Writing skills – written spelling, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary skills.
When learners have mastered phonics, the next focus should be spelling, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary. As with phonics, many writing experts advocate a similar combination of explicit teaching and opportunities to practise with real-world, authentic texts. Traditional rote and repetition strategies such as look-cover-write-check are common and effective, provided they are not overdone.
Errors should not be met with scorn or contempt. This only serves to demotivate and disengage students who might display task-avoidance behaviours consequently.
It is common for teachers to provide students with a new list of words every few weeks. While it’s not possible to learn every word in the English language, students can learn habits and techniques that help them to gradually improve their writing skills over time. Students who acquire these skills and habits develop their spelling, vocabulary, grammar and language abilities much faster and with less adult support. Effective spellers do the following:
Students will always make writing mistakes as they learn, experiment and acquire new skills. They should be encouraged to experiment just outside of their comfort level. Errors should not be met with scorn or contempt. This only serves to demotivate and disengage students who might display task-avoidance behaviours consequently.
Students often make the same writing errors over and over. Teachers should identify and categorise these repeated errors in order to address them. For example, one of the most common punctuation errors made by high school students (and the majority of adults) is not knowing how to use a comma properly. In any given piece of writing it may seem like the student has made 10 grammatical errors. All ten errors, however, may stem from one common error. Experienced teachers notice these repeated errors and address them quickly because fixing them has an immediate substantial impact.
Some of the more common spelling mistakes include:
Some of the more common punctuation mistakes include:
Some of the more common grammar and expression mistakes include:
You can think of grammar as being the ‘rules’ of a language. Grammar is best taught via a combination of strategies such as explicit instruction and shared reading. Consider this sentence: Peter walked to the zoo. You can see the following grammatical rules:
Editing is also an important part of writing development, particularly for older students. Here are some questions that you can use to guide a student’s editing process:
Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and an author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of Fast Track Training Australia, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.
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