August 17, 2015 by The Writing Coach
"What the reader calls pleasant or dull, what he remembers easily and returns to with eagerness, what he wishes more of in the form of new essays or stories or polemics, or warns his friends to keep away from, is largely a function of Tone." (Jacques Barzun, Simple & Direct, p. 88)
July 14, 2015 by The Writing Coach
The Writing Coach is coming to the Southeast Homeschool Expo on July 24-25, 2015.
David Moody will be presenting the workshop, "Teach Your Teenager to Write Well." The workshop will be held in Room 111 starting at 1:45pm on Friday, July 24. Learn how to teach your 6th-12th grader how to write well. What kinds of assigned papers should your child write? How often should you assign your child a paper? What books are good resources to help you improve your child's writing? What goal should you have in mind when you check over your child's assigned writing?
Join us for the workshop, and visit our booth at the Southeast Homeschool Expo.
August 4, 2015 by The Writing Coach
One of the questions that homeschool parents face as their children enter the middle school and high school grade levels is what writing assignments should they be assigning their children. As children move into the older grades, they move from learning grammar to writing exposition, and parents begin to wonder if they are having their children write enough. Although each parent may need to adapt the writing they assign to the different skills of their children, most children from 4th grade through 12th grade need to start their writing with book reports and move away from book reports towards essays. From 4th grade through 7th grade, assigning book reports helps children develop their abilities to summarize a large topic. In 6th grade, though, parents should introduce their children to the essay and begin assigning one essay per month. Then from 8th grade through 12th grade, all academic writing should center around essays.
Book reports are a good way to introduce your children to writing beyond a paragraph. Children find it easier to move beyond one paragraph if they have something substantial, such as a biography, to summarize. Writing book reports develops children's abilities to summarize topics. Summarizing topics is an important skill. Writing book reports also trains children to look back at their sources to find the substance needed for their summary. Once children know how to summarize a topic and once they are trained to refer back to their sources, they need to move on to writing essays. The skills needed for writing book reports are the opposite of the skills needed for writing essays.
For an essay, the student learns how to take a small topic, such as a thesis statement, and expound it. Learning how to take a small statement and develop it coherently is a vital skill that the student will need no matter what vocation they have. In the business world, every salesman has to know what he is selling and how to explain the benefit his customer will receive by purchasing it. Merely stating what his product is and what his product does is not enough. A salesman must explain how it benefits his customer and why his customer needs that product. Every doctor must explain to his patient what his patient's ailment is and what remedies are available to heal his patient. And every man must explain to the woman he loves why he wants to marry her. If he states the she is beautiful, she is no doubt flattered, but she wants to hear what is beautiful about her. Mere statements are not enough. Explanations are often demanded, and rightfully so. Writing essays helps students develop the ability to explain and defend their statements.
An essay answers a question. In response to that question, the student learns to assemble information, not in summary form, but in explanation form. The student begins with a thesis statement, a statement which is not sufficient in itself. The student then learns that everything following that statement is an explanation of why that statement is true. The student learns to develop each supporting idea with explanation, citation of sources, and examples. As the student learns to write an essay, he is really learning how to explain a topic coherently to others. He is learning how to teach others and how to handle objections. He learns not to be satisfied with plain statement of fact. Instead, he learns to back up his statements with substance.
As students enter the middle school and high school grade levels, they need to move from writing book reports to writing essays. That focus will move them beyond the skill of summarizing topics to the skill of explaining topics. This skill of taking a small statement and explaining it is basic to life as an adult, no matter what their occupation. Learning how to develop a topic, cite sources, and explain the reasons why something is true is a necessary skill and takes a deal of maturity. Parents need to start by giving their children writing assignments that help their children write something over many paragraphs and end by giving their children writing assignments that teach their children how to explain and develop statements. In other words, parents should start by assigning their 4th-7th graders book reports and end by assigning their 8th-12th graders essays.