Her face told me everything. I’d totally crushed her. She looked devastated. “I thought it was good, mom.”
“Oh, baby, I’m sorry,” I said, reaching for her. “I was thinking like a grown-up editor, not a mom. Can we start over?”
I knew better.
When looking at your child’s writing assignments from school don’t go into “fix-it” mode like I did. Instead stay in your supportive parent role.
Here’s what I should have done — and what I recommend to you do to help your child with their writing assignments . . .
Help Your Child with Writing
Look for 3 positive things. Be specific.
Sometimes it’s hard to find anything positive — I get that! But kids need positive reinforcement and acceptance more than they need you to criticize. Find something specific to praise. Here are some ideas from the Six Traits of Writing rubrics. Click here to download & print the ideas below.
interesting topic or idea
showing (not telling)
uses the fives senses
knowledgeable about the topic or story
enticing lead (introduction) drawing the reader in
closing wraps things up
title relates to the topic
use of transitions is helpful
engaging style of writing
child’s personality comes through in the writing
juicy word choices
sentences vary in length (long, medium, short)
sentences vary in structure (don’t all begin the same way such as “Then I . . . “)
CONVENTIONS & PRESENTATION
***try not to talk about this as much as you do the actual content of the writing
spelling is correct
But what about the not-so-great parts of your child’s assignment?
1 Suggestion or Question
Kids won’t learn from their mistakes if we tell them 10 things to improve — like I did and hurt my daughter’s feelings. However, they will remember the one thing you suggest for improvement.
So, think of what the child could master next. Go back to the list of positives and pick something out — what about more juicy words? transitions? details? an ending that wraps up the story or topic? Say that one thing.
Or ask a question to help them think about something else to add to the writing. Do you want to know more about one part? Ask for more information or details. Then suggest the child writes down what he or she just told you.
Dos and Don’ts
Don’t use red pen to correct – it’s an imprinting color. Do use red when you want to emphasize something done right. The example below makes my stomach hurt. This is not helping the child.
Don’t write all over a child’s paper like the above example — it’s their writing, it affects them deeply when you do this.
Do write comments on sticky notes. Then they can save the positives and change the suggestions in their own handwriting. This empowers young writers.
Don’t correct all the punctuation – how will they learn if you correct it all for them?
Do show the child the lines where there is a problem with spelling or punctuation. Let them find and fix it themselves! Sometimes I just put a dot on the line and tell the child to look at the lines with dot for editing mistakes.
Don’t forget the child’s age and expect too much too soon. Do remember what is developmentally appropriate for the child.
What questions do you have? Does this make sense?
Are you an imperfect parent like me? (YAY!)
Download my "can't put 'em down" book lists for your kids ages 3 - 13.
Also, I'll send you a bonus "23 Reasons to Read" printable poster!