4 questions to help kids recognize effective writing
Men are from Mars, and women are from Venus, right? It’s almost become cliché to say that men and women communicate differently. But it’s true. And we’re not the only ones. Parents and children communicate differently. Teachers and students communicate differently. Even siblings raised in the same house may communicate differently. If we want our children to become effective communicators, we have to teach them to recognize effective communication to overcome those differences.
As a writer, this can be tough, especially for children who don’t naturally love writing. (Believe it or not, there are a few of those out there!) A writer knows the whole story floating around in their brain. But that does not mean that it all gets put on paper (or screen) the same way it’s thought of. There are four key questions you can teach your child to ask and answer to evaluate their writing. Let’s break each of those down.
Does the writing achieve your goal? The goal may have been set by a teacher, parent, child, or some combination thereof. It may be a writing assignment with a predetermined purpose, or it may be an open-ended, creative piece. Regardless, when someone else reads the paper, the goal or purpose of the writing should be clear. One way to evaluate this is for the author to write down their purpose in one sentence on a sticky note. Then give the entire paper to someone else to read. Can the reader identify the same goal or purpose that the author did? If so, give yourself a pat on the back. If not, it’s time to make some revisions.
Is the writing appropriate for the audience and context? Writing styles vary widely depending on the audience. When I write a paper for a professional journal, I write formally. When I write a note to my children or text my husband, I write much more informally. Wouldn’t it be strange if I wrote a formal note to my husband asking him to stop by the store on his way home from work? “Dear Sir, I would greatly appreciate it if you could stop by the Publix grocery store on Main Street between the hours of 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm today. Please reply to acknowledge receipt of this message. Sincerely, Dr. Ladwig.” We would never write like that! To help young writers understand this concept, use something personal to them. Ask them how they would write about a new video game to their best friend. They’ll write about the name, the graphics, the action, etc. Now ask them how they would write about that same game to their parent. I’d bet the topics will shift to how inexpensive it is and how educational it is.
Are the ideas presented in a way that clearly and effectively communicates what you want to communicate? Many young writers learn how to write an opening paragraph that tells what their essay or paper will be about, but then they get distracted. They may love the storyline in a video game so much that they go off track and spend much of their text describing the storyline instead of persuading their friend or parent to get the game. The ideas within text need to be organized and supportive of the intended goal of the writing.
Does the writing elicit the response you want from your reader? My older son enjoys writing suspenseful, short stories. He’s learned to take time to develop the mood within his writing to make the reader feel a bit spooked without being completely terrified. He’s still working on learning to write persuasive pieces to get me to purchase that video game, though. That illustrates my point. Different genres of writing should elicit different responses, and each of those requires a different thought process and choice of words.
Accurate evaluation of one’s own writing is critical to becoming an effective writer and communicator. Comment below to share how you help your children evaluate their writing! Who knows, you might even end up with a guest post here on Homeschool Hotlinks!