Why is it so important to find the right fit for a writing teacher?
Because learning to write is different from all other academic disciplines.
There isn’t one right or wrong answer as there is in math. There isn’t a one size fits all guide to style. It is highly subjective. And most importantly, sharing ones thoughts and opinions in writing is a vulnerable pursuit.
It feels very personal when someone critiques your work. It’s like a big rubber stamp saying: YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH. And this can be crippling to the learning process.
The process of learning to write works best when a student is comfortable with his or her mentor in a safe environment where their individual voice and style is respected. Trial and error is essential to growing into a proficient writer. This is all essential to building confidence in beginning and growing writers.
So what can you do to build confidence in your child as they learn to write?
1. Praise what is done well before finding fault or pointing out errors.
You know the old proverb that “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”? The same applies here. What has your child done well? Good length? Good grammar? Good topic sentence? Say something nice. Offer praise and start off on the right foot. When in doubt, use words like interesting, impressed, clever, and creative.
2. Choose the most salient errors and highlight those.
Resist the urge to point out every minute error in a piece of writing as this is overwhelming. Select a few things to work on with each piece and focus on those.
3. Aim for improvement and not perfection.
Even professional writers will tell you that they are never 100% happy with their work…even after it is published. There is always something to improve – something that could be tweaked. Support the process and let your student know that you recognize the hard work they put in.
4. Encourage reading written work out loud.
All kids like to share their work. Reading it out loud lets them add their literal voice to their writing while also training their ear to hear errors. Have fun and encourage playfulness surrounding their work – read with a French accent or like an actor on stage. Help them to see their writing as a creative endeavor that they can change and play with.
5. Encourage a final draft to share.
Insist on a final, clean revision, free of notations and corrections. Seeing a beautiful copy – no matter how long it took to achieve – feels good. It can be shared with Dad or Grandma or Aunt Sue. Sharing after all the hard work is key to building confidence and the desire to write something else to share.