Topic | Writing before high school

Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)
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  • Rebekah

    My daughter is 13 yo and in 8th grade.  Writing has always been something we’ve struggled with.  We have tried many programs (Wordsmith, Writing with Skill, and IEW, to name a few.)  I also use Spelling Wisdom and have her do written narrations on what she is currently reading.  She has a nice style to her writing, but I question the depth of comprehension in her writing.  It has been quite difficult to stick with a program.  We start out strong and then hit a brick wall.  She becomes overwhelmed quickly when learning something new that she doesn’t completely grasp.  At that point, she wants to shut down and stop all together.  It’s highly possible that I have given up on programs too quickly.  I just am not sure what to do when she hits that brick wall and nothing seems to be working.  I guess I get overwhelmed too : )

    I said all that not to bore you, but to give you a detailed background.  I would love to keep going with just written narrations and spelling wisdom, but feel a lack of confidence in giving her “mini-lessons” to help get to the next level or focus on a certain skill.

    I wish I have some examples of what good writing looks like before they get to high school or even just examples of topics to focus on and what to wait for until high school.  I just don’t know exactly what will be expected of her for high school.    I can’t tell you exactly what I will be using for high school…I haven’t decided yet.

    Any help would be appreciated.  If you need clarification on anything, please ask ; )



    Hi Rebekah! 🙂

    If I were in your shoes, I would have my daughter simply write lots of narrations until she can hammer out a page-length one in about 30 minutes or so. Once she has reached this milestone, she is ready for a writing program. It may take up to a year and that’s okay. The first thing she needs to learn is how to order her thoughts and get them on to paper in an orderly fashion. These narrations become essayish in nature when there is an opening paragraph, a body, a closing paragraph and they are about a page in length. Short biographies like the ones found in the Famous Men series work very well for this purpose.

    This is what I did with my daughter and it made a world of difference! We started this in 7th grade and she was an ace at page-length essayish narrations by 8th. Then we did a quick run through of a short essay program and then went back to mostly written narrations. She is in 9th grade now and we will be starting The Power In Your Hands in a few weeks. I like that it covers every style of writing she will need to be prepared for college. I plan on scheduling it out over all of her high school years, only using it twice a week or so.


    Well, she can actually write 1 1/2 page narrations from her readings.  So according to what you said, that would be appropriate.  She is also able to write events in order quite well.  However, it only takes her about 10 minutes to do this.  That might be why I am not getting the “depth” I think might be necessary for high school.  Should I just let her continue in this expecting her to develop at her own pace or should I be giving her more instruction on how to dig deeper.  Maybe I’m just expecting to much ; )

    Thanks for the reply!!


    Do you ask for different types of narration, or “what do you remember” narrations. My oldest is still young (5th grade and doing 1-2 written narrations/week), but if I ask her for a different type of narration, ask a different question, it changes how she writes amd adds different details. I asked her to write it as though writting a letter to her grandma and another day same book asked her to write it as a newspaper column. They both varried in details from the fall back of “what do you remember”.

    Karen Smith

    This list of what types of narrations to ask for in each grade level may be helpful to you.

    Grades 1–3: Narrative, asking the student to retell the plot in chronological order.

    Grades 4–6: (Narrative and) Expository, asking the student to give a clear and accurate explanation of how something works.

    Grades 7–9: (Narrative, Expository, and) Descriptive, asking the student to describe something, usually progressing from large scope to smaller details.

    Grades 10–12: (Narrative, Expository, Descriptive, and) Persuasive, asking the student to state his opinion and give supporting points in a logical manner.

    You may also find our article series on narration helpful. The article entitled “Raising the Bar” has the above chart and examples of narration questions for each type of narration.


    Is her writing well-organized, with each paragraph being its own topic with topic sentence (generally speaking)? If yes, it sounds like she is right on track, and I agree with Melanie32, that I would just have her continue writing narrations. I’m not sure if you are doing this, but you can “focus” them, or give her a topic to write about, instead of just retelling what she’s read. Like, ask her to compare two people, or give her opinion on a decision a character made, etc.

    Beyond that, I will tell you that with my 9th grade son, his writing isn’t “deep” or mature, because he isn’t deep or mature… yet. Sometimes I think he should be writing more academically, but he just lacks the maturity right now. You can only write about what you know, and what you think, and if you think immaturely, as 8th-9th graders are apt to, then they will write that way. If I give him a topic that he doesn’t think much about, he just can’t write about it. Earlier this year I wanted him to write about a question from Notgrass history, which was something like, “If you don’t believe in a Creator, how will that affect the way you live your life?” And he had just NEVER thought about that before, so he was at a total loss. We had a conversation about it, and he wrote about something else. But my point is, try not to expect more maturity or depth in her writing than where she is in life right now.

    Don’t worry, we have four years of high school to get them where we think they should be. 🙂


    I can’t imagine an 8th grader being able to turn out a quality page and a half paper in 10 minutes so that might be why you are feeling that her writing is lacking something. It sounds like she needs to learn how to slow down and think through things a bit more. You might try assigning her a certain amount of time for writing instead of giving her an assignment.

    On the other hand, I might just be pleased that she is turning out lots of orderly writing and give her time to mature in this area. My daughter’s writing has matured significantly since she was 13. Being able to get her thoughts down in an orderly manner in a reasonable amount of time is a great skill to have at 13. It will serve her well for the rest of her life.

    When my daughter is done with her compositions, I have her edit her paper first and then I edit it with her. While I do this, I am able to point out sentences that might need better wording. I don’t tell her how to rewrite them. I have her figure out a better way on her own. Having your daughter read her narration aloud to herself will really help her to correct any errors as well.



    Thanks so much ladies for the wonderful feedback and encouragement.  You’ve given me much to think about and implement!

Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)
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