Tips for English Writing Skill for Homeschool Students

The fear of teaching English writing skill should not keep you from having a high school homeschool program. Here are five suggestions from writer-editor and writing teacher Linda Aragoni prepared just for visitors to Homeschool How To.

5 suggestions for developing English writing skill:

english writing skill

1. Don't expect literature or grammar worksheets to teach writing for you.

Reading good novels or doing lots of grammar exercises doesn't produce writers.Writers learn to write by writing. After students are competent nonfiction writers, they can become better writers through

  • More practice in writing
  • Reading good writing.
  • Studying grammar and usage.

Until they are competent writers, however, those activities don't help because students don't know what they are supposed to be looking for.

2. Use only nonfiction writing prompts for your graded assignments.

In college or on the job, your high school graduate is likely to need only the persuasive essay format, which most of us learned as the five-paragraph essay. College instructors and employers are not interested in your teens' feelings or imagination. They want facts and fact-based opinion.

You can safely skip having students

  • Write about their personal feelings.
  • Write personal narratives.
  • Write any imaginative work, such as stories or poems.

If your teens want to write stories and poetry, let them. However, you should insist they become competent nonfiction writers. Nonfiction writing is required of everyone; imaginative writing is optional.

3. Use writing to help students learn content across your curriculum.

Research proves that the best way for students to develop English writing skill is for them to writing on authentic topics. That means writing on topics they are studying in all their subjects.

Homeschoolers have a big advantage over traditional school teachers because they teach all subjects. You can have students write about science, history, math or (gasp!) grammar. Anything worth studying is worth writing about.

Use a combination of

  • Informal writing prompts to get quick snapshots of what students know or think.
  • Formal writing prompts to make students dig deeper into a topic.

4. Make students correct their own work.

Traditional grammar instruction via present-and-drill exercises does little to improve students' writing ability. If you want to see English writing skill, you have to insist students correct their own work.

You can help by

  • Focusing attention on a few specific rules each year. Instead of working on commas, work on eliminating comma splices, for example.
  • Having students track and graph their writing mechanics mistakes.
  • Teach students to use the find-and-replace function on a computer to help them focus on errors they make in their writing.
  • Flagging errors instead of editing or correcting them.

5. Help students find real audiences.

To get teens ready for the post-high school world, help them find audiences for their writing other than family and friends. This is different from providing social activities. Many people who can manage fine in a social situation have no clue how to write for people they haven't met socially. Consider pen pals, online classes, or online forums. Teens who enjoy writing and have good English writing skills can write articles for online publications and articles databases. These outlets provide real world feedback through data about how many people read the articles.

For more tips on developing English writing skill in your highschool homeschool, visit Linda's website You Can Teach Writing

© 2008 Linda Gorton Aragoni, used by permission 

Check homeschool writing for my review of the Writing Course written by a homeschool dad who has tutored many students in writing. This is a great program that you can use over and over again with multiple students.


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