Many of our students returned to in-person learning after having a remote or hybrid learning situation since March 2020. At Green Ivy Educational Consulting, we’ve noted increased anxiety and stress around math (particularly upper level math), writing, and world languages including Spanish, French, and Mandarin. This is the third in a three-part series of strategies to support students as they navigate this school year.
Writing is essential for more than just English class — it powers our daily lives and communications. Although everyone has a unique relationship to writing, the skill can always be practiced and improved. Below, we’ve listed several reliable strategies that students can use to steadily build their writing confidence throughout the school year.
- Create a Daily Reading Habit
Teens and children read for fun less frequently than they did a decade ago, giving them less opportunity to cultivate strong reading and writing skills. One of the best ways to learn how to string together eloquent sentences and paragraphs is to read more. Sitting down to read for 15-30 minutes per day can help build familiarity with useful vocab, effective sentence structure, and important literary devices, like symbolism and metaphor. To make the most of a daily reading practice, we recommend jotting down and looking up any unfamiliar words or references that appear in the material. This will help expand your repertoire of writing tools.
Unsure where to start? Ask a trusted teacher, parent, or friend for reading recommendations. Or, go to the local school or city library to browse options. The key is to choose books or magazines that are genuinely enjoyable, and to create a consistent habit. So, maybe Sunday or Wednesday afternoons are spent at the library, and it becomes part of a family, individual, or friend routine.
To maximize the benefits of consistent reading, we suggest keeping a reading journal. This can work in a lot of different ways. One option is to write weekly, paragraph-long responses to the week’s reading, using full sentences to articulate any major questions, observation, or predictions. By combining a simple writing practice with daily reading, students can form a more authentic relationship with the written word.
- Keep a Personal Notebook or Journal
Many students avoid writing because they associate it primarily with the classroom. Because most of their writing experiences involve academic assignments that they have been told to do, many students may dismiss writing as tedious, repetitive or stressful..
An important step in becoming a better writer is to cultivate a healthier relationship with writing. This means finding topics of personal interest to write about, and putting original thoughts down on the page. Many students are surprised to discover how much they enjoy writing reflectively about personal experiences, while others may prefer to record their observations and insights about external subjects, such as movies, world news, or history.
Beginners can consult this list of journaling prompts for processing emotions, reducing stress, and thinking proactively.
We recommend sitting down to write about topics of personal interest at least 2-3 times per week. This habit will help with building endurance, developing a unique writing voice, and solidifying grammatical skills.
- Revise, Revise, Revise
Well-respected writers agree that good writing is rewriting. In other words, revising your work is a crucial step toward bringing a written piece to its finished form. Especially for those who don’t feel particularly confident when writing, revisions are an excellent way to catch mistakes and create polished final products.
In order to edit a piece effectively, we recommend splitting the writing process into distinct chunks or tasks. Scheduling separate times for drafting and revising allows for more thorough editing. When we try to revise immediately after drafting, we risk rushing through the editing process because we are eager to be done with writing for the day. It becomes easier to concentrate on editing when we approach the task with a focused, rested mind.
Furthermore, it’s important not to confuse revising with proofreading. Proofreading means scanning your nearly finished piece for simple typos, grammatical mistakes, and fluency issues. Revising means critically reading your first draft to decide how the content can be improved.
It may help to refer to the following questions during the revisions process:
Do my topic sentences clearly communicate the main idea of each paragraph?
Are my arguments well-supported by evidence?
Is there a better quote I can use here to illustrate my point?
How can I vary my word choice to make this passage smoother?
Do I need to rearrange my paragraphs into a more logical order?
How can I be more concise?
Where am I going off-topic?
- Ask for Feedback
We know that writing can be a personal process, and it can feel intimidating to share. However, honest feedback from trusted and supportive peers, mentors, family members, or teachers can help us grow as writers. Before submitting any important written assignment, students should consider sharing their drafts with someone who can provide thoughtful suggestions. Many teachers offer office hours, during which students can bring in early drafts of their essays and discuss changes.
Writers should actively seek out feedback to improve more quickly!
We hope these tips and tricks provide direction and motivation. What strategies have you used to improve as a writer? We’d love to hear from you!