paper so I could see the length, style, and
details of the assignment. When I began
teaching my boys, I learned that they too
appreciated seeing a model. Teaching
with models is a classic learning method
that has been used for centuries in teaching art, music, writing, and many other
things, and no better method has been
found for helping students understand
exactly what to do.
The way it works in real life is simple.
If you have asked the student to write a
letter in the voice of Benjamin Franklin,
provide a few sample letters written by
Franklin and perhaps a few other writers
of the colonial era so that the student can
see how they are worded and formatted.
If you assign a review, provide the student
with good examples clipped from your
local paper. If you aren’t sure where to
find a good model, search online for “
colonial era letters” or “best book review.”
Try to present more than one model so
the student will understand there is more
than one way to approach a writing task.
It doesn’t matter what kind of writing
you need to do or teach—from research
papers to poetry to résumés—models help
students (and teachers) do better work.
Models not only show students what is
expected, but they also expand vocabu-
lary, teach new ways of expressing an idea,
and help students develop a strong per-
sonal writing style. Once you have experi-
enced the value of working with models,
finding appropriate examples will become
one of the first steps you take in crafting or
completing a writing assignment.
4. Teach Students to Self-Edit
Revision is part of the writing process,
but it is not built into all curricula, so
students end up turning in papers with
unnecessary mechanical errors. A writer’s handbook offers instructions and
examples for a variety of papers; carefully organized information on punctuation, grammar, style, and usage; plus
basic instructions for citations. We used
Writers Inc. for middle school and early
high school, and the Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers from mid-high school into college.
Keep at least one handbook in the student’s study area, and encourage the student to use it like a dictionary, looking
up any question of punctuation, style, or
grammar as they write. As they learn to
do this, they will not only be reminding
themselves of all the nitty-gritty mechanical details of writing, but they will be
building a habit that will serve them well
in college and adulthood.
Janice Campbell is a graduated home-school mom, and author of the Excellence
in Literature (http://everyday-education
lum/) curriculum for grades 8-12,
Transcripts Made Easy, and the forthcoming
Model-Based Writing Toolbox. You’ll
find her books at EverydayEducation.com,
more writing help at ExcellenceinLitera
ture.com, and articles on education, entrepreneurship, and soul care at Doing What
Encourage the student
to use a handbook,
looking up any question
of punctuation, style, or
grammar as they write.