- By Jen McVeity
- Published 03/25/2008
Imagine spending all Saturday afternoon weeding a garden, only to have someone say: ‘That’s great, but you missed a few weeds there and you didn’t put away the ladder.’ Not very supportive is it? Yet, sometimes, that’s what we do when kids ask us to read their story. We concentrate on the mistakes: ‘That’s nice dear, but you’ve spelt “elephant” wrong on the second page…’ Learning is faster with praise. When our children show us a story, they don’t want criticism – they want to share something they have worked hard on. They are often bursting with pride. So the next time your kids ask you to read their writing, change your focus and try to ignore the mistakes that leap out at you. Look at what your kids have done right, (praise) instead. Praise should be specific. Not vague generalizations like ‘that’s great,’ or ‘lovely work’ or even ‘well done.’ Genuine praise looks at real reasons. Here are some suggestions: * I thought your character Josephine was very convincing. * The bratty younger brother was funny, he made me laugh. * Your tension scene was excellent, I was nervous as the fire came closer.
* The way you use dialogue rea
lly brings the characters alive. * I like the way your hero had faults like biting his nails. That makes him real. * Having the girl jump in the river to save her dog was very powerful. * The ending was a total surprise. I would never have guessed it! How does praise alone (without pointing out the faults) help children to improve their writing? Well, now they know their strengths – this means they will keep on using those techniques you praise. Then, after the praise, you could add in ONE gentle suggestion for improvement: * The story is a little slow at the beginning, why don’t you start at paragraph three when the space craft crashes? * Do you think if you use dialogue in the fight between the two sisters that might make the scene more alive? * ‘And then I woke up,’ is a very common ending, can you think of a better one? * Maybe if you made the part where the kids are winning the basketball match a little longer, that might increase the tension. Finally, always finish on a positive note. That’s right, more praise! * I loved your idea of the green ice-cream monster, I really enjoyed reading about him. Thanks for showing your story to me.
(c) Jen McVeity, National Literacy Champion.
The fun Seven Steps to Writing Success program, by successful author, Jen McVeity, is in 900+ schools. Suited to the home school curriculum & gifted children, it has rapidly increased students’ writing skills and enjoyment. Visit http://www.sevenstepswriting.com for top writing tips and activities – more in the free Parent Newsletters. Click on ‘Sample’ tab for a free Story Starters Worksheet.
by Jen McVeity