Helping Your Middle School Student with Writing


As your child grows, the need for developing good writing skills is more imperative. In the elementary years, the focus of writing should be the basics: how to write a sentence and paragraph; how to use basic grammar, vocabulary, and spelling skills; and how to enjoy the act of writing.

However, in the middle school years, the writing skill set needs to grow for several reasons. One is that writing skills will increasingly become a part of the testing process. Another reason is that teachers expect upper level students (and those in college) to be able to express ideas about what they have learned, not just regurgitate facts. An even better reason is that good writing skills are becoming more essential in the real world than almost any time in history. Helping your child understand the reasons for learning to write well will hopefully dispel the myth that the teachers are simply trying to torture them.

As your child enters middle school, the type of writing also differs. They will likely begin to write more essays and reports and may even write a guided term paper in the higher grades. The ways in which you can support their writing will change as well, even though many of the tips we gave for the elementary years remain valid.

  • Provide the tools that your child needs.
    Most likely your child has access to a computer at school. However, if they do not have access to a computer at home, now is the time to get one. However, computer prices have come down tremendously in recent years and refurbished ones are available for an even lower price. Students will also need a good dictionary and thesaurus, but these are easily found online. If you don’t have Internet access at home, cheap versions of these can be purchased in print form or as computer software.

 

  • Introduce your child to the library.
    Hopefully, you and your child have spent many happy hours in the library by now. If not, this is the time to go. Even if it is not possible for your student to go to the library often, the library can still offer resources at home if you have a library card. For instance, students will need access to good encyclopedias and resources for reports. However, these resources can be found on the computer with a special access code. Usually, your public library will have this code if you are a patron and your child will be able to access many of the resources he needs with a computer and Internet connection. Even better, introduce your child to the reference librarian at the library and ask that he or she help explain how to access the research tools. This is their job and most are more than happy to help.

 

  • Encourage good writing, even in social media situations.
    By this age, many students are getting into texting and social media (which, hopefully, you are monitoring). However, there is a tendency for students to believe that social media situations mean that no spelling or grammar rules apply. This causes two problems:  first, they become used to improper writing and this affects their academic and professional writing; and, secondly, writing—even in social media situations—especially in social media situations—reflects who they are. Try to encourage them to write correctly in these situations because doing so will pay off in the long term. However, the good news is, that with the growing use of social media, many kids are writing more than ever! If done correctly (and without malicious intent), this can actually improve their writing skills!

 

  • Encourage your child’s progress.
    Even if you cannot help with specific issues on your child’s writing assignments, you can provide a sounding board and a source of encouragement.  Show interest in what they are trying to write. If they are having a hard time, coming up with ideas, set up a recording and just brainstorm with your child, letting them share ideas verbally. Many children express themselves better talking than on paper. Then, when they listen to the recording, they can use the better ideas and polish them up for writing assignment. Ask to see the finished product and remember to praise what is praiseworthy. Encouragement can mean all the difference between producing a good writer and one that refuses to even try.

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