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Virtual Writing Instruction: Part I

Across school districts, students’ grades, scores, and standardized test results indicate a widespread drop in foundational skills, some of the more critical skills affiliated with academic writing. Writing is not just an English-specific necessity. The ability to construct cohesive, clear, organized thoughts in written form is essential for all aspects of college and career readiness. As educators, we must prioritize these foundational writing skills to ensure that, even in the midst of virtual or hybrid learning, students are still being set up for success.

 

Daily cross-curricular opportunities

Writing is one of those skills that is strengthened by repetition and practice. Exposure to different styles of writing and opportunities to compose different written forms helps students to recognize the importance of writing in all subject areas. Therefore, teachers should provide opportunities for students to practice composing various genres and for different purposes. These do not necessarily have to be long, involved essay prompts; teachers can use these ideas as warm-ups, exit tickets, lesson activators, etc.

 

For example, science teachers might ask students to write and submit lab reports, compose directions for science experiments, or draft project proposals for a final project. History, civics, or social studies teachers should consider prompts that require students to compare and contrast two or more cultures, time periods, land forms, or branches of government. Math teachers can help students with procedural or sequential writing skills by asking them to compose an error analysis for any questions that they missed on a quiz or assessment. For a task such as this, students are subconsciously learning the skills necessary to craft written work that follows a problem-solution or cause-effect format. The key here is to demonstrate that writing skills, even short practices, lend themselves to all content areas, not just English.

 

Peer review

Peer review sessions are extremely beneficial, especially during virtual learning where students do not have day-to-day interactions with their peers. Dissecting someone else’s work can be a very enlightening practice for young writers. It allows them to see how another student interpreted and approached the same task in relation to their own response. Viewing another’s writing also sheds light on different writing styles, provides ideas for varying sentence structure, and demonstrates how others interpreted a text or quote. In evaluating another’s writing, students begin to grasp, not only how their own writing measures up, but how an instructor might evaluate a written response. It forces students to consider the prompt, the rubric, and the overall objectives with regard to their final composition. Peer review sessions also prompt student discourse, which, during these trying times, can help stimulate social skills, collaboration, and motivation. 

 

Formative feedback

By embedding formative feedback into weekly writing instruction, educators send the important message to students that writing is a fluid process—students are not expected to craft perfect writing on their first, or even second attempt. One of my most beneficial practices to help students with essay writing is to formatively assess the introductory paragraph first, before students continue on with their entire essay. By pumping the breaks and providing specific feedback on each student’s intro paragraph, I am able to accomplish several things at once. 

 

First, looking at the intro paragraph gives me an inside view of the foundation of their essay; I’m able to see students’ interpretation of hook statement, bridge statement leading into their thesis, and the final thesis statement, around which the entire essay will be framed. If students’ introductory paragraphs are a mess in any one of these categories, I can quickly provide necessary feedback and scaffolds for them to revise and reset before they have gone too far down the wrong path. Looking at the intro paragraph also shows me whether students actually understand the writing prompt or not. If multiple students seem to be off track or missing the mark, I can easily intervene and provide supports, interventions, and reteaching to ensure that everyone understands the prompt and how to approach it.

 

In part two of Virtual Writing Instruction, we’ll explore the impact of providing student choice, creating the necessary scaffolding for struggling writers, using virtual sessions to instruct using teacher models, and building online portfolios for student writing.

Summer Writing For Your Middle/High Schooler

The summer slide does not only affect elementary schoolers; middle and high schoolers are just as susceptible to this loss of knowledge and academic skills over the summer months. Just because they have been in school longer and have received more instruction and practice does not mean that older students are going to be able to hold onto all of the knowledge that they have acquired during the school year. Without practice, even highachieving students can regress during months of down time. Especially with regard to writing, a skill that needs to be cultivated, students may find themselves a little rusty when they return to the classroom after the summer. To avoid the pitfall that is the summer slide, parents can encourage different practices to help students keep their writing minds sharp, while still enjoying all that summer has to offer.

 

Practices to Consider

Parents and educators can use student interest to spur both creative and academic writing outside of school.

 

  • Encourage your middle schooler to start a daily or weekly blog. They can write about any of their interests or hobbiescooking, skiing, fashion, hiking, video games, outdoor adventures, etc. The options are endless. An important precaution, however, is to ensure that your child’s blog is private or protected by certain privacy settings that only allow specific people to access the site.
  • Practice letter writing as both a leisurely activity and a form of correspondence for trips, vacations, and/or sleepaway camps. With travel plans as a likely part of the summer, what better way to practice different forms of writing than by using stationery, postcards, or email? If your child is away at camp or on a vacation with a friend’s family, ask for the address so that you can initiate the written correspondence. Mention in your letter that you would be thrilled to hear back from them. Ask specific questions about the time apart, especially if your child is reluctant to write. If possible, include a roll of stamps in the suitcase so that all your child has to do is write the letter or postcard and drop it in the mail.
  • Create a “favorite quotes notebook” where family members share the responsibility of finding interesting quotes on certain days of the week. Pass around the notebook, allowing others to reflect on and comment about the new quote. Keep the responses free-flowing and as brief or lengthy as people would like—the point is to encourage inquiry, reflection, and writing, not to discourage by imposing strict expectations or rigid standards.
  • Use social media to engage your child in more than just selfies. While on vacation, take photos of experiences, landmarks, activities, and anything else that you encounter. Then, ask your child to comment on the photo or experience. What will they remember most about this captured moment?

Practice “pit/peak” journaling/writing after a vacation or new experience. Sometimes called “rose/thorn,” the instructions for this brief journal entry is simple—independently reflect on your favorite or best memory from the trip and your worst or least favorite aspect of the experience. The response should be honest and reflective, but doesn’t have to be shared. The point is to get your child in the habit of capturing considerations on paper in an organized fashion.

Tone in Writing

This topic was inspired by a recent email that I received from a student. Essentially, the student was concerned about a missing homework grade after an absence, which is a completely valid concern. However, the issue was not with her inquiry, but with her tone in the email. In literature, tone is defined as the author, narrator, or speaker’s attitude toward a subject or person. When we write, we establish tone using diction (word choice) and syntax (sentence structure, including punctuation). Unlike one’s tone of voice, which is fairly distinguishable, someone’s tone in writing, or even via text message, can be vastly misinterpreted. It is this miscommunication that can turn an email into an issue.

Things for students to consider regarding tone:

  • Keep the subject line clear and specific. Your recipient should ideally understand the general point of your message from seeing the subject line. For example, the subject line for an email to your teacher about a homework assignment should include the specific class period and name/date of the homework assignment if possible“AP Chemistry 3/12 homework”
  • Consider the purpose of your email. If you are emailing to ask a quick question or to get clarification on something, be direct. Once you have addressed the recipient, get straight to the point and ask your specific question. A succinct email is much more likely to get a swift response than an email that is long and drawn out.
  • Know the difference between phrasing a question, a request, or a demand. A question should obviously have the appropriate “?” punctuation. A request should ideally include polite phrases such as could you, please, and thank you, etc. To demand something in an email, however, is rarely a good idea, unless the circumstance warrants a more severe or urgent tone.
  • Read the message or email aloud to yourself with a neutral tone before sending it. If it sounds harsh, demanding, or accusatory you should rephrase the message so that it is received in a more positive manner.
  • Avoid overuse of punctuation, especially exclamation points and question marks. These can inadvertently come off to the recipient as overly dramatic, aggressive, harsh, etc.
  • Do not include emoji’s or abbreviations or slang when corresponding with your teacher, professor, superior, or boss. An overly casual approach could be mistaken as disrespectful, careless, or immature.
  • Draft a message first and send later if your email is provoked by anger, disappointment, or frustration. Often times, in an emotional moment, our words, even when written, can be impulsive or emotionally charged. If you feel that you might be furiously dictating while you type your message, it is probably best to save that email as a draft and return to it a few hours later. Once emotions have settled, your wording will have softened.

Specific “DON’Ts”

  • Don’t assume that your teacher, or whomever the email is intended for, will recognize your personal email address. If your email address does not include your full name, be sure to add a signature or salutation that includes your first and last name.
  • Consider the actual content of your email address, especially when completing college applications and job applications. If the email address doesn’t sound professional, consider creating a new address for professional correspondence that includes your name.
  • Be careful with the “reply all” button, especially if you do not know some of the cc’d recipients. Consider responding just to the sender and then circling back to the rest of the email chain.
  • Know that “deleted” doesn’t mean erased forever. Deleting an email, whether is is one that you have sent or received, does not mean that it no longer exists. As we have seen all too often, texts and emails can come back to haunt us down the road, so it is very important to think carefully about what you are trying to say and how you should say it.

 

Scrabble as an Instructional Tool

April 13th is the official day to celebrate every word-lover’s favorite board game—Scrabble! This beloved game-cabinet staple has been around since the 1930s, but its relevance in the classroom is eternally apparent. Not only Scrabble, but countless other board games and childhood favorites, can also be used to support learning and spur student engagement. Browse the ideas below to see how Scrabble could be incorporated into your own learning environment, whether it be in the classroom or at home.

 

Scrabble:

  • Use the letters as a form of equity sticks or calling sticks. Each student will be assigned a letter. When that letter is drawn, that student is selected to participate, read aloud, share their example, etc. Use the letters to correspond to students’ names. Similarly to calling sticks, if the teacher or another student draws the letter “D,” the next participant/classroom speaker’s name must start with or include the letter “D.”
  • Use the letter pieces to spell sight words for students. They can recreate the sight word from memory when the letters are scrambled up. Conversely, to challenge the strong spellers or provide enrichment, teachers may want to spell a sight word incorrectly and ask the student to remove or swap out the incorrect or misplaced letter.
  • Split students into groups and provide them with a pile of letters. Groups must race to sort the consonants and vowels into two different piles. The first group with everything sorted correctly wins!
  • Provide students with two vowels and three consonants. Then challenge them to see how many words they can spell with their letters by rearranging the squares.
  • For students just learning the alphabet, provide them with several letters and an alphabet reference strip if needed. Ask students to then put the letters in alphabetical order, skipping any letters that are not part of the sequence they were given.
  • Divvy up the letters to small groups of students. Put a photo up on the board to represent a spelling word, like “table,” for example. Then ask students to raise their hands if they think their letter is involved in the spelling of the word. If so, then as students with hands raised to arrange themselves in the correct order to spell that word.
  • Set up a “photo album” of images that contain consonant blends or digraphs that students have been learning about. For each photo, ask students to place the Scrabble squares of the letters that form that digraph or blend. For instance, if the photo depicts a flower, the student would place “f” and “l” on the picture; a stop sign would mean that “s” and “t” should be placed on the image.
  • As an extension activity, or to challenge students with strong phonics skills, provide them with a recorded sound, like “ew.” Then ask them to come up with all of the vowel/consonant combinations that could compose a word with that vowel sound: blue, too, crew, shoe, bruise, two, flu, etc. The key for this activity is that students begin to recognize the different combinations of letters that can make the same or similar sounds.

A Beginner’s Guide to Essay Outlines, Pt. II

For a five paragraph essay, which is what students will most commonly encounter in middle school, the three body paragraphs should adhere to the information/details in the thesis statement. In the previous example, the thesis statement includes three reasons for the increase in recycling efforts over time. These three reasons will make up the three separate body paragraphs.

 

Body Paragraph I: Population
  • Population growth over time
  • Increase in consumption/trash
  • A growing cause for concern; landfills overflowing
Body Paragraph II: New info about health
  • How pollution is impacting health
  • Recycling reduces these concerns
  • Concerns about longevity
Body Paragraph III: New info about environment
  • Data on plastic in oceans
  • Impact on marine life
  • Concern for species longevity

 

Again, the purpose of the outline is to organize the writers’ thoughts, pieces of evidence, direct quotes, and their own interpretations so that the essay is essentially mapped out and organized prior to writing. Just like in the introductory section of the outline, the organizer for the body paragraphs does not need to contain complete sentences either. The bullet points are there to succinctly indicate the support that the writer wishes to refer to in the argumentative essay.

 

Finally, the standard conclusion paragraph, much like the introductory paragraph, does not need to be particularly lengthy, especially for middle school writers. The key is that the conclusion reiterates the writer’s position without exhausting previous points or introducing new information. The details should be familiar and relative enough to tie the essay together. The concluding paragraph will essentially mirror the introduction, but with varying word choice and fresh sentence structures. Again, if the prompt asks students to explain why recycling efforts have seemed to increase over time, this could be a simple outline for a student’s conclusion paragraph.

 

Thesis Statement Reiterate main reasons for increase in recycling…recycling increase because of population growth, health concerns, environmental impact
Specific Statement While recycling efforts have been tried for centuries…
General Statement It is more important now to reduce and conserve

 

The concluding paragraph using the outline above might sound something like this:

 

As stated in the paragraphs above, recycling has increased over time because of the rise in population, the increased worry over health concerns, and the alarming evidence of the detriment to our environment. Although records trace the first evidence of recycling back to ancient Japanese scribes, the efforts are more important now than ever before. With so many ways in which people can reduce by reusing, the push for recycling has no wonder spiked.

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Essay Outlines

Outlining as a prewriting practice is a technique that often gets a lot of pushback, specifically from students. It makes sense that students would look at an outline as a nuisance; it is just one more thing to write on top of the actual essay itself. Truthfully, drafting an outline in preparation for an essay is another step. However, in the very minimal amount of time that an outline will require, students will essentially be saving themselves a lot of time and frustration when it comes time to actually craft the essay.

 

For beginning writers—or what I would consider early middle school-aged writers—an introductory paragraph can be a daunting task. Not knowing where or how to begin is a very real concern for many writers as they sit down to start the intro paragraph. A standard rule of thumb, especially for younger students, is to keep the introductory paragraph fairly succinct and direct. It should include about three sentences that introduce the reader to the subject or topic of discussion.

 

The first sentence should be a general statement, which loosely explains the topic, novel, question, technique, etc. Whatever the prompt is about, the general statement should address that concept or comment on it. The second sentence will be more specific, but still pertain to the content introduced previously in the general statement. A specific statement goes further into how the essay will address this topic or concept. Finally, the last sentence in the introductory paragraph should be the thesis statement—this is the point or claim that the writer is trying to make regarding the prompt or essay question.

 

For example, the boxes below could represent a strong outline for an introductory paragraph where the prompt asks students to explain why recycling efforts have seemed to increase over time.

General Statement Define what it means to recycle
Specific Statement Talk about when recycling efforts first began; what were the first initiatives, what prompted them? (Use class research sites)
Thesis Statement …recycling increase because of population growth, which means more trash; research about pollution and health effects; research about environmental impacts, specifically marine life

 

The point of the outline above is to organize the initial information that the writer wishes to convey. Complete or full sentences are not necessary in the outline; it is merely meant to provide cues for starting the essay, like a roadmap of where the intro paragraph plans to go.

Using this sample outline, a completed introductory paragraph might look like this:

 

Recycling involves the conversion of used materials into new or alternative materials for reuse. Processes to reuse materials and objects have taken place over centuries; however, recycling efforts have now become more important than ever before. Recycling efforts have increased over the years because of population growth, health concerns relating to pollution, and environmental distress caused by plastic in the oceans.

By taking the time to plan out the introductory paragraph and compile the necessary information to support the thesis statement, students will be prepared to write without the confusion or last-minute frustrations.

Visualization as a Cognitive Tool Pt. II

As previously discussed in part one, visual prompts, tools, and strategies can help learners who may struggle with linguistic presentations. Whether attentive issues, behavioral struggles, or deficits in auditory processing are the obstacle, visualization methods can assist with students whose needs vary in and out of the classroom.

 

Reading/Writing/Literacy

  • Use visuals to provide context for vocabulary terms. Teachers can boost memory and recall by pairing terms with images that explain or represent the definition. For example, science teachers may want to accompany terms for the parts of a flower with a diagram that depicts each part. They could use photos or time lapse videos to demonstrate how organic matter decays or decomposes. In history or world studies, students can benefit from seeing locations, countries, and landmarks that they are studying so that they have a better grasp of its importance. Instead of simply discussing Tanzania, teachers will want to show Tanzania on a map so that students can conceptualize its location with background knowledge of the surrounding areas.
  • For practices involving phonics and fluency, obviously pronouncing new words for students to chime back is beneficial to start. However, when working independently to decode, students may find that visual cue cards for prefixes/suffixes are more helpful for their visual approach to reading. For example, struggling decoders might find it helpful to see how words are segmented or broken down into parts and then physically put them back together like a puzzle. Visually speaking, words like “cub” versus “cube” could be confusing to beginning readers or English language learners. Teachers should provide opportunities to use letter cards or scrabble pieces to match “cub” with the photo of a baby bear; then add the “e” to match the word with an image of an ice cube. The physical manipulatives, combined with the images, help young readers visualize the proper spelling while also solidifying pronunciation and definitions.
  • Similarly, teachers and parents can help beginning readers by incorporating visual aids into sight words. As a memorization tool, basic flashcards only go so far. Instead, think about how the letters of the word could be constructed or decorated with images that relate to the word’s meaning. For example, the sight word “look” could be spelled using googly eyes for the double “o” to demonstrate someone looking at something. Perhaps the word “play” could incorporate athletic equipment to form the letters, with “p” resembling a basketball, “L” formed by a hockey stick, and “y” in the shape of a tennis racket.

 

Additional Concepts

  • If content involves a process or step-by-step explanation, consider using flow charts, mind maps, or other visual diagrams to help students conceptualize the process. For differentiation, teachers may ask advanced students to create their own flow chart using their text or class notes, while struggling students may use a word bank/concept bank to complete a fill-in-the-blank flow chart. Either way, the objective is the same; students are demonstrating knowledge of a specific process by constructing a visual/diagram.
  • For essays, written responses, and notetaking, teachers should instruct and encourage students to utilize graphic organizers to visually compose comprehensive outlines of their drafts. In spider diagrams, the main idea of the written response is the spider’s body, while the legs connect to supporting details, quotes, and examples, which helps students visually compose a well-supported argument or claim as a prewriting activity.

Besides standard images or symbols to help students, teachers can expand upon the idea of visuals to include videos, films/documentaries, art, graphic novel excerpts, artifacts, and video games. The more engagement and connections to prior knowledge that visuals can offer, the stronger the learning experience will be.

Strategies for Timed Essays

Timed essay tests can bring about a great deal of stress for students. The ticking clock is certainly a catalyst when it comes to test anxiety; however, the unknown components of an timed essay test are also daunting. The fact of the matter is, timed writing tasks will be a standard aspect of every student’s education at some point. Another fact, thankfully, is that there are strategies that students can employ to conquer these seemingly insurmountable timed essays.

 

 

Reread the prompt and put it into your own words

 

When students sit down to take an essay assessment, the clock begins counting down and nerves often take over. In a time-crunch, many students follow the impulse to put pencil to paper as quickly as possible and write until their wrists can take no more. The issue, however, arises when the completed essay fails to actually address the prompt or essay question. To avoid this, students should first carefully reread the prompt in an effort to put it into their own words. By rephrasing the question, students ensure that they fully comprehend what the prompt is asking and are able to more specifically begin to address it in their writing.

 

 

Spend 3-5 minutes drafting a simple outline

 

The few minutes that students spend sketching a plan for their essay will be returned twofold in the sense that, with this quick roadmap, they will have to spend less time figuring out the general direction of each paragraph since the essay is already loosely mapped out. The outline should include only bulleted information, not complete sentences. Page numbers for direct quotes or other references are also helpful on the outline. While each essay and outline will obviously vary, the same components are usually suggested for informational, argumentative, or expository responses.

  • When in doubt, the introduction paragraph can be comprised of:
    • A general statement, in which the topic, subject, theme, or concept is very generally introduced.
    • A specific statement, in which the general statement is given some specificity, elaboration, clarification, etc.
    • A thesis statement, in which the argument, claim, or goal of the response is introduced.
  • Most body paragraphs should include:
    • Transition words to organize the points, evidence, support, etc., in order of importance.
    • Introduction to the text evidence by title and/or author.
    • Direct quotes to support the original thesis statement or claim made in the introduction.
    • Interpretation of the quotes and explicit statement of how the quotes support the claim or argument.
  • Most conclusions should include:
    • A restatement of the thesis; advanced writers in middle and high school grades should work to rephrase the thesis statement. The overall claim or argument is the same; however, the wording is varied to avoid redundancy.
    • A final confirmation of the texts that were referenced and how they specifically relate to the topic or prompt.
    • A final statement to again generalize the purpose of the essay. **Students should get in the habit of using words directly from the prompt in their introduction and conclusion paragraphs to ensure that their responses are thoroughly and clearly connected to the prompt.

 

 

Reread each paragraph individually

 

It helps to read a response with fresh eyes to determine that writing is consistent and relative to the purpose of the prompt. If students have time at the end of a timed writing assessment, it is beneficial to reread each paragraph individually, referring back to the prompt in between paragraphs to ensure that each component (paragraph) serves its purpose and clearly answers the prompt.

 

 

Don’t get hung up on spelling

 

Unless otherwise specified by the teacher, students should avoid spending too much time contemplating spelling errors. Most often, timed essays are scored on content, including word choice, sentence structure or variation, and other content-driven writing skills. Therefore, perseverating over spelling is generally unnecessary. Instead, students should spend their time crafting and honing their argument.

How-to Proofread: For High Schoolers

Once students have reached high school, writing becomes an entirely new beast. From the research project, to a multi-page literary analysis, high schoolers are somewhat expected to have crafted their writing skills to a certain degree. Aside from college, where many of them will be analyzing scholarly articles and writing 20, 30, 40 page papers, high school writing tasks are as advanced as they have seen thus far. Perhaps even more surprising to students, is the fact that lengthier writing assignments will occur in every class, not simply English. With this knowledge, it is essential that high school students improve in their ability to proofread.

  • High school students can use cooperative learning strategies to proofread and peer edit more efficiently. For example, if three students decide to peer edit as a group, one group member should focus his criticism and editing to one area, grammar, for instance. While one group member reviews all three papers for grammatical missteps, another should focus solely on vocabulary, word choice, and spelling. This person should be accessing online thesaurus and dictionaries to ensure that terms and phrases are appropriately used. Finally, the third member of the peer editing group should be in charge of examining content—that is, does the writing masterfully address the prompt? With the tasks split up in such a way, students are more inclined to provide solid, effective feedback—as opposed to the smiley faces and “Good job!” that we teachers are so used to seeing after a peer edit.
  • High school-level writers can streamline their proofreading practice by using symbols or digital highlighting tools to flag errors or areas of need in their writing. Students may want to read their paper through once simply to identify where any issues lie. During this process, they will only mark or highlight areas in the paper where they should revert back to during revision. After issues are highlighted, writers should go back into their paper with a more fine-toothed comb approach. This means that, now that weak or confusing areas in the essay have been identified, they can really dig into making corrections specifically on the sentence level, correcting one line at a time.
  •  As many times as we tell students, it still baffles me that they disregard the warning: DO NOT RELY ON SPELLCHECK! By high school, students must be proofreading on a cognizant, deliberate scale—simply correcting all of the red squiggles will not suffice. Moreover, many spelling or grammar mistakes are mislabeled or ignored by spellcheck software. High schoolers must be prepared to take proofreading into their own hands; their knowledge of writing skills is much more reliable than the computer’s spellcheck.

High schoolers can raise the bar when composing written work by proofreading for sentence variety. They should be prepared to do some major rewriting when sentence variety and complexity is the focus. High school-level writers should be aware of certain clauses and the punctuation that accompanies them. More importantly, students will want to double check that their writing is fluid, clear, and varied on the sentence level—this makes for an elevated paper

 

How to Proofread: For Elementary School

Writing is an essential skill that children will encounter in every class as they progress through their education. An important aspect of the writing process that is not always explicitly taught is proofreading and editing. These skills are honed over time, but it is never too early for young writers to begin learning the ins and outs of proofreading their work.

  • For elementary schoolers that are just beginning the early stages of the writing process, the entire task can seem daunting, unfamiliar, and complex. Thus, it is important to ease into new writing concepts. One thing to start with is to teach students that proofreading is not an optional step—but instead, a crucial part of the writing process that should not be skipped or rushed through. The sooner young learners begin the process of checking their work, the better. The concept of proofreading and self-checking is beneficial because it translates into every academic content area. Students that proofread their writing likely double check their math, science, etc. It shows elementary schoolers that proofreading is not only about checking for errors, but taking a more active role in their learning. This sense of agency and self-advocacy is immensely important as students transition from elementary school to middle school.

  • Prepare students to begin proofreading by looking at one thing at a time. For instance, elementary schoolers may want to begin simply by looking for spelling errors. Narrowing their focus to just one aspect of the writing lessens the daunting feeling of having to perfect the writing in one fell swoop.
  • Once spelling errors have been identified and corrected, encourage students to look now at punctuation and sentence structure. Does the punctuation and capitalization appear where necessary? Are the sentences clear? Are there transition words when needed? Can we possibly combine any sentences to increase the complexity level? Of course, some of these skills require explicit instruction, some of which will come later in elementary school language arts
  • Encourage elementary schoolers to proofread aloud. This not only helps them catch their errors, but provides them with an opportunity to hear how their writing is progressing. Parents, peers, and teachers can model this process as well. It helps to provide young writers with a few guiding questions while they are proofreading out loud, such as “Am I using specific vocabulary?” “Do I need to include commas or periods to indicate a pause or stop?” “Are there any words or sentences that are unclear or confusing?”

  • Perhaps the most important question that young writers should ask themselves before, during, and after proofreading is: Does my writing answer or address the prompt or question? Often times, especially with children that are just beginning to learn writing skills, the work takes on a mind of its own—kids get so into what they are writing, that they lose sight of the original purpose or focus. One way to help elementary schoolers identify this lack of focus or cohesion, is to provide visuals of the prompt, sentence frames, and checklists for final drafts.