Our top “Tip” in 2014 focused on helping middle and high school students tackle writing. In case you missed it or need a refresher, here it is again!
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In middle and high school, students face more complex writing assignments, with deadlines that seem far in the future.
Writing a formal essay can be a daunting task. Some students get so buried in the information gathering process that they never feel ready to actually form opinions and commit ideas to paper. Other students write pages and pages, which later get discarded. Then there are those who agonize over each sentence, even each word choice, to the point that they are too anxious to get anything on paper.
Here are some tips to help tackle middle and high school writing:
The biggest mistake teenagers make with writing assignments is procrastination. Time management is one of the most important factors in producing the best possible essay.
Ideally, sit down with your child when a writing exercise is first assigned. Work backwards by marking the due date on the calendar and then estimating how much time will be needed for editing and revising, creating a rough draft, researching or gathering information, outlining and brainstorming. Usually, this process helps the student see that he needs to begin working as soon as the project is assigned.
The Rough Draft
Having a plan of action for the rough draft is a significant relief for students. Using a structure to formulate and express their ideas actually gives them more freedom to compose and organize their thoughts. It is comforting to emphasize that mistakes are expected when writing the rough draft. At this stage, it’s more important for students to articulate their thoughts than to worry about perfecting each paragraph.
In an ideal world, the rough draft should be finished a week before the due date to allow time to enlist trusted proofreaders. Editing and revising should not be a painful process, but a time to reinforce the mechanics of effective writing, to check the organization, and to review word choices.
Step #1: Body Paragraph
At Thinking Organized we encourage students to start writing the body paragraphs first. If some ideas have been brainstormed and organized ahead of time, it is usually fairly straightforward to write a body paragraph about each main topic.
Thinking Organized students learn and practice the S.E.E. method to help them create organized paragraphs with a logical progression of ideas.
In this system, the “S” stands for “Statement,” the first “E” for “Evidence” and the last “E” for “Explanation.” As the evidence is usually the researched material or a quote from a novel, this is pretty straightforward. However, explaining the evidence and connecting it back to the statement can prove challenging.
Step #2: Introduction
After the body paragraphs are in place, students are ready to start the introduction. They can begin by referring back to the working thesis statement in their outline to see if it still makes sense. The thesis statement should sum up the point being argued in the essay. The introduction should orient the reader to the topic in broad terms first, leading to the more specific thesis statement.
Step #3: Conclusion
Finally, the conclusion should restate the thesis in different words and end with what we like to call a “so what?” This is the time to tie the thesis to something larger, a greater concept that helps the reader know why it is important.
With this structure in place, writing will quickly become a process to be followed step by step, rather than a dreaded, anxiety-producing exercise. Learning and practicing effective writing strategies in middle and high school will make the more difficult topics covered in college approachable and easier to tackle. Whether or not professional writing is in your child’s future, gaining confidence with expressing oneself through written language is an important tool for future success.