One of the main challenges of parenting is awakening the child’s desire to learn, explore, discover, and express. Sure, we can leave the education part to the teachers and the iPad, but is that the right solution? No! Sometimes, parents have to interfere. It’s their job to be the first teachers their children will ever have.
As your children make progress through different educational levels, they will be expected to write. A lot! College and university, in particular, are heavily linked to academic writing. Your kid will have to write essays, research papers, term papers, and, hopefully, an entire dissertation. The first challenge is an essay.
The teacher assigns an essay with broad guidelines, and your little student is expected to deliver a masterful piece by a precise deadline. You’ll probably face a very frustrated child at this point. Your kid is supposed to write an entire paper, but no one taught them how to do that. Maybe they were writing short stories before, but an essay is a whole other thing. How do you help them write a perfect paper? There are 5 steps to success.
Practice, practice, practice!
A professor of education at Arizona State University reviewed around 250 studies on how to help students develop writing skills. Professor Steve Graham was trying to answer the age-old question: is it best to leave students to learn writing naturally, or do they achieve better results when they get instructions? He found that effective practices do help with the progress. Here’s the first tip he gives: spend more time writing.
The writing practice is not applied in the classroom. Teachers may give brief exercises, but what they prefer doing is using the classroom time for lessons and leaving the practice part as a homework activity. So, you’re in charge of that part of your kid’s education.
If you want your kid to write great essays, you need to motivate them to write a lot. Think of a theme of the day. What did they learn today? Did they learn about the solar system? Set a topic: “If you could visit any planet, which one would you choose? How do you imagine life there?” The following day, set a realistic topic: “Do research on Africa. Write about the way animals live there.”
Make sure these topics are interesting for your kid.
An essay usually consists of 5 paragraphs: an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Teachers usually explain what each paragraph is supposed to contain when assigning the first essay to the class. However, sometimes they forget to provide examples, so the students have no idea how the actual paper would look like.
At the website of any essay writing service, you’ll find great guidelines and samples of various types of papers. Give few of them to your kid to read, and help them envision what a proper essay looks like.
Use Pinterest to organize resources
Pinterest is a really fun tool for creating visual material you find on the web. Parents like using it for collecting parenting tips, home decor ideas, photos of beautiful clothes, and much more. Now, you can start creating special boards for your kid’s essays.
The essay writing process starts with good research. Before your child can write a paper on a topic, they need to learn something about it. They won’t be able to memorize all information they read online. Moreover, they will need to save the resources, so they can reference them in the paper. That’s why Pinterest is a great tool to use during this stage. Whenever you find an interesting source of information, pin it in the relevant board.
Once your kid is inspired enough through the online material you both located, they can proceed to the following stage.
Brainstorm and plan
One of the main requirements for an essay is cohesion. If you assign a topic and let your kid write whatever comes to his or her mind, you’ll end up reading a disconnected essay that the teacher won’t like. That’s why it’s important to start the process with brainstorming and planning.
- MindMeister is one of the most effective online brainstorming tools. If your kid is not that good at using the computer, you can create the map as he or she comes up with ideas. The mind maps created with this tool are highly visual, and they help the user find connections between the arguments.
- When the writer-to-be gets the main ideas through the brainstorming process, it’s time for planning. Essay Map is a great tool that helps fit those ideas in a proper essay structure. It asks the writer to create a few sentences for each section of the paper, and then it offers a map for the essay. After that, it will be really easy to connect the dots and write the actual paper.
Let them use the tablet
Does your kid think that the tablet is much more fun than plain pen-and-paper? That’s okay. We’re dealing with tech generation, after all. You can use your child’s preference for technology to inspire him or her to write. Byword is a great text editor for iPad. It makes the process of writing clean and simple, and it has a neat markdown feature.
To make the essay writing process more fun, you can use Bamboo Paper – an app that simulates the process of writing with a real pen on a real paper.
Beware: the process won’t be easy. Your kid will likely show some resistance to essay writing. What’s the best method to fight resistance? Persistence! Inspire your kid to practice more, but think of more amusing topics every time. When you manage to turn writing into a daily routine, the success will be inevitable.
Karen Dikson is a teacher and a writer from New Jersey. Her works have been published on Huffington Post and other well-known educational resources. She loves to help her students succeed and achieve their goals. Connect with Karen on Twitter
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Many parents worry about whether their high schooler will ever learn to write an essay.
Essay writing is a complex task that involves many high order skills that some 12-16 year olds just don’t seem to have.
But before you and your teen give up completely, experienced teacher and English tutor Sonja Walker has some tips to make essay writing easier for your high schooler.
Before kids can write an essay
Learning to write an essay well takes time, but there are several skills that your teen will need to master first.
The foundation of any essay (or speech) is a well constructed paragraph…and if you are the parent of a student in Years 7, 8 or 9, it probably wont surprise you to know that that some kids find it hard to put a paragraph together.
Yours might even be one of them!
What is being taught in schools?
Many Australian schools, including those close to Kids First here in Sydney’s northern beaches, teach Year 7 and Year 8 students the ‘P.E.E.L.’ model for paragraph writing.
The P.E.E.L. paragraph structure is also occasionally called the T.E.E.L. structure.
Essentially, these structures offer kids a guide that’s designed to help them answer the question, use evidence to support their views and explain what they mean.
In many schools, teachers teach versions of this plan for a paragraph:
Main Point (or Topic) Sentence – the topic, point or focus of the sentence
Explanation – expand on the point and give more detail
Evidence – support your idea with quotes, evidence and examples
Link – link the point back to the overall theme of the text.
In my experience, most high schoolers ‘kinda’ understand the first 3 steps in the P.E.E.L. model, but younger students in Years 7 and 8 sometimes struggle with the concept of a ‘link’.
Let’s face it…it is a bit vague!!
I also sometimes find that, even within the same school, different faculties can sometimes change the order of the two ‘E’s ….
For example, History teachers might want students to give evidence first, while English teachers demand that kids explain what they mean before they give a quote or example.
So it’s entirely possible that your child has two teachers who are both asking them to use a different version of P.E.E.L.
No wonder kids are confused and reluctant to write!!
An easy alternative
When I tutor high schoolers here at Kids First, I teach a slightly different version of this model that many kids find easier to understand.
I find that is particularly useful for students in Years 7, 8 and 9.
It has four simple steps that are similar to the P.E.E.L. and T.E.E.L. models, but kids tell me they are easier to remember…
AND an added advantage is that they can use ‘Sonja’s Paragraph Plan’ across many subjects, such as English, History, Geography, and PDHPE.
Sonja’s Paragraph Plan
- Topic Sentence
- Why is this important?
- What does it show?
What is a Topic sentence?
I ask kids to start their paragraph with a main idea and to use a key word from the question in their sentence.
So, if the question is ‘Examine the major causes of road fatalities in New South Wales’, a paragraph might begin with a Topic Sentence like this…
‘Drink driving is a major contributor to the road toll in New South Wales.’
Here, the student has identified the point that they will discuss in the paragraph.
They have shown the marker that they are ‘on-topic’ too.
In my model, ‘Examples’ means any evidence, fact, quote or statistic that kids can come up with to support their argument.
For the above task about drink driving, a student might follow their first sentence up with the following examples, statistics and facts (note too that these sentences acknowledge the source of the information)
‘According to the NSW Government’s Centre for Road Safety, alcohol is a factor in approximately one in every five fatal road accidents in NSW. In addition, of the drink drivers who died between 2008 to 2102, 89 per cent were men and two thirds of these men were aged under 40.’
Why is this important?
When kids tell the marker why a fact, quote, technique or statistic is important, they are showing that they have thought about that information and can explain what they have learned.
Here’s an example …
‘Despite the fact that millions of dollars are being spent on education and advertising campaigns to prevent drink driving fatalities, there are still a significant number of NSW drivers who are not abiding by the state’s drink driving laws’
What does it show?
The last sentence in my paragraph plan encourages students to ‘show what they know’ and to link back to the question, like this…
‘Drink driving not only causes the deaths of drivers. Accidents involving drivers with Blood Alcohol Contents (BAC) over 0.05 also kill innocent passengers and pedestrians. This presents a challenge for authorities, who need to find new ways to influence driver behaviour and so reduce the road toll.’
Give it a try!
So if your teen is struggling with P.E.E.L. or T.E.E.L., feel free to introduce them to ‘Sonja’s Paragraph Plan’.
Hopefully it will help them to remember what they need to include in their paragraphs and they will be on their way to better (and easier!) essay writing.
© 2016 Kids First Children’s Services
Does your high schooler struggle with English and Writing?
Sonja Walker, teacher and founder of Kids First Children’s Services in Brookvale, has been making English easier for high schoolers for more than 25 years.
Sonja’s popular after school tuition classes give students in Years 7 to 11 tips, strategies and support as they learn how to succeed in English.
Places in Sonja’s classes, which take place on Thursday afternoons, are sought after.
High school English tuition
Call Kids First on (02) 9938 5419 or click on the click below to find out more about high school English Tuition for northern beaches kids.