Often the most difficult elements of writing for elementary school children is the ability to follow the writing process. Children at this age have little experience when it comes to evaluating their own work to make it better. By modeling the writing process, your child will better understand what is necessary to form competent, coherent writing.
Understanding the Purpose
Before your child begins writing, he must understand the purpose of the assignment. Model and discuss different types of writing with your child, and always provide a reason or a specific audience for assigned writing. There are four possible purposes for pieces of writing: descriptive, narrative, informative and persuasive. Descriptive writing is meant to describe something. Narrative -- often the most common in the elementary classroom -- is intended to tell a story. Informative writing provides the reader with new information. In persuasive writing, the child must provide his own opinion and support his theories with evidence.
To begin a piece, a student must first plan. Strategies for this include brainstorming or outlining ideas, sequencing the order of events and determining main ideas versus supporting details. Graphic organizers, such as sequencing or character charts, are great tools to help a student visualize the story's construction. If organizers are not available, note cards can provide an excellent substitute. By writing an idea on each note card, your child can then organize the note cards in the most effective order for the particular assignment.
Strategies for writing a first draft can include modeling sentence form after a specific author or story. This is called imitation. Another strategy, sentence generation, asks writers to try their sentence out orally before writing it on their paper. This can ease frustration and limit the need for erasures if the sentence doesn't make sense. Part of sentence generation is the ability to try out varied sentence structures so that each sentence doesn't sound too similar.
Sharing their story aloud is an excellent strategy to help children realize errors in their own writing. If they are writing with a brother or sister, it is helpful for them to practice evaluating each other's story. Feedback can be given when the author is finished sharing aloud.
Evaluating and Revising
Evaluation is by far the most challenging aspect of the writing process for children. Kids can learn to self-evaluate or self-monitor by asking themselves key questions such as, "Are the ideas clear?" "Is there a beginning, middle and end?" "Are my sentences varied?" By looking at each area specifically, your child can determine ways to enhance his writing without explicitly being told what needs fixing. Once your child has evaluated his piece, it is time for him to move on to the last step in the process: revising/editing. Using the feedback from the sharing and self-evaluation processes, your child can rewrite his story, making any necessary changes to improve his work.
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