Developing Writing Skills

What do you do when your child fights you when you try to teach them how to write? Why do students struggle writing essays? Is there a way to teach paragraph and essay writing that is not so overwhelming for students and teachers? Will your students ever master high school and college level essay writing?

Many children shut down and refuse to work when they are frustrated.

Every child is unique, yet certain behavior patterns are predictable. When teaching writing lessons becomes a battle ground, stop and regroup. Could you be expecting more than your students are ready to produce? When your children struggle, they are not being lazy. They want to please you. If a child is significantly frustrated while attempting to learn any concept, either the necessary foundations have been skipped, or the child is not developmentally ready to move on to the next step.

When their brain has not yet developed enough, children can become overwhelmed trying to organize abstract thoughts. If they are not ready to grasp higher level thinking, attempting formal writing is frustrating.

Students function on one of three levels.

  1. Frustration Level: Many shut down and refuse to work when they are frustrated. High stress from information overload leaves them feeling like their brain is frozen, incapable of accomplishing anything worthwhile, and results in students feeling stupid so they throw their hands up and quit, which at times is accompanied by screaming, tears or both.
  2. Instruction Level: Learning is a challenge for them to accomplish independently, but with instruction they get it. Congratulations, you are succeeding.
  3. Independent Level: No teaching instruction from you is needed. They have mastered the concept and can accomplish the task with no help or instruction necessary.

Working with fully frustrated students is not fun, because you feel like you are beating your head against a brick wall, so stop and reevaluate. Is foundational instruction lacking? Are they really developmentally ready to grasp the information?

So, what does the teacher need to do?

Back up to the instruction level, which is where the child can function comfortably, and figure out what needs to be reinforced? Slow down or back up to a pace and level where success keeps coming.

Teach in little chunks at their instruction level, then teach, and then re-teach, rather than pushing them hard thinking they will learn faster the more you throw at them. The objective is to successfully master the material, rather than confuse them with more than they can handle. Everyone’s sanity is maintained and your students will learn more when they work slowly but steadily at their instruction level.

Also, the best readers always become the best writers. Quality literature, that students read or hear, encourages their brain development and prepares them for abstract thinking.

Students are at an advantage if they wait until they are developmentally ready before they tackle formal writing.

  • The teacher should read quality books out loud to the student, or the student should listen to audio books on his or her instruction level of reading.
  • Have the student also read quality books on his or her independent level of reading.

Simply put, at the independent level students can read with no help, while at the instruction level the literature will usually be longer, have a harder vocabulary and basically be a book the student would struggle to read out loud.

Students are at an advantage if they wait until they are developmentally ready before they tackle formal writing. Your students learn more when you work with them at their instruction level where they are not frustrated, in tears or just have a bad attitude.

Writing concepts that are organized into a step-by-step process are easily grasped by students when they are working on their instruction level. Using the step-by-step system in The Write Foundation, students learn writing organization with the writing process and structure, which leads to students producing well written essays.

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