Writing Tutoring Services

You may be considering writing tutoring for your child for a variety of reasons, but it’s almost always because students are struggling to complete writing assignments.

Does your child resist writing?

…wait until the last minute?

…doodle through English class and end up with a blank page?

…turn in the bare minimum?

Do you notice that your child can explain anything verbally but that their writing doesn’t show the same depth?

Teachers, parents, and future employers all agree that writing is extremely important. But teaching good writing is not as simple. Schools often assign writing. Far fewer schools teach writing in a way that helps students develop the skills they need in high school, college and beyond.

I work with many students who have “nothing to write about.” When they look at a teacher’s question like, “What are the most important causes of…” or “Which character trait did Juliet show when…” and feel totally blank. Others write something but can’t stretch it beyond a sentence or two because they feel like they have said everything. Parents might spend a lot of time helping with writing homework, or may feel frustrated themselves!

One beautiful thing about online writing tutoring, which makes it different from the classroom, is that we work at the student’s pace. And we work with the student’s interests. Passionate about animals? Great! Curious about the tallest buildings in the world? Let’s do research! Reading classic literature and need to practice writing with quotes? We can do that!

Strengthen spelling skills first

Poor spelling can be a barrier to writing. Some students avoid using long words if they are not sure how to spell them. Using simple words limits their writing vocabulary and sometimes makes it difficult to write clearly.

Sometimes, reading skills develop ahead of spelling skills. So a student might have no trouble reading the same things as the rest of their class, but when they write, their spelling reveals missing sounds, confusion about letter patterns, and sometimes general messiness in their writing. These students may have dyslexia or dysgraphia, or they might just not have gotten enough instruction yet.

Even if students are doing well on weekly spelling tests, they might not carry that skill into their writing. They may memorize the week’s spelling words, but without constant practice and review, the memory fades. Students need to understand how sounds are spelled in English. They also need to know some rules for spelling, like when we double letters, or how we show that a vowel sound is long. Until they are taught these rules, students are trying to use pure memory to remember how to spell. Orton-Gillingham tutors systematically address spelling as well as reading.

It starts with good sentences

From the beginning of school, children use writing (with pictures, at first) to answer questions, show what they know, and process their learning. Writing is an important tool for learning and processing new information. And good sentences are the building blocks of good writing. Through writing tutoring, I help students learn to write better sentences using guided practice and evidence-based practices like sentence combining. Students learn to write about what they have learned. And they practice linking ideas using conjunctions or punctuation. And that, in turn, helps them refine their thinking! Good writers are good thinkers, and good thinkers can become good writers, with the write instruction.

Paragraph writing using SRSD: Self-Regulated Strategy Development for writing

I demystify the process of planning and writing each paragraph so students can focus on the ideas they are sharing. Students learn repeatable structures and routines for brainstorming, adding details, revising, and editing.

One of my favorite tools for teaching writing is Self-Regulated Strategy Development. SRSD is a research-based approach to teaching writing composition. Orton-Gillingham tutoring provides structured and explicit reading instruction. SRSD provides similar structure and explicit teaching for writing. Rather than relying on graphic organizers to structure their thinking, students learn to analyze a writing task and choose the right structure.

The “self-regulated” part of SRSD means that students learn to guide themselves through an assignment using steps they have practiced, so it helps them to be more independent and flexible when facing a new writing assignment.

After learning a few basic structures for different types of paragraphs, students learn to choose the tool that fits their purpose. Once students feel sure of their plan, they are free to think deeply and creatively about their writing. Students know what they are looking for, and practice close reading strategies to find evidence.

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