Writing, for most of us, is deeply personal, and feels like a reflection of who we are, how we are perceived. So often, providing feedback on your children’s writing assignments feels like a losing battle, doesn’t it? If you’re too critical, your child might be reluctant to share her writing assignments with you again. On the other hand, if you heap too much praise on her efforts, you may not be helping her improve, and your child may question the sincerity of your feedback.
It’s probably frustrating for you that the kind of study interaction you had with your child at age 9 doesn’t work anymore at 12 or 13, and the feedback one child responds to is ineffective with another.
What is a parent to do? These parent-child interactions are important to overall improvement in your child’s skills and progress in writing — and writing skills are an important part of academic and life success.
Whatever you do, you want your child to succeed both at becoming a skilled writer and a good student. So how much “help” should you give? How much participation is appropriate? When you consider the depth of your involvement in your child’s project or assignment, balance the value of her sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in owning her learning process with getting a high grade.
Giving constructive feedback is the best way to encourage your young writer. When assessing an assignment, your feedback should:
- Highlight both the positive and negative aspects of the writing without judgment – without using the words “good” and “bad.
Start, for instance, by praising the subject and content: “I like how you engaged the reader and addressed the questions,” or “I found it powerful how you talked about a relevant issue in a way that clarified the problem, and offered new ways to think about and resolve it.” Address the writing too: “I thought it was effective that you used short sentences and paragraphs, making this easy to read and understand.”
When something doesn’t work, you might ask, “Why did you choose to say it this way?” or “Did you mean to say this?” Making it a conversation, rather than criticism, can help engage your child in the process, and teach her that editing and revising are a natural part of growing as a writer, regardless of age or skill level. It’s continuing that counts; tell your child you admire her for that.
2. Understand the goal of your child’s writing assignment before making suggestions for improvement. A simple, helpful suggestion: direct your child back to specific grammar rules or writing guidelines that will help her make revisions.
3. Support and guide your child in finding her writing voice. Choose pieces of writing you find especially strong and display them on a bulletin board or the fridge. Read them aloud at dinner and talk about what you find compelling. Save them in a notebook.
Sometimes, though, your feedback and guidance aren’t enough to help your child in writing growth and improvement.
VocabularySpellingCity and partner education program Time4Writing offer writing activities and resources that you can explore, and your child can use for independent study. This page has links on writing for different learning levels, and includes specific topics including Writing Book Reports.
VocabularySpellingCity Sentence Writing and Paragraph Writing activities, available to Premium Members, are a great way for your child to work on writing foundations, and build from there. Both activities include short Time4Writing videos your child can watch to spark ideas while practicing.
Time4Writing’s eight-week online writing courses target the specific writing skills your child needs help with and supplements the instruction they are receiving in school. All courses are led by certified writing teachers who grade the assignments using the children’s own writing as a teaching tool for mastery.
What are your thoughts on this? What are your challenges? Comment here, and on our Facebook or Twitter pages, using the hashtag #VSCwriting.
We’re here to help you and your child on the path to realizing her potential and joy as a writer.