College Prep 101:
Is Writing on Track?
By Kim Kautzer
Is writing one of those subjects you
keep starting and stopping?
If your bookshelf looks anything like mine, it holds an assortment of curricula that you’ve stopped and started using at various times
along the way. Some we couldn’t get into
for various reasons and ended up finding alternatives, but there are others we
fully intended to use—we just never got
around to them.
When my son was in high school, he
needed to study a foreign language to
meet college admissions requirements.
Time and again we’d start over and then
stop. Spanish kept sliding to the back
burner because of everything else that
vied for his time. Then one day I nearly
had a stroke when I realized Ben would
never finish the course in time for graduation. He paid for my lack of perseverance by having to spend some college
electives on foreign language.
Is writing one of those subjects you
keep starting and stopping? Does your
teen drag his feet, fail to finish assignments, or complain night and day? Or
are you the one who has trouble following through with lesson planning
or editing? Whatever the reason, it’s
important that you start afresh, make
a plan, stick to your guns, and don’t let
your student whine, wheedle, cajole, or
otherwise manipulate you into letting
Teach Key Essay Writing Skills
Prepare your child for college-level writing by providing him with the tools
necessary to conquer the blank page
and write articulate, persuasive essays.
He needs to learn about the style, form,
and structure of essay writing, including
narrowing a topic; developing a thesis;
brainstorming, organizing, and outlining; and editing and revising.
To help him develop writing and critical thinking skills, make sure he learns
to write various types of essays such as
(such as compare/contrast and cause/ef-fect), review of literature, and reflection
essays. Furthermore, he should know
how to summarize a written work, evaluate and analyze evidence, and develop his
own opinions into reasoned arguments.
He will also need to learn to write a
research paper, including making an
outline, using reference materials, gathering note cards, writing the report, and
citing sources. (I like to teach this skill in
tenth grade, requiring one paper in tenth
grade, one or two in eleventh grade, and
two or three in twelfth grade.)
Essays and research papers are often
the bane of a high schooler’s existence.
These foundational tips will set him off
on the right foot and save hours of red-penciling later on.
1. Write a clear thesis statement. The
thesis statement presents, in one or
two sentences, the central controlling
argument. It explicitly identifies the
purpose of the paper and previews its
2. Plan and organize. Essays and research papers need structure, or the
paper will fall apart. Your student must
avoid diving into writing without first
thinking the argument through and
organizing his thoughts. Instead of
trying to rope together scattered ideas,
he must herd them into formation before beginning to write.
3. Stay on track. As he writes, he must
continually support his thesis statement with facts, logic, and examples.
By staying on track and avoiding details
that don’t directly support the thesis,
he’ll produce a much stronger essay.
4. Don’t rehash ideas. It’s easy to fall
into the trap of saying the same thing
over again in different ways. Outlining the paper from beginning to end
helps avert the problem. As your student outlines the body of the paper
by listing key points and major supporting details, his paper will be more
focused and easier to write. If necessary, encourage a little more research
so that he can support his claims with
fresh facts and examples.