There are two things of great importance to learning to write well that many home-school parents may not have considered. Those two things are Rubrics and Rough Drafts. No paper is written at one go. Effective papers require a minimum of three completely separate drafts, tackled with time in-between each. Each of those drafts is written against a clearly laid-out plan, called a rubric.
In my college classroom, I mark and grade all drafts according to a rubric. A rubric is a chart with 10 grading areas worth 10 percent of the grade each. Each draft has a different rubric. For each draft completed, the student receives back from me a blank rubric with scores and comments filled in.
Your teenager at home should begin writing each draft knowing what it must contain in order to do well. However, the rubric is used strictly. If something is not listed on the rubric, then it is not considered as part of the grade. For instance, spelling is not listed in any draft 2 rubric, therefore spelling is not considered in the grade. On the other hand, if the rubric calls for dialogue and your child’s paper has no dialogue, then 0 points will be awarded for that category.
One of my students, Jackie, made this comment: “I learned from Mr. Yordy’s writing class to follow the rubric. The rubric is the instructions on how to write the essay he wants to read. If you don’t follow the rubric, you will have problems! In a similar way, building a bike is harder if you don’t follow the instructions.”
Have your own writer always check his or her draft against the rubric. No matter how brilliantly well it is written, if it does not contain what the rubric calls for, it cannot receive those points. The rubric helps the writer know exactly how the paper will be marked. Follow the rubric and you will do well.
Each paper written should have at least three drafts. However, the first step is always Pre-Writing.
Pre-Writing: Since you can write well only what you already know, Pre-Writing is an effort to increase and focus your knowledge.
Draft 1: Once you have focused your knowledge, or researched to learn more, then the rule of writing the first draft is always -
Rule 2: There are no rules; just write. It is important to write freely without worrying about a grade. Draft 1 is always graded easily. Learning to write well must operate on the premise that you can’t steer a parked car. You cannot learn to write better unless you first freely write.
Draft 2: This draft is where the hard work of revision takes place. Major changes must happen. Your parents must edit and grade Draft 2 severely.
Draft 3: This draft is the final polish. Here you worry about such things as correct grammar and spelling. When grading Draft 3, your parents will lean more towards the overall impression. The grading is not as severe as Draft 2.
Through my years of teaching writing at home and in the junior high, high school, and college classrooms, I have found that using rubrics and rough drafts helps my students find a real edge on knowing how to write. “I finally get it. Writing is easy for me now,” is a comment I have often heard.