For Parents

At the very time when the ability to write has become a prerequisite for success in most jobs, our kids’ writing skills are coming up short. While educators continue to grapple with how to bring effective writing instruction into schools, there are several important steps we can take to help improve the writing and thinking skills of today’s teens.

Start by looking at what and how your kids are being taught. Ask teachers how curriculums have been designed.  What is your daughter supposed to know by the end of the year and why?  How is critical thinking encouraged in class? And if you see your teen struggling in writing, try offering these suggestions:

  •  Ask “What’s the point?”    Have teens look for the main point in written works, and let them assess whether and how well that point is supported.  Reassure them that if they read something–in or out of school–that they don’t understand, it may well be because the piece doesn’t make sense.
  •  Think before you write.  Before your teen puts pen to paper, have him ask himself: What main point do I need to make in my response? Why is the point important? What ideas do I have to support it?  What would I say to people who disagree with me? 
  •  Opt for logic over speed of response. It is better to say to a teacher (or employer), “Let me think about that for a minute,” and then mentally draft a short, logical argument than to blurt out a thoughtless answer that doesn’t make sense. 
  •  Assume the reader knows nothing.  A piece that can be understood by the uninformed reader is easier for everyone to read.  This does not mean that students need to “dumb down” their papers, but that they must define terms (e.g., what is the Industrial Revolution?) before they discuss them. 
  •  Read it out loud.  Have your teen read his almost-finished paper out loud.  If it’s hard to recite, it’s too wordy and he needs to edit.

Finally, ask for your teenager’s opinion — often -– and challenge her to defend what she thinks.  But try not to get your back up when she challenges you – logic begins at home! 

 Click here for some suggestions on how to help your teen write a better paper.

For information about private tutoring availability and rates, please contact us at 914-693-2875 or 914-329-4383  or email us at kathygevlin.writing@gmail.com.

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