For better or worse, writing is a deeply personal experience. However, many students struggle with common writing mistakes, making remedies and fixes ever-abundant. We can’t simply crawl into our child’s head and peer in at their writing process. So often, we see students writing their words, but failing to paint a bigger picture, a task that takes immense practice and strategy. For young learners, writing can be one of the hardest skills to master. The difficulty of learning and remembering writing conventions is not lost on parents, but sometimes identifying the underlying problem can feel impossible. Here are five common writing mistakes you may not know your child is making.
1. Treating Writing Linearly
Writing is by no means a linear process, and the most common writing mistake of all is thinking otherwise. Many students expect to sit down, begin writing, grit their teeth, and pray to be done soon. In reality, even half-decent writing takes much longer than that. Students should be encouraged to erase and rewrite ideas as often as they can. At the very least, encourage your child to intensively review and revise any writing they complete.
Not only should the writing process feel iterative and circular, but so should the act of writing itself. Most people can’t sit and complete writing assignments without taking at least a break or two. These breaks allow us to shake our tunnel vision loose and let what’s already written sit with us. By working intermittently, your child will also learn the perseverance and pacing larger assignments require.
2. Failure to Proof-read
Proofreading is to be done early and often. Put simply, there is no reason to wait until you finish writing entirely to proofread your ideas for the first time. With the addition of every few sentences, or at the conclusion of each paragraph, take a minute to look back at what you’ve written. Read your newest sentences aloud to yourself and reflect. Does what you’ve written sound how you intended it? If not, never fear, you’ll only have a few sentences to rewrite. Moreover, frequently rereading your work will give your piece a stronger flow. By reading and reminding ourselves of what we’ve just put onto paper, we can better connect our next idea.
3. Dividing Their Attention
Okay so, dividing your attention is less so a “common writing mistake” then it is a common mistake— when writing. Focusing while you’re trying to write is hard enough. The last thing you want to do is try to split your focus. The process of thinking up an idea, then writing it clearly in English requires intense concentration. The glow from a phone notification, or temptation of another open browser can prove catastrophic. Writing that may only require 5 uninterrupted minutes can quickly turn into an all-nighter if it isn’t given your fullest attention.
4. Misspelling Words
Spelling is difficult for adults and kids alike. The occasional misspelled word is, of course, nothing to fret about. However, there may be underlying spelling conventions that your child isn’t quite sure of. For instance, some kids might habitually put apostrophes in the wrong place when forming contractions. A crash-course on the role apostrophes play in contractions can save those students dozens of misspellings on any one assignment. Alternatively, some students use homophones incorrectly. In this case, students are using the “right” word, but wrong spelling. This common writing mistake is so common, adults often make it, like like writing “there” when they meant “their.” Some systematic spelling errors can be quickly addressed to remedy loads of misspellings.
5. Their Writing Feels Clunky
Okay, so maybe your child’s writing isn’t chock-full of errors, but something still isn’t quite right. When students have trouble organizing their ideas, they seem to write in awkward discrete chunks. The chunks are then scrambled, fit with transitions, and the result is declared a finished piece of writing. Writing conventions can be a lot for young children to keep track of. Often, there’s so much focus put into spelling words properly, and using proper punctuation, that the bigger picture gets lost. If your child tends to lose the forest in the trees, graphic organizers can be a godsend.
Graphic organizers are used to organize your young writer’s ideas prior to the pen meeting paper. Organizers are usually fit with neat boxes for your title, supporting details, and even the transitions you intend to use. The hierarchical structure of the tool allows students to order their thoughts logically, and to use their outline as a roadmap for their writing. Cooler yet, you can find free graphic organizers specific to different writing assignments (e.g. “how-to-…”) here.
Kids can’t know everything. As they write, make mistakes, and learn from them, they’re sure to become stronger writers. While it’s totally normal your child doesn’t write quite like Ernest Hemmingway, it doesn’t mean they can’t. In order to be the best writer, they can be, you’ll have to address the mistakes they’re making. Common mistakes in math, writing, or any subject for that matter are just that—common! These are also some of the easiest mistakes to fix due to the cornucopia of solutions former mistake-makers can share. Which of these 5 common writing mistakes sounds familiar? And how will you approach a solution?