It’s a common misconception that students who love reading must be very good at ELA. Some students exhibit strong reading skills but dislike writing to the point of avoidance. This disconnect often perplexes educators and parents when book-loving students respond to homework in short, one-line answers or have trouble composing whole paragraphs. Reading with high fluency doesn’t always translate into an aptitude for vocabulary, organizing ideas, or making connections between the material, the topic, and prior knowledge. For adults who notice this disconnect in students, a few methods can encourage students to begin thinking deeper about what they read and how to turn those ideas into excellent writing.
Discuss the Topic
Often, students become so trained to rely on pulling information from the material directly in front of them that they need help accessing their prior knowledge. To demonstrate proper analysis of reading materials, students must show that they can make meaningful connections between what they know and what they’ve learned. Discussing the topic with the student prior to writing helps students form those connections. Asking open-ended questions about the topic encourages critical thinking exercises necessary for compelling writing or in-depth responses to reading comprehension questions. Having discussions helps students realize they are much more informed than they realize and reinforces their ability to write confidently.
Before writing, brainstorming by using graphic organizers (like K-W-L sheets, Venn diagrams, storyboards, or mind maps) helps students recognize patterns, form relationships between ideas, and organize their complex thoughts on a topic. Even writing a simple list can help students turn a chaotic jumble of ideas in their brains into an orderly arrangement of points to make in their writing. Graphic organizers assist students by providing a means of visualizing their thoughts and helping them cohesively structure their writing. Once students have discussed, brainstormed, and organized their ideas, they can write more comprehensively.
For some students, getting started is the biggest obstacle. Sentence starters typically consist of transition words that guide the student’s thinking in the right direction and are used to create a flow between sentences or paragraphs. They can be used to write compelling hooks, form topic sentences, introduce or conclude, connect separate ideas, list in a sequence, add emphasis, or provide background information. Once a student starts writing, they keep writing.
Some examples of sentence starters include:
For example …
In summary …
On the other hand …
Specific Vocabulary, Details, and Evidence
Young writers often need to realize how much information they leave out. They don’t provide critical information on the assumption the reader already knows what they’re trying to say, which can leave writing flat or create gaps. Other times, the limited vocabularies of younger writers mean they rely on vague, general, and overused words: great, stuff, went, etc. Reinforcing the use of specific or sensory details will strengthen their descriptive ability. When checking homework, parents can point out vague words and ask students which powerful verbs and adjectives they can use to replace simplistic ones. Providing evidence is another valuable way students can write more and provide further detail. Using sentence starters that place emphasis, followed by evidence from the reading, will strengthen their responses and flesh out their thoughts more thoroughly. Using the sandwich method allows students to visualize the structure of complete paragraphs: topic sentence (bread), 2-3 sentences that explain or provide evidence (filling), and a concluding sentence or transition sentence that leads to the next paragraph (bread).
Helping students develop writing skills and learn to elaborate on their thoughts takes time, patience, and consistent practice. They can become more confident and effective writers by creating a supportive environment, providing guidance, and encouraging regular practice. Remember to be patient and offer positive reinforcement, as writing is a skill that develops gradually with exercises and experience.
Fast food orders, medical records, electronic payment methods– every service has an app these days, even standardized testing. The PSAT and SAT are going digital in the 2023-2024 school, breaking nearly a century tradition of paper testing.
School has been back in session in many districts for a few weeks. Students are returning to old routines or settling into new ones after a transition. Teachers are getting to know their new students, and in return, those students are learning the expectations set by their new teachers. This is a fantastic time for parents to begin prepping for end-of-quarter PTCs (parent-teacher conferences).
The beauty of public school is the opportunity to serve the broadest section of students. Students can receive education and services from kindergarten through senior year, regardless of ability. Much emphasis is put on “exceptional learners,” whose diverse needs differ from the average,