How to Improve Writing Skills for Sixth Graders

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Sixth-grade students are expected to write personal narratives, responses to literature, informational and procedural texts, persuasive essays and stories about real or fictional events. To improve writing skills for sixth-graders, teach them the five-step writing process, organizational skills for different writing purposes and reinforce good writing conventions.

Five-Step Writing Process

  • Have students plan their writing by brainstorming, free-writing and doing preliminary research. Use graphic organizers for brainstorming. Free-writing allows the student to write down everything he can about a topic without worrying about grammar, style, structure or anything that would hinder the free-flow of thoughts. Preliminary research helps students confirm they will be able to find enough information about a topic before investing time in the writing process. Students should complete the planning stage by creating an outline for their paper.

  • Have students organize their initial writing into a first draft. Students should follow their outlines and refer to their planning materials to create a first draft that has complete sentences and paragraphs.

  • Have students read their own writing aloud and note changes that would improve the quality of the writing. Have students read each others' work and make suggestions for edits and revisions. Use proofreading marks and have students express the reasoning behind their suggestions. This step should be repeated as often as necessary before advancing to the publishing stage.

  • Teach students to take the information provided during the editing and revising stage to create a final draft. Once the final draft is complete the student can then publish the work in the required format.

Purpose for Writing

  • Teach students to include both a sequence of events and thoughts and feelings about the events in a personal narrative. Teach students to map out the plot of their narrative by writing each event on the front of an index card and their thoughts or feelings about the event on the back of an index card. Then have students put the index cards in sequential order. Students should use the information on the back of the index card to enhance their narrative.

  • Write a thesis statement and include supporting evidence when writing a response to literature. Teach students to draw conclusions about what they have read and then find evidence in the text to support their conclusions. Teach students to connect the evidence to the thesis statement in separate paragraphs in the essay. Then have students write an introduction paragraph that contains the thesis statement, three paragraphs to cover the supporting evidence and a final paragraph to conclude the argument and restate the thesis.

  • Have students organize their information into fact or opinion when writing persuasive texts, as a good persuasive essay includes both. Teach students to use facts to support their opinions in persuasive essays. Suggest students consider their audience and what kind of arguments would be most convincing to their readers.

Word Choice, Sentence Variety and Writing Conventions

  • Teach students to improve their word choice during the editing and revising stage. Teach students the difference between weak words and strong words. For example, "very" is a weak word where as "extremely" is a strong word. Teach students to look for weak words in their writing and to replace these with words that are more descriptive and help paint a picture in the reader's mind, or elicit an emotion from the reader.

  • Teach students how to vary sentences to improve flow and readability. While students are reading their work aloud, have them listen to the rhythm of the writing. Writing that includes mostly short, simple sentences flows less smoothly than writing that includes a combination of sentence types and lengths. Teach students to combine simple and complex sentences and sentences of different lengths to make the writing sound more interesting.

  • Reteach mechanics as needed. Provide mini-lessons on grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization and the parts of a sentence or paragraph throughout the writing process.

References

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