handwriting skills
What's the status of handwriting skills in schools? Source: Philip Dezmazes/AFP

Writing is part and parcel of every student’s learning experience. Despite that, there are some who loathe or struggle with writing assignments.

Cowering at the written word doesn’t mean they’re any less intelligent than the average student, but it’s probably a sign that they need more guidance to improve.  

Today’s students are different from yesteryears – they live in a world of memes, GIFs and emojis, which can say a lot, depending on the context, without saying much at all. Meanwhile, longer forms of communication, which involve organising one’s thoughts, figuring out how to start an essay and how to end it well, in addition to coming up with ideas, are used with less frequency.

Some find it hard to retrieve the right words to articulate their thoughts, which makes writing a challenging and frustrating task.

So what can parents do to help?

Writing for understood.org, Andrew M.I. Lee notes: “If there’s a pattern that goes on for a while, talk to your child’s teacher or paediatrician. They can be great sources of information and advice.”

This is especially useful if a child turns out to be dyslexic or has dysgraphia, which is “a specific learning disability that affects written expression”.

Parents can also work on building their writing skills at home by incorporating a lot of “practice with help and encouragement” to help children improve.

There are also free graphic organisers to help students with writing. This can be useful for those with dysgraphia, executive functioning issues, and other things that can cause trouble with writing, notes understood.org.  

Lee adds that breaking writing assignments into chunks can help. This can involve helping them to understand the type of writing involved (e.g. compare, discuss, etc.); listing the tasks needed to be completed; creating a timeline (e.g. gathering information, researching, deciding on a theme, etc.); gathering resources; among other things.

Alternatively, parents can consider trying different strategies for reluctant writers, notes Lee.

This could include pointing out daily writing they already do without realising, such as text messages or comments and posts on social media. Parents can also encourage their child to do more writing in their daily life, such as being in charge of writing the weekly groceries list or writing thank you cards.

It’s also important for parents to read what their child is writing and to discuss it with them.

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