Why Writing Curriculums Fail and How To Make Sure your Homeschooler Doesn't!
The writing curriculum doesn’t start with the basics.
Some homeschool writing curricula give advanced essay writing instruction, but neglect basic proper sentence structure and basic paragraph writing. A writing curriculum that attempts to show how to write using advanced level content, but fails to teach the basics, leaves home education teachers and homeschool students feeling incompetent and stupid. Thousands of students, who could write with proper instruction, fall through the cracks, thinking writing is too complicated and abstract. It’s like trying to teach algebra without teaching math facts first. Writing structure and the writing process are often assumed or thought unnecessary. If you try to teach essay writing without a foundation of writing structure and the writing process, the results of your labor will be frustrating and fruitless. It’s like tending a garden where you forgot to plant any seeds; the soil will be nice, but seldom will you get any desired plants, only weeds.
The writing curriculum doesn't give adequate teaching instruction.
Many writing curricula have pages of “write about ____________.” Each page may have a really cute idea for a creative writing story, but actual writing instruction is lacking. Some have cute story starters but lack instruction on how to finish the story. Teachers and students are left with a feeling of “how do you do that?” Often students are taught to “write what they feel,” leaving students writing random thoughts that leads to rambling about nothing. Students need guidance on how to brainstorm, organize their thoughts into an outline, write their outline into a rough draft, edit, correct and polish their rough draft, and then they have a final copy they can turn in with pride. When writing tools and writing instruction are absent, students flounder around, not knowing what to write about or how to create an essay that makes sense. It is awfully hard for a novice to build a house with just a bunch of lumber. You need a plan, you need tools and you need quality instruction.
The writing curriculum doesn't provide a grading system that makes it possible to emphasize accountability.
It is easy to slip into a routine where students are taught at all day long and then eventually given a grade for their efforts. Not only do students need quality daily instruction, but they also need immediate feedback with positive critique. Yes, a grade is feedback, but for writing assignments it only tells the students how well they did on this one assignment, not what to do and not to do on the next one.
- Specific constructive feedback throughout each writing assignment helps build confidence and prepares for the next assignment. Also, after all the effort your students do to write and re-write an essay, it communicates that their work was worth it, and here’s how they can do better.
Always find something good in a paper to praise and highlight. Do not, however, give false praise. Find something to praise, even to say they should emphasize that point or write more of the same or for something they should know to do anyway. At least they are still doing it.
Accountability should always be constructive, even the negative. Continuous negativity will discourage future efforts. Accountability must include negative feedback, but should also include an abundance of positive feedback.
If there is nothing to praise, you can rest assured they are very frustrated and need more help from you or to back-up to an easier writing level.
The writing curriculum doesn't hold the students' interest, so they are bored.
This falls squarely on the curriculum and the teacher. A bored student is an unproductive student, and more importantly, and unreceptive student. Students are bored if they are not mature enough, if the subject matter is uninteresting and if the curriculum is inadequate in some way. But also if the teacher is rushed, easily distracted or fails to give adequate instruction, the student will typically respond with boredom or frustration. If your student is counting the bumps on the wall instead of identifying the adverb in the sentence, it might be time to change your style of teaching.
- Stay close by their side with instruction and encouragement until they are ready to take things more into their own hands.
- Try relating writing assignments to things in your student’s life; dissect, improve or write sentences and paragraphs that are about your child’s interests.
- Let them be silly without being gross. Writing silly sentences gives them the freedom to express their thoughts without the fear of sounding stupid.
- Use whatever means necessary within reason to keep your student’s head in the game, which sometimes means taking an educational game break. Do what you can to help bolster your child’s interest, and in turn, his learning.
> Why Most Writing Curriculums Fail (and How to Make Sure your Homeschooler Doesn't!)