I want to encourage everyone to avoid underestimating the value of feedback in learning anything (especially writing). It is so important that you can simply rest on the fact that without feedback there is no learning. Imagine a golfer NEVER KNOWING where his shot lands, or never hearing a putt go in the hole. Learning the sport becomes impossible. Public speakers almost always improve if they have folks critiquing them (or can watch themselves on video). A singer cannot possibly stay on key (or improve) if she NEVER HEARS her voice or the other instruments. These are all FEEDBACK mechanisms.
Now, since writing is about the scariest thing anyone can do (it is permanent…written…can be passed along), we rarely seek feedback without some significant growing up! Since we are educating our kids, we can just baste (cooking definition) them with it anyway! But, you must do it right (or, at least, right enough).
We have video training for giving feedback in the unique way we’ve designed (for grammar, punctuation, spelling, creativity, etc.), but let me tell you the essentials:
1. Use a RED PEN to mark things your student should improve (correct)
2. Use a GREEN PEN to mark things your student should do more of (encouragement)
3. When making suggestions use these exact words, “Does this sound better?”
4. Don’t overwhelm — Instead, please focus on one or two things at a time until mastered (example: Just work on capitalizing the first word in a sentence if that’s an issue).
P.S. Here’s where to learn more about us: www.advanced-writing-resources.com
The following was my response to an inquiry about a child who doesn’t know what to write during the writing part of the homeschool day.
Even though we don’t yet know the exact details (always best to find them out because each situation is different), I will throw out some additional thoughts to the excellent stuff several of you have posted.
In The Writing Course we explain how we can always write because everything reminds us of something. When kids don’t write it is almost always an issue of fear or control…not an issue of writing. If a child knows that he is just trying to write OK, and he knows that he can’t really think up what he is going to write before he writes it (this is in the course too), then all that is left is to learn how to make use of his own mind’s ability to associate. I show them how to use their own name.
I’ll use my middle name RAY (yes, I am Fred Ray…hey…born in Alabama) and come up with three words:
R – rollercoaster
A – airplane
Y – yarn
So, all I’ll do is start writing something OK involving those things.
Petula was always scared of rollercoasters. Even when she flew over the County Fair in her uncle Ceadric’s airplane and the rollercoaster looked very small and safe, she just couldn’t remember that feeling when she got near the ticket booth. Today was different. She was going to conquer the rollercoaster! Maybe it was the way the kitten played with the yarn, she couldn’t really say. But, she did notice that the kitten fell off the counter three times. After each fall it just climbed up again to win the prize. “If Tinker can keep trying for a ball of yarn,” Petula said in a squinted whisper, “Then I can ride a silly rollercoaster.” With that she grabbed her uncle’s hand and walked toward the booth holding a paper dollar she had gotten from her Hannah Montana wallet.
Well, you get the point. At the very least (if a child doesn’t know what to write) have him:
1. Do copy work (that will eventually motivate him to make up something more fun)
2. Write a description of something outside the window or of a couple of items in the refrigerator.
3. Use some of the other ideas mentioned in this group
Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand
Weekly I get a note or a question that sounds like one I received today, “Biggest challenge—being able to correct my student’s writing myself. I know what sounds good, but I am not a writer.” What great honesty, and how common it feels to all who don’t see themselves as writers. If you know what sounds good you are about 80% there already.
Of course, my conviction is that most of the punctuation and grammar training is killer our joy and effectiveness in writing. I feel, sometimes, I’m on a one-man-mission to help people return to the love of writing [you can see my rant against grammar in the article called Why Studying Grammar Hurts Writing].
As a parent you have great motives and surprisingly wonderful insight on your child and his or her writing. Frankly, you taught them to speak…not too shabby for just hanging around and discussing what’s for supper and why the neighbors don’t like you!
Here’s what you can do about correcting a child’s writing:
Well, that’s the idea. You have so much to offer…but really, it is when your child starts correcting him or herself that everything jumps to a new level. In the meantime, you are far more helpful than you think. We even have our own children grade each other from time to time (it’s that helpful)!
Hope this helps,
I picked up the following comment from a forum related to a homeschool curriculum we use.
If you skip to the bottom (my response), you see a simple reason to start writing BEFORE studying grammar.
My son is almost 12, and was a reluctant writer until he did Fred Lybrand’s Writing Course.
He used to do anything to avoid putting pencil on paper.
We went through the Writing Course back in August/September.
It’s November, and my son just finished writing his first novel of 28 chapters.
He’s about to start the “Make it Better” step by going back over it, and putting it into the computer.
He’s also thinking about splitting the chapters right in the middle of the action,
so that his reader won’t be able to put it down (like so many of the books he’s read).
He spends about 20-30 minutes per day writing, without any coaxing or interference from me.
I can hardly believe it. Thanks to Dr. Lybrand.
At this point, I’m not pushing him to do any more than that 20-30 minutes because he is now doing it because he wants to. As he gains confidence in his writing ability, I may push him along, but I’m hopeful that he’ll do it of his own accord. I just don’t want him to
go back to hating to write, which could happen if I push.
Along with “The Writing Course”, we also received “The Essay Course”,
which Fred recommends that we do at age 13-14 I think. Until then, I feel that we’re on a good track for now, letting him write about whatever he wants for 20-30 minutes per day.
“The Essay Course” will get him ready for college, when that time comes.
I feel like I can relax, and just let him blossom as a writer on his own terms for the time being.
Thanks Fred & Jody!
Thanks so much for all your kinds words. Your son is not an exception with our course, but he certainly is on the path to being exceptional!
The problem most of us have with writing and helping our kids write is that we have been taught by the schools to work backwards.
Far better to write and then learn grammar (if you must ;-)…just like we do with talking.
Recently, I was speaking with a friend who is a musician. It struck me in the conversation how foolish it would be to make children learn Music Theory before they ever pick up an instrument.
This is the exact mistake we make (and a few others)— We try to teach them Language (Grammar) Theory before we really let them just learn to make a little music first!
Again, thanks for sharing how we’ve helped a little.
Fred (and Jody) Lybrand