Common Problems in Elementary School Writing

Common Problems in Elementary School Writing

Learning to write is uniquely challenging. Writing requires the mastery and concurrent use of a complex array of language skills, from vocabulary and spelling to the ability to organize and convey ideas. Indeed, the intricacies of writing make it one of the highest forms of human expression. Is it any wonder that many elementary school students need extra support along the way to becoming writers?

Elementary Writing Hurdles
In elementary school, children are encountering the elements of writing for the first time, from the formation of letters, to organizing their ideas, to using correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Elementary school students are expected to advance from learning the rules of writing to automatically applying those rules beginning in grade four. By the end of elementary school, your child should be writing independently and producing multiple-paragraph essays that contain formal introductions, supporting evidence, and conclusions.

How to Spot Common Writing Problems
As a parent of an elementary school student, you shouldn’t be overly concerned if your child’s writing is not perfect. Writing ability improves in stages, as children build upon the skills learned in prior grades. However, you should keep an eye out for repetitious errors and habits, such as in incorrect grammar and spelling, poorly structured essays, and unsupported ideas. Frustration is also a red flag. Writing is hard work and can be a chore, but excessive complaining and procrastination may indicate a bigger problem with writing. If not addressed, eventually writing problems can lead to problems in other subjects and affect overall academic success.

Overcoming Writing Problems
If your child isn’t making progress in writing, take action early. As a first step, make time to meet with your child’s teacher. Come prepared with your concerns and observations. Does your child seem to have trouble in one aspect of writing, such as grammar or getting started, or does the problem seem to stem from a larger issue. Writing problems can be an indication of other learning problems, so consider consulting the appropriate professionals if those are your concerns. The good news is that with patience, understanding, and targeted help, writing problems can be overcome.

Does your child’s writing look like this?
The errors and awkward phrasing in their children’s essays often surprise parents of elementary school students. Usually children exhibit a stronger command of language in conversation than on paper and don’t begin to write at a level equivalent to their own speech until grades four to seven. Here are some common errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics that will help you identify the trouble spots in your child’s writing.

Problem: Proper Nouns Not Capitalized
Example: I saw dr. smith in new york.
Solution: I saw Dr. Smith in New York.

Problem: Sentence Fragments
Example: Going to the grocery store for milk.
Solution: I am going to the grocery store for milk.

Problem: Run-on Sentences
Example: I like riding my bike after dinner first I have to help with the dishes.
Solution: I like riding my bike after dinner, but first I have to help with the dishes.

Problem: Lack of Subject-Verb Agreement
Example: He run every day.
Solution: He runs every day.

Problem: Incorrect Noun Plurals
Example: The berrys are ripe.
Solution: The berries are ripe.

Problem: Incorrect Plural and Possessive Nouns
Example: My parent’s wedding photo is beautiful.
Solution: My parents’ wedding photo is beautiful.

Problem: Wrong End Punctuation
Example: What are you doing.
Solution: What are you doing?

Problem: Not Forming Compound Sentences
Example: Tom likes baseball his friend likes hockey.
Solution: Tom likes baseball, but his friend likes hockey.

Problem: Lack of Commas in a Series
Example: Our flag’s colors are red white and blue.
Solution: Our flag’s colors are red, white, and blue.

How Parents Can Help
There are many ways you can help your children enjoy and improve their writing.

  • Give positive feedback. When reviewing your child’s essays, give positive feedback along with talking about what needs improvement. Engage your child in the revision process by discussing the mechanics of writing without disapproval of their ideas. Students should understand that writing is a process and all writers revise their work. Remember, children need encouragement as much as correction. Also, speak in private to avoid possible embarrassment.
  • Incorporate writing into family activities. There are lots of ways to bring writing into daily family life. Ask your children to help you make lists and record messages. Have your children write poems or skits for family events, or movie reviews to share at the dinner table. Journals and pen pals are also great writing outlets. Encourage your children to write about what interests them—even if it’s just a paragraph.
  • Don’t rush writing. Make sure your child has a quiet place to write and help them gauge how long it will take to complete a writing assignment. Writing usually takes longer than we think. If the assignment is rushed, students may feel they can’t write, when they really just needed more time to revise.
  • Get extra help. Recognize when extra help is needed, either from the school or outside professionals. Often children respond well to having a personal writing tutor. Ask if your school has after school programs that target writing. Most importantly, don’t ignore writing problems—working with teachers and utilizing available resources can make a big difference.

Time4Writing Tackles Elementary Writing Problems
Time4Writing currently offers three writing courses designed especially for elementary school students.
Our online writing courses provide highly effective writing instruction and skills reinforcement. Elementary school students work one-on-one with an experienced, certified teacher with the goal of mastering the fundamentals of writing, step-by-step.

  • In the Grammar Rocks course, students are introduced to the parts of speech, correct punctuation and capitalization, and proofreading strategies.
  • The Sensational Sentences course tutors students in writing complete sentences, while teaching about types of sentences and key concepts such as subject-verb agreement.
  • Perfect Paragraphs teaches students to how to write different types of paragraphs, including narrative, expository, descriptive, and persuasive.
  • An Excellent Essays course is under development. Courses can be taken individually or in succession to build skills from the ground up.

With over 1,000 students served, Time4Writing has ample proof that writing problems can be overcome. One parent of a Time4Writing elementary school student wrote, “My son is happily writing for the first time ever. He really enjoys the feedback and finally believes that he is a good writer. Thanks to Time4Writing for unlocking his potential.”