How Can Families Help Students Improve Their Writing Skills?
Families are a powerful influence in children's academic development. When
family members are involved in student writing projects, students' self-esteem,
interest, and language skills improve.
Try using the following strategies outlined in each step of the writing process
as your students work on various projects. Encourage family participation by
communicating regularly through newsletters and over the telephone by providing
positive, direct feedback on individual student accomplishments.
|Writing Process Steps
|1. Brainstorm – Stimulate the flow of ideas by drawing, mapping,
A. Nine ideas
First, have students ask two family members to each name three things
that interest them. These interests may range from cooking to cars to
computers. Next, have the students add three interests of their own to
the list, for a total of nine interests. Finally, ask the students to
identify one topic on the list that sounds interesting enough to write
about. For even more writing ideas, have students post or exchange their
B. Make up your own variations on nine ideas
- Have students ask family members to complete open-ended sentences
such as "I've always wondered about…"
- Have students interview family members on topics such as family history,
careers, favorite books, foods, or holiday traditions.
- Have students take opinion polls of their family members.
2. Rough Draft – Create the first draft.
A. Name the audience
Have students write their first drafts to a particular member of their
family. This is especially applicable in a how-to article, complaint letter,
or description of an event.
B. What would they ask?
As students write, have them keep two or three family members in mind.
What would these people want to know about the subject? Have the students
write down the imagined questions, which can help guide their writing.
|3. Revise – Invite someone to read and react to the first
draft with specific feedback on content only.
A. What do you like about my writing?
Have students take their writing home and ask family members to name one
or more things they like about what the student has written. In this strategy,
attach a note to students' work stipulating that constructive feedback
is appreciated. Give family members some examples of responses in case
they can't come up with positives on their own, such as:
- You chose an interesting topic.
- It looks like you've made a good start because...
- You're doing a great job on...
- I can see that you've got some good ideas.
- Great dialogue! I can almost hear the characters talking.
- Nice descriptions. I can totally visualize the scene/setting.
- Super character development. He reminds me of my friend at work.
B. Read it to me, please
Have students take their writing home and ask a family member to read
it aloud one or more times. Have students listen for what they like as
well as for words or sentences that need to be changed.
C. Create a response sheet
Have students write questions, create forms, or write open-ended sentences
based on a section of their writing for one or more family members to
complete. For example:
- What do you like about the introduction or beginning of my work?
- What do you like about the body or middle of my writing?
- What do you like about the conclusion or end of my story?
- How can I improve a section?
- Can you identify the conflict in my story?
- How can I build tension in my story?
|4. Edit – After students self-correct at least three types
of errors, then you can correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar as appropriate
for each student.
A. See what I did?
Have students bring their work home to explain all the changes that were
Create illustrations, diagrams, or other pictures that match your writing.
5. Author's Chair – Students share their work with classmates.
Invite family members in to celebrate the completion of a project done
A. Ground rules:
- The audience must listen actively.
- The author may choose three students to respond favorably to the writing.
- Students responding must state specifically what was impressive to
them or why they liked a particular aspect of the writing.
- Comments on illustrations are extra.
B. What do you like?
Have each student take the final draft home and ask a family member to
name one or more things he or she especially likes about the piece of
writing. Have the students note the family members' responses on the final
C. Which Do You Like Best?
Have students complete the "What do you like?" activity for
several pieces of writing. Then have students take all of the papers home
and ask a family member to say which project he or she likes best and
why. In class, ask the students to explain why they agree or disagree
with their family members' assessments.
Handbook for Planning an Effective Writing Program: Kindergarten Through
Grade Twelve, by the Handbook Writing Committee under the direction of George
F. Nemetz (Consultant in English), California State Department of Education,
Practical Ideas for Teaching Writing as a Process, compiled and edited
by Carol Booth Olson (Codirector, University of California/Irvine/California
Writing Project), California State Department of Education, 1987 edition.
Write Source 2000: A Guide to Writing, Thinking, & Learning, written
and compiled by Patrick Sebranek, Verne Meyer, Dave Kemper, D. C. Heath and