decipher what they wrote 30 minutes ago. Being deliberate in writing takes time, focus, and confidence in the message that is being written.
Practice writing to different questions or writing prompts. Take time to think about the answers, or what you are trying to get your child to write. Write with your child. Show him or her what the process looks like. Talk about what you’re writing and if you can, what you’re thinking while you’re writing.
Middle School is tough. There are so many things that can be distractions for your student. You know this, right? Writing assignments have to be high-interest, or the product is mediocre. If you’re practicing with a middle-schooler, let them write on any topic that they like. Really. Even writing about what is so frustrating about writing might be rebellious enough for him to “buy in”.
Something happens for high school students. It’s like they realize that they know how to write, and that they have a vocabulary that doesn’t match their after school single-syllable parent-child conversation. There are more opportunities for students in high school to practice writing. They might have multiple classes that expect essays. They have a variety of opportunities to explore poetry, creative writing, and essays. They can think about their writing and what they’re missing. They can look at what they’ve written, and figure out what is missing, or what can be improved.
If anyone is going to get better at doing something, it is going to take practice and feedback. In order to really understand how an argument essay works, students need to write multiple essays on multiple topics. I once heard it said that students need to practice writing 5 essays for every one that the teacher is able to read and give good feedback on. That’s a lot of writing! If your student is going to be a good writer, it takes time, and practice. And, of course, the better you write, the better you read.
Write on! Read on!