One of the goals in Language Arts curriculum is the development of strong writing and, of course, there is an increasing focus on periodic and standardized writing assessments. The Common Core Curriculum, which guides instruction in almost all states, emphasizes the development of writing in three major modes: narrative, argumentative, and informational.
Students are expected to develop the ability to write in each style and are assessed on these in elementary, middle and high school. In the earlier grades, the expectations are generally limited to narrative writing, the more complex persuasive/argumentative or informational/expository are skills developed later in a student’s career.
Students mostly fall into one of two categories: they like writing or they hate writing. However, as they all have to learn writing, there are some in-roads that can be used to increase interest and understanding in this subject.
To learn narrative style writing, personal journaling or creative writing is the most personally relevant form. Encouraging letter writing, shared personal writing with a friend or family member, or private journaling offers children an opportunity to write for meaning, and increase language and vocabulary skills. Children would not consider the proper placement of an apostrophe, most likely, unless they have to properly place an apostrophe – to that end, encouraging any sort of personal writing can spur real learning.
Informational writing spans a huge array of literature. Sports writing is a great genre for many kids, they see how language brings to life images and action, and can better understand the craft of writing, use of metaphors, and other technical elements. Some students might even take it a step further and begin to blog for their schools’ sports teams. Science writing is also a broad field, and taking some time to read the science news in the paper can help a child develop a language in which to communicate on this subject. Where informational writing is concerned, newspapers and their various sections, offer a number of opportunities for connecting student with text from which they can learn.
Argumentative or persuasive writing is more complex, requires analysis and reasoning, and takes longer to develop effectively. Allowing a child to engage in persuasion verbally, and to allow back and forth reasoning, is the first step in building these skills. An in-road that is successful with many students where persuasive writing is concerned are topics of social justice – bullying, media, environmental issues – these multi-dimensional issues offer engaging topics for teenagers to write about.
The work of instructing students on these technical areas of writing occurs first in the classroom, but beyond that there are many things that parents can do to support the development of writing. Certainly, reading over a child’s work, helping point out areas that need correction or extension, is invaluable. Also, though, helping the child connect the academic with their personal interest, is the most important thing a parent can do to support their child’s education.
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