Supporting Students during a Writing Task

pencil inside a circle

Many classes are wrapping up writing assignments to submit their writing to be published in Journeys in time for the February 1st deadline. What can a tutor do to support a student who is working on a writing task?

Get comfortable with the writing process.
If you need to write something that makes a good impression on the reader, what steps do you use? Generally the writing process can include the following steps: 1)brainstorming 2)organizing 3)drafting 4)revising 5)editing 6)sharing or publishing.  Let’s take a look at how a tutor can support a student during each of these steps.

If the student is more comfortable with conversation than writing, take advantage of this and have a conversation about the writing topic to generate ideas.  Encourage the student to think about details by asking probing questions, such as, “Tell me more about that,” and “Why?” The more ideas generated at this stage, the easier the next steps will be.

This step is often done after drafting, but it is sometimes easier to organize a list of ideas than a handwritten paragraph.  Whenever this step is taking place, ask the student which ideas are about the same topics.  You might need to model how to move ideas into groups.

During this step (as well as earlier steps) the student will probably ask for spelling help. In addition to providing spellings, you might point students to resources where they can find the spelling on their own, such as a list of words on the board, a text the read recently, a picture dictionary, or asking a friend. If time allows, ask the student what they think the word starts with, what they think comes next, and so on.

During this step continue to encourage the student to add interesting details to their writing. Ask more questions to help them generate ideas.

Revising is about working with the ideas and organizing the text.  The goal is for the reader to be able to understand the messages the writer wants to communicate. It is helpful to give the student a new perspective to help him or her notice any changes to make. You might do this by reading the text aloud to the student, having the student read it to you, or pairing students to trade papers and read to each other. You can even assign small groups and have students take turns reading to the group.

This is what students often worry about throughout the writing process. Try to encourage them to focus on their ideas first and save editing grammar, punctuation, and spelling later.  It is challenging to split one’s attention and do both at the same time.

The goal during this stage can be to teach the student to correct his or her own errors.  Focus on just a few errors. Perfection is not the goal—instead learning to improve writing and editing skills can be the goal. Some errors a student may be able to self-correct include using punctuation and capital letters to indicate where sentences are, using a consistent verb tense, and spelling of words used more than once in the text. 

Once a student has finished writing, facilitate the sharing process by having that student share with classmates and family. After all that hard work, it is valuable to acknowledge the results.

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