As a new school year fast approaches, I’ll be posting articles which may help students and parents get ready to put their best feet forward this September. Although anyone can learn from this particular post, I emphasize that this is for Black students simply because of the reality. Expectations for Black students reading and writing abilities are much lower than the median for their non-Black counterparts. That’s it folks. In terms of literacy, our children are expected to naturally fare worse than their peers. I want to change this phenomenon.
Even without formal instruction, young learners will gradually learn the correct structures and rules of the English language. When a child is learning to read, they may use a variety of strategies to decode and understand the text but, in accepting this rule, we are first assuming that the student already has a good “grasp” of the English language. In terms of writing, we typically tend to gauge our child’s functioning skills by connecting that it is a reflection of how well they speak. This is a common mistake that many of us parents make. Although verbal skills and written skill are correlated, good speakers do not automatically make good writers. We all know people who speak effortlessly but give them a pen and they can barely string two sentences together. How about those of us who would simply die of embarrassment if people saw our writing through the lens of the autocorrect or spellcheck tools.
Many factors influence what determines good writing. Here are a few tips to help us parents support our children’s literacy needs. Getting into the practice of incorporating the things below can help develop writing skills.
- Good writing is clear and has an easily identified point.
- That point is supported with information.
- The information is clear, connected and logical.
- The words are appropriate and the spelling, grammar, punctuation and sentence structure are correct.
That’s it, four little tips to help our learners excel. In writing, practice might never make perfect but, it does help us to become better.
After the writing task has been assigned, it is helpful to begin with the basics; What are you writing and who are you writing for? Is it an essay? Short fiction? Book report? Research project? Thesis? Once the task is determined, identify the audience. Ensure that the target audience (teachers/peers/instructors/professors) can easily understand what they are reading. We may live in a ROFLMAO, SMH, WTF? Techno-social-media-short-form world but, in the realm of formal education; Spelling, grammar and punctuation all matter.
A learner who is in the habit of taking their time to write, then to proofread and edit will generally submit better written material.
Being able to identify and then connect the audience or reader to the content is very important. Writing which conveys emotion or feeling and even invokes sentiment within the reader demonstrates skill. Being able to hold the reader’s attention is an equally effective skill therefore, wording is paramount. In my experience, my students often try to impress me by using big words which isn’t a bad thing at all, in fact I encourage it. I am often affected and pleased by the effort however; Using relevant wording will often win over an audience easier than lofty wording or, by contrast using dull wording. These provocative tactics can sometimes backfire in either case by insulting the reader’s intelligence. I don’t know about you but for me, that’s usually an automatic turn-off. Students should be encouraged to explore language but, not craft sentences around words they feel will help them to show-off.
Don’t forget the content! The subject or topic being covered is the star of the show. The content must reflect the criteria of the assignment. I can’t name how often I’ve peer edited and at the end of reading I had no idea what the point was. This is a dangerous ground. Sticking to the point can be hard but, it ought to be the central theme.
The difference between being a mediocre writer and a good writer is a matter of semantics. It has nothing to do with talent! Being an effective writer is in understanding your own voice, identifying your weaknesses and writing around them. It’s being daring and risking being open in what you chose to write about. It’s about taking the task of writing beyond the course outline and using the parameters of the paper to do everything the instructor requires of you to get that ‘A’ and also revealing who you are as an individual.
Most importantly and I share this with my ESL students, but the rule is as true for native English speakers; The best way to become proficient in writing is to read, read, READ! I can’t stress this point enough. Avid readers tend to develop broader vocabulary as well as learn to identify and use various writing mechanics.
Parents, please understand that a good writing tutor might save you money down the road. Learning the mechanics of writing in grade 6, 7 and 8 will prepare your child for his or her academic future. By the time your child reaches high school and written communication becomes a major component of learning, they will already have the skills needed to easily express their thoughts, world views and opinions through writing. To write effectively is to communicate effectively which often translates into better marks and higher grades resulting in greater opportunities for bursaries, scholarships and other free money to put toward post secondary education.
It’s not that good writing requires formal education, it’s that formal education requires good writing.
Light reflected is enlightenment infinite.