Many students are intimidated by writing sections in assessments, thinking good writing skills are something they must be “born with.” Like all other skills, however, good writing develops over time and requires consistent practice.
Here are a few tips on how to encourage improvement in your child’s writing:
American author Stephen King once said, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write. Simple as that.” Reading is regarded as one of the best ways to improve writing skills due to the immense benefits it has. From allowing you to develop a repertoire of vocabulary to exposing you to a variety of ideas and writing styles, anyone can reap the benefits of reading.
- If your child is time-poor, encourage reading to the writing focus i.e., if he/she is writing a short story, read other narratives of the same genre. If he/she is writing an essay, look at publications by literary critics about the same topic
- When reading work by other people, take note of words or phrases that could be used in the writing.
Although putting work out there may sound daunting, encourage your child to get feedback from as many people as they can, such as peers, teachers, parents etc. Make sure your child does not get defensive at criticism and instead, be willing to learn from mistakes. If you are buying writing tests for your child, check out www.testchamps.com.au for writing tests, which are marked, graded and returned with feedback.
Before beginning any piece of writing, make a quick plan of what they’re going to write e.g., a basic plot structure for a narrative, an essay outline etc. During assessments, although planning will take up a few minutes, it will prove beneficial in the long run. Planning allows the writer to organise their thoughts amidst the stress of test conditions and ensures a coherent argument with a logical structure.
Editing is a crucial step in writing as it allows one to remove errors, improve flow, enhance language choice and overall improve the quality of work.
Tips to give directly to your child –
- Make sure you always leave time at the end of assessments to check your writing. Even simple mistakes can cost you marks!
- If you are typing, consider using tools such as Grammarly, which reviews spelling, grammar, clarity, engagement and any delivery mistakes.
- If you aren’t under a time constraint, try to leave a break between when you write and when you edit. This allows you to spot errors you may not have noticed before.
5. Understand writing techniques
Develop a greater understanding of different literary conventions and techniques to apply them in writing. For example, punctuation significantly impacts pace. Short sentences create tension. Long, running sentences create a sense of flow and reduce tension. Poetic conventions such as enjambment (run on lines) place emphasis on certain words or ideas while anaphora (repeated sentence starts) in persuasive texts reinforces certain points. Understanding these techniques greatly enhances the final work.
The best way to improve writing is to continue writing! Aim to write every day, whether it’s a short story, essay or just a recollection of a strange dream. As the age old saying goes, “Practice makes progress!”