Monday, August 3, 2009

Writing Instruction: Where's the Answer Key?

How do you teach what you've forgotten? As a homeschool mom, I've spent many evenings reviewing what I intend to teach my children the following day! In several cases, our curriculum has introduced me to a concept for the first time, and I've learned right along with my children.

If I'm unfamiliar with a topic, I can still correct the kids' work, thanks to a teacher's manual and answer key. Even when I think I know the answer, it's reassuring to be able to look it up, just in case.

Evaluating a child's writing assignment is a little more challenging. If you aren't confident in your own writing ability, it's very difficult to give appropriate feedback to your budding writer. Quality feedback is essential to developing a student's writing skills.

Parents who are writers themselves question their assessment of their own child's writing. It's such a subjective evaluation, and we suspect our ability to judge is clouded by our relationship with our child. Oh, for a second, more objective, opinion!

Three of my kids have used an online writing program called Time4Writing. Time4Writing's teachers provide almost daily, personalized feedback. After reading two comments, my kids were hooked! The first thing they wanted to do each morning was check to see what their teacher had to say about their writing.

The feedback is very encouraging. Correction is offered in a positive way and improvement is congratulated. The specific comments make it apparent that the message was written directly to the student by a real person. Students who have questions can communicate directly with the teacher via an integrated messaging system.

Unlike most online classes featuring live instructors, students can begin as soon as they sign up. Considering the level of service we received, I was very pleased with the $99 price tag. I would expect to pay much more for such personalized tutoring.

Time4Writing has many writing courses to choose from, beginning with young third graders and continuing through high school. There are writing classes designed to acquaint younger students with basic sentence structure and courses to help older students prepare for standardized tests. With classes for all ages, our family considers Time4Writing an essential part of our curriculum.

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