WARNING: THIS POST IS MEGA FULL OF TIPS THAT SIMPLY NEED TO BE LEARNED. THERE IS NO SKIMMING…JUST TAKE ACTION.
Last Tuesday after school, Jennifer sat with her thirteen-year-old daughter at the kitchen table.
Her daughter had a writing assignment due in two weeks and felt completely overwhelmed, frustrated, and blocked with getting the writing process started.
Her daughter sat there clenching the paper with the assignment details in her right hand, and in a heartbreaking moment began to cry and whisper,
“I am a terrible writer. I will never get a good grade on this assignment. My writing sucks. I don’t want to do this. What’s the point? I am never going to be good at writing.”
Jennifer stroked her daughter’s back and said,
“You can do this. I believe that you will do great…”
Suddenly, she realized,
“What have I done? This isn’t her fault. It is mine.”
Jennifer is my colleague and a fantastic math teacher.
Recently, she started a course that pushed her out of her comfort zone. It required her to do a lot of writing and writing is something she is not comfortable doing.
She teaches math. Numbers she understands. Words are an entirely different thing.
The realization she was of her own limiting beliefs imprinting on her daughter.
Jennifer would often say things like, “I am a terrible writer. I was never good at writing essays. My writing sucks.”
For as long as she could remember, she has had these beliefs.
Each time Jennifer shouted, whispered, muttered these beliefs her daughter heard them and said,
“Mommy, you are a teacher. You can do this.”
Jennifer’s response had always been,
“Yeah but writing is hard, and I am only good at math.”
As a result of this realization, Jennifer broke down to me because she knew she’d been influencing her daughter unintentionally with her own negative beliefs.
This was so painful for her especially because she is a teacher.
After working with thousands of students, I often see these patterns on autoplay.
You may be wondering how could I, just like Jennifer, help my child improve their writing if I feel this way too?
What I want you to realize is you play a significant role in the process and even as a self-proclaimed lousy writer, you can do so much.
1. Read with your child
This may or may not seem rather obvious to you, so allow me to dive deeper.
Reading to your child is extremely effective in developing enriched vocabulary, structural awareness (when it comes to putting sentences together), spelling, comprehension, fostering positivity toward reading, developing imagination and a great way to socialize with your child.
The key here is you reading to your child two levels above their reading ability.
Remember it is you that does the reading, not them.
Before you close this browser and think this is impossible to do because my child is too old and can read on their own.
The point isn’t to teach your child to read, and it isn’t to encourage them to read stuff they would never pick up on their own.
The point is for them to absorb new vocabulary and structural and stylistic techniques.
Meet them where their interests are when it comes to the content.
For example, Jennifer’s daughter was obsessed with celebrities. I advised her to pick up high-end magazines for adults and read the articles to her daughter.
Not surprisingly, her daughter loved it.
I say high-end magazines because the writers are not only world-renowned but also use sophisticated vocabulary.
Her daughter was intimidated to pick up these magazines on her own because she felt they were too difficult to read but perfect to read together.
If your child loves a particular video game, this is a perfect opportunity to find reading materials about the game.
There will be a lot to choose from, trust me. I have read a lot about video games with my students.
Two questions pop up here.
- What if I am not the best reader and I stutter a bit while reading?
No problem because the more you do it, the better you will become once you get over your limiting beliefs when it comes to reading.
The truth is, your child doesn’t expect you to be perfect. But what matters is, how you react to the mistakes you make or when you read a word you don’t know.
Your reaction is the most important part.
Be honest if you don’t understand something but don’t forget to find the solution as well.
- Why should I read instead of my child reading to me or independently?
Take the pressure off of them reading.
Some children hate reading. They find it a chore. If this is their attitude, then forcing them to read just because will end terribly.
The intention of you reading to them is for them to absorb words into their brains, especially new words. You have the control to stop and point out words and discuss them if you are the reader.
Sometimes, when children read, they tend to skim over difficult, unusual, or new words. If they are reading independently, you won’t catch them doing this.
Also, punctuation is often ignored, and punctuation is so important in the overall message of the text.
2. Talk with your child
Research shows, conversations with your child, will have a massive impact on their language skills.
A conversation is where you and your child go back and forth. Ask them questions, have them ask you questions, and remember this isn’t a debate, even if you don’t believe in what they are saying.
Having a conversation with your child allows them to test out new vocabulary they have learned, feel empowered to share their opinions and beliefs, build assertion, and develop the confidence to be persuasive.
What I mean by persuasive is being able to back up what they say and influence their audience.
Sometimes, I will have a conversation with my student, and I have an opposing view on a topic, or I believe what they are saying is utterly ridiculous. Without trying to disprove their idea or shove my own opinion at them, I always start by asking,
They need to be able to explain and back up their idea even when starting with the most common answer of all time … “because.”
I know there is more my student wants to say then just because but they are struggling with the words to explain it and express themselves. That is where the conversation comes in.
I pull out the answers.
Each time you have a conversation, you will pull out more and more information, and eventually, you won’t need to pull anymore.
How do you pull out the information?
You ask open-ended questions that start with
Up to this point, we have talked about reading and speaking and nothing about writing. Maybe you think I am getting off track?
I am not.
Writing is a form of communication, and so is reading and speaking.
Reading, writing, and speaking affect each other directly.
- Your child cannot be a good writer if they do not speak well.
- Your child cannot be a confident speaker if they do not write well.
- Your child cannot be a good writer if they do not read well.
The previous two tips are super simple to implement, but what about the structure and stylistic techniques needed to take your child’s writing to the next level?
3. Learn to write
What is the first thing you think of when I say …
learn to write
Grammar is the most common answer.
Yes, grammar is super important, and your child will learn tons of it.
But, what is often rushed through and leaves your child scratching their head is structure.
Learning to structure your writing is essential, and I will explain why in a second.
The number one challenge with writing that I have personally seen with thousands of students is they do not know how to organize their thoughts.
No process to follow, no guide, no checklist.
Simply, not knowing what they are doing.
You may be thinking of course they do because I have seen those checklists attached to their assignments, they know they need to include an introduction, body, and a conclusion.
Ok… question… if your child knows how to write an introduction, body and conclusion paragraphs with ease, then why aren’t they flying through the writing process and writing A papers?
Writing doesn’t have to be hard nor take forever!
I want to squash a few points here.
Those checklists attached to assignments do not help your child to write better because they are not intended to guide the actual writing but rather the content.
You, your child, me, the mailman all know that a written piece needs an introduction, body, and a conclusion. Sometimes we refer to these parts as the hamburger method.
But knowing this doesn’t tell you how to ask the right questions when catching the reader’s attention in the introduction, or how to link the first and last sentence of each paragraph, or how to write the one statement in your conclusion that will make or break the entire assignment.
All of these things I mentioned are what your child doesn’t know how to do, and there are tons more.
Writing could be so easy, even if your child hated writing before.
Writing can be effortless, fast, and enjoyable. I have taught this structure and process to many students whose parents and teachers had given up on them improving.
How can you give up when there is a solution?
There is a solution, but I want to tell you that only those who are willing to devote the time to learn to write will succeed. It doesn’t take long to learn, but you and your child must be committed.
- Do you want your child to build the confidence to speak eloquently and persuasively, grabbing the attention of their listeners?
- Do you want your child to prepare exciting, engaging, and organized presentations?
- Do you want your child to learn the one skill that most students never learn and ultimately affecting their future careers?
The number one skill that employers are looking for is oral and written communication regardless of the industry, including IT.
University professors are complaining that students do not know how to string a good paragraph together let along write well.
The solution is to master the essay writing process.
Yup, you read that correctly. Master essay writing.
Don’t forget that speaking is essentially verbal essays where you start with a point and then you back it up. That is an essay just without paper.
The more practice that your child gets at writing essays, the better their vocabulary will be, their communication skills will improve, their confidence will improve, their grades will improve, and that is just the beginning.
Hi, I’m Justyna. As a teacher, I’ve worked with over 3,000 students, contributed to multiple teacher publications, and trained hundreds of teachers.
But, it wasn’t always like this. I suffered from severe anxiety, which peaked when a high school teacher relentlessly tormented me about my assignments.
So now, I’ve decided to dedicate my life to helping your child feel confident and prepared when writing and presenting assignments for school.