Nurture good writers – Steve Graham, a professor at Arizona State University’s Teachers College, has been researching how young people learn to write for more than 30 years. He is a co-author of numerous books on writing instruction, including “Powerful Writing Strategies for All Students.”
How does reading at home help children become better writers?
Reading is really critical, but it’s not enough. We don’t have much evidence that if you just read more, you’ll be a better writer. But analyzing text does make a difference to nurture good writers. So when we read to kids, we can also have conversations with them about the author’s craft. How did this author make this place seem real in terms of description? What words did they use? How did they present this idea or this argument?
Should a parent correct a child’s writing, or just be encouraging?
Sometimes when kids come to you to share what they’re writing, they’re not coming for feedback. They are coming for affirmation. It’s really important we emphasize first and foremost what we really like about it. And if you’re going to give feedback, just pick one or two things. English teachers — and parents are guilty of this, too — sometimes overwhelm kids with more feedback than they can absorb all at once. The other thing that’s really important, particularly for parents, is to remember that they don’t own this piece. It’s their child’s. Asking questions, instead of saying “Do this,” can be a more effective approach. It gives the child the opportunity to make decisions about the text. This will help to nurture good writers.
Is social media hurting children’s writing at school?
I don’t think so. Kids are constantly creating text when they are at home. They tweet, they text, they Facebook. Each of those has its own rules, and one of the advantages is that students learn that you write in different registers in different situations. We can use that to our advantage, working with kids on how we’d put that writing in a more formal situation. Changing register is a skill kids need to learn.
What should parents look for to assess the writing instruction at their child’s school?
After about third grade, very little time is devoted to explicit writing instruction. It’s like we’ve imagined that kids have acquired what they need to know to be good writers by then! In middle and high school, the most common activities are fill-in-the-blanks on worksheets, writing single sentences, making lists or writing a paragraph summary. When you start talking about persuasive essays or an informative paper, those things occur infrequently in English class and even less so in social studies and science.
New York Times, August 2, 2017 Interview by Dana Goldstein
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Source: Time for Families