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How to Spot Problems in Children’s Writing Homework

How to Spot Problems in Children’s Writing Homework Keep an eye out for red flags by asking yourself these five questions...

For many children, learning to write well is one of the most demanding parts of the school experience - and English and language arts classes come with many frustrating challenges. Perhaps your child has always struggled with writing or maybe he or she is just starting to experience difficulties. You can help by taking time to review all writing assignments and graded homework for issues and teacher notes, making your own observations of your child’s work, and sharing feedback with your child.

As you review your child’s written work, keep an eye out for red flags by asking yourself these five questions:

Did my child follow directions? If your student was asked to answer a specific question and instead rambled on about something off topic, perhaps he or she needs to spend more time on the brainstorming and/or outlining stages of the writing process. Read through the assignment together and help your child come up with possible topics and angles he or she could take with each. Help him or her take those ideas and develop a loose outline to write from as well.

Does it make sense? Whether the assignment is a simple book report or an in-depth essay, your student needs to learn to write clearly and communicate his or her main point in a logical and compelling way. Any time you read your student’s writing, make sure it reads well and is not confusing. Can you easily grasp what he or she is trying to say?

Are words misspelled and are there any grammar issues? By high school, your student should be a capable speller - so if spelling is a consistent problem, you’ll want to ask the teacher how you can help your child improve. Also look for improper grammar in writing homework. At the very least, take note of things such as run-on sentences, unclear wording, unnecessary commas, sentence fragments and the like.

Does the piece follow an outline or basic structure? You don’t need to be an English teacher to notice when a book report doesn’t do what it is supposed to do (summarize a story and put forth the student’s opinion on it) or an essay lacks a conclusion or compelling main point. The basic essay structure and the outline as a writing tool will become your child’s trusted writing companions as he or she navigates middle and high school. Be sure your child understands the underlying framework of a well-written report, essay or paper.

Did my child give this a final review? If an assignment is full of errors, it’s a safe assumption that he or shesimply wrote it, printed it and turned it in. Teach your student the importance of reviewing one’s work after setting a draft aside for a day or so. Fresh eyes can do wonders for the editing process, as can slowly reading aloud. Students must learn to be strong self-editors as they move into high school.

Help your student become a better writer now, and you will be arming him or her with an invaluable lifelong skill: the ability to communicate well through writing. The more your child practices, the more his or her writing will improve - especially with your support. Also remember that if writing is a continued source of frustration and struggle for your child, there may be other issues worth exploring. Call Huntington to arrange an academic evaluation to uncover any issues and develop a plan to correct them.

Huntington Learning Center, which has been helping children succeed in school for more than 30 years.  For more information about Huntington, call 847-669-5454.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Kenneth Goldberg, Ph.D. January 11, 2013 at 01:24 PM
I agree that it is important to spot writing problems and help the child, as much as possible, correct them. But it is also important to understand that writing problems are not just a problem to be remediated but also a reason why children cannot get their homework done in a reasonable amount of time. The problem starts in elementary school and, unfortunately, constant pressure to complete work creates conflict between the child and the teacher, the child and the parent, and the parent and the school. Many children end up turning off to school and appearing to have behavioral problems when, in fact, they really have a learning problem. I agree that a place like the Huntington Learning Center can play a vital role in addressing this issue, but also, it is critical that the child receive homework relief. The child needs a time limit at which point the work comes to a stop and the child gets credit for what he did, not penalized for what was not finished. I address this in my book, The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students, and Teachers.
brian January 11, 2013 at 02:40 PM
Dr. Goldberg, how do you view the "new world" where kids (and the US) are being asked to compete more directly with other countries that have high expectations for their kids coupled with high work ethics (India, China and Eastern Eastern Europe). I am a parent with kids ranging from 10-20yrs old and with globalization etc... we are going to be asked to do more with less...I think...?

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