A+ Advice for Parents

Q: My 10-year-old daughter, Marilee, can text up a storm, but can't write a book report or a two-paragraph description of an event. She's a pretty good reader, but her teacher says her writing skills need improvement. Are there fun ways to practice writing that work?

A: There are, and you can both enjoy them. Young writers need to learn many skills that are intuitive to most adults. They need to articulate the purpose of the writing; organize ideas, think about spelling, punctuation, grammar and word choices; then edit and revise. And do all this while staying on topic. It's not easy!

First, do some reading on how schools teach writing. Most use "the writing process," which has five steps: prewriting (brainstorming, deciding purpose and goals); writing (getting that first draft down); revising and editing (clarifying); rewriting (typing or writing the final draft) and publishing (reaching an audience). That audience might be her aunt receiving a letter or her Girl Scout troop that reads a report she's written on badge completion. Learn more at ReadWriteThink, an online resource for teaching reading and writing: http://tinyurl.com/22novvv.

Write for a reason: Make Marilee the family communications director. Get her a business card and notepads with that title. Make it her job to write all family communications this summer: invitations for parties, lists and instructions for a campout, thank-you notes and birthday cards to family and friends and so on. This will help her think about purpose, message and audience.

Review what you love: It's fun to read reviews; it's often more fun to write them. Have Marilee review books, movies, music and games. Find good models by TIME For Kids kid reporters at timeforkids.com. Have her share her reviews with family and friends.

Connect with pen pals: Find them through Student Letter Exchange (pen-pal.com), one of the world's largest pen pal organizations. For a deeper experience, sign up for PenPal Schools, an online interactive community that connects learners across cultures to discuss global issues while practicing language skills during six-week sessions on different topics. While designed for schools, parents can get a class code. Go to penpalschools.com.

Get writing coaching online: Students enrolled in Brain Chase, a fun online summer program, can sign up for its Creative Writing Challenge and get weekly grade-level feedback from credentialed writing instructors. Go to brainchase.com.

Learn from a best-selling writer: Newbery Honor-winner Patricia Reilly Giff, author of many popular children's books, walks young readers through the process of writing compelling fiction using examples from her work in "Writing With Rosie" (Holiday House, 2016), arriving in bookstores later this summer.

Start a summer scrapbook: To improve storytelling and reporting skills, encourage Marilee to create a scrapbook (digital or paper) about events, neighborhood observations, vacations and so on. Add photos with descriptive captions. Many kids prefer paper. There's something uniquely satisfying about leafing through pages of memories -- ticket stubs and other regalia included -- at the end of the summer.

(Do you have a question about your child's education? Email it to Leanna@aplusadvice.com. Leanna Landsmann is an education writer who began her career as a classroom teacher. She has served on education commissions, visited classrooms in 49 states to observe best practices, and founded Principal for a Day in New York City.)

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