It’s 7:00 PM, you just got home from work, you’re trying to juggle serving dinner, and your child asks you to help him write a paper on rocks. Rocks? Who knows anything about rocks? As the parent, your mind is spinning from all the things that need to be taken care of in the house and you do not know where to begin on how to help your child write an essay on rocks. Help!
Writing a paper is no simple task. In fact, writing requires the highest level of cognitive and intellectual achievement. Writing a paper is especially daunting for students with weak organizational skills because it is difficult to distinguish essential information from nonessential information when reading an article or a book. In addition, a child with weak comprehension skills may find it difficult to write a paper because summarizing and paraphrasing texts are key components to include factual information.
Very often it is the case that your child will bring home an essay assignment without having been taught proper writing strategies. You as the parent have to be prepared for these instances, so that you can help him or her even write a paper on rocks, an esoteric topic. The solution to this problem is the Quick Outline. This will help your child to get his or her ideas onto the paper in an organized fashion without having to worry about grammar, punctuation, and syntax right away.
How do you create a Quick Outline? The first thing to discuss with your child is the purpose for writing the essay and who the audience will be. When this is established, your child is ready to brainstorm supporting details for the topic. Obviously if your child is writing a paper on an article, such as rocks, he or she would extract these details from the article (and not just make them up). Remember when brainstorming, it is important to select the most important details to support the paper.
After brainstorming, your child should jot down these details and put them into about three or four different categories. For instance when brainstorming rocks, some categories could be names, appearance, origin, etc. These categories represent the paragraphs in the paper. The reason I use the word “jot” is to indicate not to write complete sentences. Remember you don’t want your child to be overwhelmed by writing the paper right now because you just want him or her to get the ideas onto the paper.
Now your child is ready to write topic sentences for each category of details. It may help to brainstorm a few possible topic sentences for each category before selecting one good one. One tip you can give your child when writing a topic sentence is using an appositive. Appositives are nouns and pronouns placed next to a comma to explain or identify it, which can often make a topic sentence better. The topic sentence should be a complete sentence on the outline. Your child may also find it helpful to first select the topic sentences and then generate the supporting details. Last but not least, ask your child to generate a concluding sentence for the paper based on the topic sentence and supporting details.
Now that your child has the skeleton, or the Quick Outline, for his or her paper, you can send them off to do the assignment independently while you get dinner on the table!
(Information comes from the Teaching Basic Writing Skills Program (by Judith C. Hochman)
By Brittany Cogan, Learning Specialist