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by zs, Midtown,
on Jun 13, 2012
Best advice I know, get your child to read as much as possible, good literature and non-fiction in subjects that (s)he finds interesting, with good grammar, sentence and paragraph structure. If possible, read aloud to enable the ear to hear what good writing sounds like rather than skipping over all the little words.
Also, try writing a summer journal together using good writing skills. Correct sentences and spelling are getting harder for children to master as texting has become more common, so get out of that habit.
Also, don't pile tutoring on your child during the summer. Let your summer be fun and stress free.
thanks for the suggestion. My kid used to love reading book, until he discovered games and youtube, but still reads Harry Porter, i don't know how many times that he has read that series. What are some of the good books that are interesting for a 6th grader?
The PA library has some great book ideas: Web Link
My son "rediscovered" reading when my husband bought a Kindle and he borrowed it. All of a sudden, he was reading up a storm!
Green Ivy does some week long workshops on writing, math and organizational skills. Never used them, but I have heard great things about them. Web Link
Ditto to what others have said. He needs to be reading. Rick Riordan's books are really popular with 6th graders and he's written tons. I've also heard good things about Kindles with kids who enjoy screen time. The Palo Alto library often has teen events and the librarians are amazing for recommendations.
I completely disagree that reading is the sole teacher of how to write. Chilren need to be taught HOW to write. Sure, reading does supplement, but does not teach HOW to write. I never read while I was growing up because I had processing issues. However, PAUSD in the 70-80s was well-known for teaching students to write well and all my English teachers always taught how to write and returned our papers with many comments. Connecting with Paly alums some 30 years later, everyone has fantastic writing skills.
However, PAUSD English teachers are low quality now. Most of them don't teach writing, nor do they correct papers and return them with comments. Many have students exchange papers and correct them or ask parents to correct them, or simply return papers with grades on them and no comments. We learned in PAUSD through teachers commenting on our papers and teaching us writing skills. Writing is so much more important than math, which PAUSD emphasizes now. A shame that we have to find outside help for our students to learn to write.
There are tutoring companies around. Just look online. The quality of teachers is poor at Sylvan, however. I know someone who tutored there and did not recommend the place. Or writing camps are available.
I wanted the same thing for my kids. In middle school, the teachers did a mixed job teaching writing - the kids actually did not write nearly as much as I would have expected or liked, so there was not much opportunity to teach. In high school (Gunn) it was better, with a number of short (2-3 page) assignments, usually with good comments/editorial marks.
While I agree that reading is helpful, the best way to learn writing is to write as much as possible, and have an editor who reviews and comments closely on the writing. The best learning opportunity for this I have seen is being a newspaper staff writer, which requires very regular production against hard deadlines, and hopefully a thoughtful editor.
Absent that, what worked best for us was actually hiring a Stanford student who could write well and having her review our kids' actual assignments (either before or after being turned in) and provide feedback. We simply looked for kids who were smart and who seemed well-spoken - no special qualification. We had one good tutor this way, one quite good. I should say though that they kids did not enjoy the process much at all and viewed it as tedious and intrusive. Both have turned out to be decent writers though ;-)
All, thanks for your comments.
"Paly Alum" and "Me Too", where do you look for good tutors?
"Me Too", how do you manage the 'review' process? did you just send the paper to them? or they came to your house and did one-on-one?
@zs: Just enter Tutors Palo Alto into your Google search box and they all pop up.
Summer is a good time for students to relax but still work on skills instead of seeing tutors during the school year when there is homework.
Writing in a journal will not help unless someone corrects the writing in the journal. Otherwise, the child will be unaware of mistakes.
@Me Too: I don't understand why you had to hire a tutor to proofread your children's homework since you seem to write well and could proofread. But people choose how they spend their money.
Tutors can run $45-$95/hour, but learning the basics of writing really doesn't take much time.
@Paly Alum, every family (and every kid) is different - we found our kids were far more open to getting detailed writing feedback from a college age person (of the same gender) than from Mom or Dad. We only paid about $25/hour and bundled it with other activities by the same person, so good value.
I agree by the way that just writing without feedback is only mildly helpful. It's like practicing a sport without a coach - you'll develop habits, but they probably won't be the right ones.
@zs - we had people who were coming to our house anyway, helping out with a younger child, so the writing feedback work was tacked on to that. Typically it was just 30-40 minutes or so once a week, going through assignments that had been passed back or ones in progress - whatever was on-hand that week. They would read through, make some written comments, and then talk through ideas, approaches, feedback, etc. We did not sit in or review the work afterward, though we would talk to the tutor for a few minutes just to debrief. The idea wasn't to improve grades or any specific class or assignment - it was just to practice writing and get detailed feedback. This went on for 2-3 years, with some breaks, and was generally viewed as helpful by all concerned.
I forget how we found the people - it was 4-5 years ago - but it wasn't difficult.
Again, good luck!
As for writing a journal, I did say write the journal together with your child. If your writing is not particularly good, perhaps you could find an adult friend to do this, or even a babysitter, or high school student you know.
Yes, writing a journal can be helpful and so can reading out loud. If nothing else getting into the habit of writing full sentences at the 6th grade level is always beneficial, particularly to an ESL.
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