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Friday, July 5, 2013

Guest Post: Homeschooling: Some Great Tools for Teaching Each Step of the Writing Process

boy writing
Of all the subjects to teach homeschoolers, writing can be the most rewarding, but is sometimes the trickiest to teach. There are so many details that must be taken into account, from developing ideas to putting them on paper, that the task can seem daunting. Because of this, the general steps and procedures of writing regular prose can be a bit like those related to building a web page. Just like a coder, if a writer misses a step, then the whole structure can come tumbling down and be of no effect. But these problems aren't impossible to address. They're actually really easy to fix, because these online tools can help children develop the right processes to be a writer who creates prose with a strong foundation.
Research Tools:
There's an immutable fact about writing that's the same no matter my child's age or grade level: in order to be a good writer, she must be a good reader. Sites like DailyLit, Refdesk and Reading A-Z let homeschoolers explore the depths of knowledge on subjects they'll appreciate. Blogs and news sites featuring current events are also a great idea. If your child isn't keen to write down what he or she finds in a notebook every day, there are always programs like Google Notes and Evernote (which allows your homeschooler to drag and drop clips straight into the program).
Grammar and Vocabulary Helps:
There are a lot of different teaching ideas about how much a student needs to study and learn about grammar, but it never hurts to have a good foundation. That said, it's a lot easier to learn the rules when the method of learning is fun or has deeper significance. Free Rice is a game that donates 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme for each right answer your student gets. Fun Brain is another great site that lets homeschoolers play engaging games such as Grammar Gorillas, Spell Check, The Plural Girls, Spellaroo, and Word Confusion. It’s important to teach a child to do her best when she writes and then perform a grammar check at Grammarly.com before she turns it in or publishes it on her blog to make sure she gets everything right. Everyone makes mistakes, but that doesn't mean we don't have to check for them ourselves.
Putting It Together:
Once research and grammar skills are developed, the next step is actually putting pen to paper. This can start with a pre-writing process, and work through the steps of drafting, editing, and revising. For pre-writing, a tool like bubbl.us—a utility that allows her to create a mind map and connect ideas is a great tool. Then, she'll use a program like Microsoft Word to outline her ideas in a way that will help her build paragraphs from them. (Free Mind is another great program for this.)
After that, it’s a best practice to write the paragraphs, put the work down for a day, and come back to it at a minimum of three times to edit and revise. Doing premapping exercises really helps a child to have paragraphs that “flow” and have ideas that stick together. When editing, a child can highlight blocks of text by subject matter and see if they need to be rearranged or don't fit and need to be taken out completely. When revising, a child can use spell and grammar checks to make sure that she hasn't missed an error. After she's all finished, a child can publish to her blog and have great work that she can look back on any time she needs a reminder that hard work pays off.
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