Teaching writing can be a stressful endeavor for many homeschooling parents. It’s a skill our kids will use throughout their lives, and many parents don’t consider themselves good writers. You can teach your child to write (a solid writing curriculum doesn’t hurt). Just make sure you aren’t making these mistakes when teaching writing.
1. Failing to utilize the “sloppy copy.”
When I first began to teach my kids to write, I didn’t teach them that the first draft is always their sloppy copy. That was a big mistake because they thought I was punishing them by making them rewrite a final copy or marking their errors in ink that they couldn’t erase.
Teach your kids that the purpose of the first run-through of any writing assignments is to get their thoughts on paper. They should write only on every other line so that there is room to make notes and corrections. They shouldn’t worry too much about spelling or punctuation because they’ll come back to edit the paper later. They may even want to write in pen so that they’re not tempted to erase and edit as they go.
2. Being overly critical.
We’re all familiar with the dreaded red pen. It shouldn’t look as though your pen met with a horrific end on your student’s paper. Choose one or two areas to correct and let the rest go until you’re ready to focus on those skills. If you’re teaching a young student, your primary concern may be starting sentences with a capital and ending with a period. Make those corrections and ignore the misspelled words or proper nouns that haven’t been capitalized.
I’ll let you in on another secret – some kids really hate that red pen. It’s okay to mark their mistakes in pencil (as long as they know they’ll still have to write a final draft).
3. Refusing to help.
It’s easy to worry that you’re giving your student too much help, but over the years I’ve learned that it’s important to work alongside them. They need a competent writer (that’s you!) to model good writing, give them examples, and provide a writing sample. I finally learned that lesson with my younger two. (Poor guinea pig first child.) Whenever we’d work on a new type of writing, I’d write my own paper as an example.
Also, don’t worry about writing your child’s words as he dictates them, especially with younger students. They often have plenty of ideas, but the physical act of getting the words on paper hinders their creativity. Help your student get his thoughts down; then he can work on editing and writing the final draft.
4. Stressing over the topic sentence.
The biggest mistake I used to make with my kids was giving them a good idea for a topic sentence and telling them they couldn’t use it. Yeah, I was nice, wasn’t I? It goes back to worrying that you’re offering too much help, but sometimes coming up with a topic sentence is the hardest part. Don’t be afraid to get your kids started with a strong topic sentence.
Also, don’t feel that you have to make them start with a topic sentence. Even as a blogger, I often have lots of ideas, but I’m not sure how to start off my post. I’ve found that I’m much more productive when I just start writing and come back to add the introduction later. If your kids have ideas but are struggling to start, tell them to leave some blank lines at the top of their paper and come back to the introduction after they get their thoughts down.
5. Withholding praise.
This probably goes along with not being overly critical, but be sure you’re not withholding praise for your child’s writing. If you’re a lover of words like me, it can be easy to see all the mistakes, so train yourself to look for the positive and lavish praise for that.
Did she remember to capitalize the first word in each sentence? Is the paper creative? Did he include strong verbs? Tell your student what he did well!
It’s easy to inadvertently create a reluctant writer if you aren’t careful. Make sure that you’re not making these critical mistakes.
What mistakes when teaching writing would you add to this list?
This post is linked to the Hip Homeschool Hop.