How To Help Your Child Reach Their Writing GoalsAugust 26, 2021
Writing can be a difficult subject to teach and learn. Many children approach writing with anxiety and uncertainty, seeing it as something filled with subjectivity and open to criticism. Many adults, too, have their own writing anxieties and are unaware of how to make their writing more effective. Writing is a skill that colleges and employers find lacking in high school graduates and spend much time and effort remediating as a result.
As a concerned parent or guardian, you want to ensure that your child does not fall behind in writing. You want your child to be prepared for college or a career, and view writing as a powerful communication tool that can be used with comfort and confidence. This all starts with thoughtfully designed writing goals.
Tips for Creating Writing Goals
- Use what you know about your child: To create good writing goals, you need to start where your child is. Your child may simply need a recharge at the beginning of the school year, or perhaps he or she may not be on grade level. Consider beginning with a writing sample based on grade-level expectations (or higher/lower if you already have a sense of your child’s writing). Identify both strengths and areas for improvement so that the goals can be individualized to your child.
- Use what you know about writing: Whether you know a lot about writing instruction or are less confident, you know that a child must be able to put together a sentence before writing a paragraph; and you know that an essay won’t make sense until paragraphs are well-written. You also know, for example, that certain aspects of writing, such as grammar and spelling and logical flow of ideas, make it more effective. Write goals based on this knowledge.
- Make your goals SMART: Write each goal so you and your child can determine whether the goal is being met or not. Ensure that each goal meets these criteria:
- S-Specific: Write goals that are specific enough so you can identify what to address to support your child. For example, a goal like “writing a paragraph” is not specific enough. If your child slaps together six terrible sentences with no logical order, that goal would technically be met. Rather, identify what is important in paragraph writing; and create a goal like, “writing a paragraph with an introductory sentence, details, and a concluding sentence.”
- M-Measurable: To determine whether a goal is met down the road, the goal must be measurable. As the adage goes, you can’t improve what you can’t measure! Consider adding numeric values when you can. For example, you may create a goal that a paragraph contains at least six complete sentences or fewer than three grammatical errors.
- A-Achievable: This is where knowing your child’s current strengths and needs are important. First, make sure your goals are age-appropriate. If your child is barely putting together words in a sentence, you would not expect your child to write a five-paragraph essay by the end of the year. Push your child beyond current performance but not so much that your child becomes frustrated.
- Relevant: Create goals that focus on the most relevant needs of your child. In other words, you don’t want to create a goal about your child composing a Shakespearean sonnet when your child really needs to focus on subject-verb agreement.
- Time-bound: Because setting a goal without a deadline is a dream, you need to set a due date. In most cases, your goals will be completed by the end of the year; but you may have skills that need to be mastered earlier. You may also want to break down large goals into subgoals to allow for more celebration of achievement along the way.
Tips for Helping Your Child Achieve Writing Goals
Once you have fantastic SMART goals to start the new school year, you can focus on how to help your child achieve those goals. Here are a few suggestions:
- Directly address goals: Rather than assume goals will be met simply by writing a lot, be sure that you are providing direct instruction related to those goals. While you don’t want to bore your child with tons of practice drills, you can provide instruction and activities on specific skills; and then embed practice within writing experiences across subject areas. Consider teaching writing and editing strategies like CUPS (Capitalization, Usage, Punctuation, and Spelling), and focus your assessment of writing across subject areas on goal-related skills.
- Revisit goal progress: Writing goals are meaningless unless you revisit them as you progress. Take time to stop and check in with your child’s goals. Ask your child about writing skills and confidence, and gently share your observations. Adjust how you proceed toward achieving goals so that you have no surprises at the end of the year.
- Make writing enjoyable: The biggest unwritten goal is to make sure that your child learns to see writing in a positive light. Consider your child’s interests when determining writing exercises, and brainstorm ways that your child can be creative. Add activities like the RAFTing strategy, where your child can write using new Roles, different Audiences, alternate Formats, or various Topics.
Goal setting is an important skill in and of itself, so involve your child when you can. Remember that setting goals can be fun, and starting with well-written goals is important for finishing with good results. The best part is the accomplishment you and your child will feel when you achieve your goals!
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