From essays and short stories to emails and college application essays, writing forms an elemental part of a student’s life. It’s how a student shows what he or she knows and if he or she can effectively apply that knowledge. And yet, writing is a difficult skill to learn and to master. Many students struggle to articulate and organize their thoughts on paper, easily becoming frustrated and discouraged by writing.
But fear not — through daily practice and extensive exposure, students can and will write clearly and expressively. Below, we’ve compiled several methods emphasized in VSA Future’s own writing classes that will provide students with a comprehensive approach to becoming good writers.
Get a Good Grip on Grammar
Grammar sits at the core of effective communication. It enables a student to express his or herself fully, clearly, and subtly. Even if a writer has great ideas, improper grammar can garble his or her writing’s meaning and reduce its credibility, losing the reader’s attention. At VSA Future, we lay the foundation for strong grammar as early as in kindergarten.
We start by introducing basic concepts about sentence structure and parts of speech before transitioning to more advanced concepts like complex sentences and avoiding the passive voice for older students. We also teach students how to utilize figurative language such as synonyms and personification to add flavor to their writing.
Build a Strong Vocabulary
A strong vocabulary is critical for success in all areas of communication, from reading and writing to listening and speaking. Studies have shown strong links between having an extensive vocabulary and achieving school success. When it comes to writing, a strong vocabulary enables students to choose more descriptive words to illustrate their ideas to a reader and use the appropriate words to write more formally.
There are a couple of ways to build vocabulary. The easiest and arguably most fun way is to read! New vocabulary can be picked up from anywhere: across literary genres (realistic fiction, fantasy, biographies, science fiction, etc.) and across different media (newspapers, magazines, blogs). A few recommendations include Time Magazine, the Harry Potter series, and anything by William Shakespeare.
Another fun way is to play word games like Scrabble and crossword puzzles. Students should make an effort to write down any new words and to look up definitions. They can turn them into flashcards (digital flashcard apps like Quizlet are a convenient way) as a handy way to study vocabulary on the go. Most importantly, students should put their newfound vocabulary into practice by using them in conversations and their writing. Even if they use a word incorrectly, through trial-and-error they’ll hone their understanding of each word. After all, the goal is not to use every fancy vocabulary word one knows, but rather to develop good judgment for which words are right for the sentence one is writing.
Our English classes enforce a strong grasp of vocabulary by also offering “Word Studies” which teach students about root words, prefixes, and suffixes to help them deduce the meaning of unfamiliar words in the future.
Read to Discover Different Genres and Voices
Through reading, students learn from the best. By reading the work of writers who have mastered their craft, students gain an understanding of more nuanced and complex topics like usage, tone, and wordplay.
In our classes, we focus on boosting students’ reading comprehension by reading and discussing a range of fiction and nonfiction works. We teach students how to sift for the main idea and analyze characterization, plot, and setting so that students know how to utilize these features in their own writing.
Get Comfortable with the Writing Process
Great writing doesn’t just plop out from a writer’s head. Rather, it takes time and repeated revision. Brainstorming, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing are all part of the writing process. We work with students every step of the way to ensure they are confident enough to put their ideas onto paper and to write multiple drafts until they are satisfied with the phrasing and structure of their final product.
Students receive feedback on every essay they write via an online interactive platform that allows teachers to view and comment on a student’s writing in real-time. This platform also provides students with graphic organizers to organize their thoughts efficiently and plan their arguments if they are writing a persuasive or informative essay.
We want to stress that being a good writer means being an equally good editor. We teach students how to review their writing for sentence flow and clarity of thought, as well as for typos and grammatical errors. They’re also taught tips like reading their revised draft aloud to spot any errors.
Writing doesn’t just have to be for school. Given the fact we use writing in so many parts of our lives, there are plenty of opportunities for students to practice.
Students can write thank you letters to teachers, letters to friends and relatives, and even emails to a pen pal. One of the best ways is to keep a journal, which also offers a good outlet for venting feelings and moments for self-reflection.
Adopt a Growth Mindset
A growth mindset is when students understand that their abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. This is opposed to a fixed mindset, in which students assume their abilities can’t be changed.
Becoming a better writer can’t be achieved overnight but students shouldn’t let failure tell them it can never be achieved. Rather, they should view failure as an opportunity to grow and understand that their efforts and attitude determine their abilities. To develop a growth mindset, students should:
These steps are part of the writing process as much as drafting and revision are. Parents also, remember to encourage and support your child on the path to becoming a better writer without becoming impatient, as that is be the best way to give your child confidence and determination.