College Prep 101: Is Your Writing on Track?
- Thursday, March 25, 2010
If your bookshelf looks anything like mine, it holds an assortment of curricula you've stopped and started at various times along the way. Some we couldn't get into for various reasons and ended up finding alternatives. But there are others we fully intended to use—we just never got around to them.
When my son was in high school, he needed some foreign language credits to meet college admissions requirements. Time and again we'd start over and then stop. Spanish kept sliding to the back burner because of everything else that vied for his time. Then one day I nearly had a stroke when I realized Ben would never finish the course in time for graduation. He paid for my lack of perseverance by having to spend some college electives on foreign language.
Is writing one of those subjects you keep starting and stopping? Does your teen drag his feet, fail to finish assignments, or complain night and day? Or are you the one who has trouble following through with lesson planning or editing? Whatever the reason, it's important that you start afresh, make a plan, stick to your guns, and don't let your student whine, wheedle, cajole, or otherwise manipulate you into letting him lapse!
Teach Key Essay Writing Skills
Prepare your child for college-level writing by providing him with the tools necessary to conquer the blank page and learn to write articulate, persuasive essays. He needs to learn about the style, form, and structure of essay writing, including narrowing a topic; developing a thesis; brainstorming, organizing, and outlining; and editing and revising.
To help your student develop writing and critical thinking skills, make sure he learns to write various types of essays such as argumentative/persuasive, expository (such as compare/contrast and cause/effect), review of literature, and reflection essays. Furthermore, he should know how to summarize a written work, evaluate and analyze evidence, and develop his own opinions into reasoned arguments.
He will also need to learn to write a research paper, including making an outline, using reference materials, gathering note cards, writing the report, and citing sources. (I like to teach this skill in tenth grade, requiring one paper in tenth grade, one or two in eleventh grade, and two or three in twelfth grade.)
Essays and research papers are often the bane of a high schooler's existence. These foundational tips will set him off on the right foot and save hours of red-penciling later on.
1. Write a clear thesis statement. The thesis statement presents in one or two sentences the central controlling argument. It explicitly identifies the purpose of the paper and previews its main ideas.
2. Plan and organize. Essays and research papers need structure, or the paper will fall apart. Your student must avoid diving into writing without first thinking the argument through and organizing his thoughts. Instead of trying to rope together scattered ideas, he must herd them into formation before beginning to write.
3. Stay on track. As he writes, he must continually support his thesis statement with facts, logic, and examples. By staying on track and avoiding details that don't directly support the thesis, he'll produce a much stronger essay.
4. Don't rehash ideas. It's easy to fall into the trap of saying the same thing over again in different ways. Outlining the paper from beginning to end helps avert that problem. If your student outlines the body of the paper by listing key points and major supporting details, he will find it easier to write a more focused paper. If necessary, encourage a little more research so he can support his claims with fresh facts and examples.
5. Use transition words. Students can get into trouble when moving between ideas. Teach your child to use transition words, which:
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