5 tips your teen can use to INSTANTLY improve their writing...
so they confidently achieve higher grades in any written task!
Writing Tip #1
What’s one of the biggest supposedly ‘productive’, buuuut biggest time-waster activities in essays, assignments and report-writing?....
*Sits back to hear the guesses rolling in*
OK, I’m just gonna tell you ;)
AKA spending hours Googling for info.
Oh. My. Word(s).
Where do I start with this?
Here are just some of the mistakes I see students make when they go about their Googling:
>> Literally typing the whole title or question into Google
Essay title example:
Googling "How successful was the New Deal in getting the USA out of the Great Depression?"
Problem: Funnily enough, Google isn’t going to hand over a ready-made essay wrapped in a bow that addresses this exact topic and focus ;)
(Look out for my mega-tip on ‘Topic and Focus’ in Tip #2!)
More likely, it’ll give a mish-mash of bits of info that happen to have matched *some* words in that search (probably the most common ones like ‘Great New Deal’… putting some super-sale for a furniture store at the top of the search results!)
>> Other end of the scale:
Typing in one general key word into Google
Example from the essay title above.
Problem: You can imagine how useful (not) those gazillion Google results are going to be.
(Cue: scrolling through mental health info and weather systems).
Not to mention that literally HOURS are wasted:
- Getting distracted by info that’s RELATED to the TOPIC, so feels ‘effective’ but really isn’t.
- Having to sift through a ton of results that relate to the 'topic', but not the subject and certainly not the 'focus'.
- Going off on tangents that links within reports or websites take us to.
- Having to determine whether it’s a valid source and should be included.
- Getting distracted by anything and everything else online along the way (hello funny cat videos...
yep, we’ve all been there ;) ).
But… easy to state the pitfalls, right?
What about the solutions?
Well, for a start I’m gifting you my Top 6 Google Search tips so your teen can:
‘Quickly get useful search results and the info they actually want!’
This resource is from a seminar I did on this topic with my Grade Transformation Zone members but you can CLICK HERE to download it instantly.
The biggest time-wasting step in an assignment
(and how to turn it around to be productive and efficient!)
Better internet search skills means that your teen will be able to:
- Quickly and easily find relevant and useful info
- Include reputable sources that add sophistication and quality to their project (no more Wikipedia or Yahoo Answers) ;)
- Get to the specific detail and evidence without searching around for hours
- Get this part of their planning done smoothly and efficiently, so they have more time for everything else (in their study and in the more fun parts of life!).
Scroll down to Tip #2 to discover exactly WHAT your teen should be Google-searching *FOR*.
Writing Tip #2
I’ve done a LOT of work with students around getting their writing clear, concise and focused in tackling reports, projects, essays and assignments.
And it never ceases to dishearten me
when I see so many who:
- are unclear on what they are ACTUALLY writing, and so lack structure or clarity
- end up having to go back and change a significant amount of their hard work and hours of effort once they’ve had feedback from their teacher (or me!).
This is what I find SO many students struggle with.
And so it’s what I LOVE to help students get sorted – once and for all.
And I wanna help your teen do it too.
Enter… Writing Tip #2:
>>> How to break down an essay title so they know exactly what to focus on
Let’s start with the example from yesterday – a real, bona-fide Y11 Modern History essay title:
"How successful was the New Deal in getting the USA out of the Great Depression?"
Here’s what happens most of the time:
Students laser in on the topic – which in this example is the ‘New Deal’ initiative.
I’ve seen students fall into ‘Topic Traps’ where they see a topic and simply write aaaaaall about that.
The double-whammy potential trap here is also identifying the incorrect topic.
Under pressure, they see ‘the Great Depression’, and go on to recount all their hard-learned info and knowledge about that event.
All of this equals wasted time, effort and writing (or typing) because both these scenarios will gain VERY few marks or little credit on the marking criteria.
Because what every task or essay title really demands is a response to the FOCUS.
And in this example it is these words:
>>> How successful <<<
Meaning – *to what extent* was that initiative successful in getting the USA out of the Great Depression?
In other words…. Did it work!!?!?
This means they need to be operating at the ‘evaluation’ level of commands – a LOT higher than purely describing what the New Deal was.
In fact, ALL of their research and writing needs to be on:
EVIDENCE / CASE STUDIES:
1) Ways it was successful (good things about the New Deal) and
2) Ways it wasn’t successful (bad things about it).
Then round up with a:
Overall judgement – it was a success or it wasn’t OR a bit of both. What was the OVERALL EFFECT? (e.g. consider a combination of short and long term impacts).
And why is this so important?
Because identifying the FOCUS rather than just the ‘topic’ is *the* vehicle to lift an essay response from being a ‘descriptive’ series of facts and info (heading for a D grade, no matter how much correct info, stats and facts are in there!)
to being an ‘analytical’ and ‘evaluative’ response that shows a deep and full understanding of the topic.
Those are the levels of responses that get the A grades.
Now, I know not everyone is going for the A grade.
But NO-one wants to limit themselves to a D grade, right?!
So by opening up access to these higher grades, your teen is giving themselves the opportunity to land a B or C grade, or higher!
If you reckon this is something that could've been holding your teen back, then you'll want to check out the 'Write Like an A-Grader' training for your teen, especially right now, while I have a very special launch offer running!
Identifying the Topic and Focus
Quick recap – Write Like an A-Grader Tip #2 – Students need to identify the real FOCUS of any essay title to go beyond just the 'topic'.
And by the way... If the topic itself is proving sticky - then you'll be extra-pleased to know that 'Generating and Selecting an A-grade Idea' for open-ended tasks is Module 1 in the 'Write Like an A-Grader' training!
(Because: choice of topic = another mine-field!)
Writing Tip #3
Which is better out of the 2 responses to this Q:
"Discuss how the design and placement of the advertisement are effective in advertising the storage service."
The bright orange background colour stands out against the white slogan and is very eye-catching. Another design feature is the drawing in the bottom left which represents a customer using the storage locker. This is effective as it shows the public the service provided by the mini-storage company. The high position at the top of the building and the sign’s location in a residential area means that lots of people will be able to easily see the ad.
The bright orange background contrasts with the white slogan making the design eye-catching and therefore attracting attention. The drawing in the bottom left portraying a customer using the storage locker is effective as it is visually demonstrating the service provided by the company. The elevated position at the top of the building in conjunction with the sign’s location in a residential area allows for maximum exposure to potential customers.
They both convey exactly the same points and level of analysis, but Response B just sounds more sophisticated, right?
It’s a higher quality of written communication (or QWC as some exam boards like to call it)
Why does this matter?
(Official) Reason #1
QWC is sometimes a marking criterion or grading consideration in its own right, even in non-English based subjects. I’ve certainly seen it as a specific marking point in Geography coursework I’ve moderated for an exam board and in school-based assessments.
(Unofficial) Reason #2
When we, as a teacher or examiner, are ‘on the fence’ in deciding which grade or mark a response gets, which way do you think we’d fall for Responses A and B? Most likely we’re going to lean to the higher end for Response B, right? Because they just come across as a higher-grade kinda student!
I KNOW this doesn’t sound super-professional, but it's life.
Us teachers and markers are all human! (Really).
So, like it or not, overall impressions count.
But most students get all that.
The REAL issue is them having clear steps and methods of knowing how to actually DO it!
Here’s where these 3 simple tactics come in, that your teen can use to INSTANTLY ‘up’ the quality of their sentences!...
>> Use a Variety of Sentence Lengths
Use SHORT sentences for impact or suspense.
Use LONGER sentences to 'paint a picture' and give detailed explanations.
>> Join or separate sentences to create a variety of sentence structures
- Simple Sentences – for facts and stats or summary statements
- Compound Sentences – for more detailed info and descriptions
- Complex Sentences – for explanations, causes and effects
- Complex, Compound Sentences – for detailed analyses
- Extended Sentences – to guide a reader into a ‘scene’ or a situation.
>> Use The Power Of Three
- In slogans or sub-headings
- For powerful speeches
- For detailed descriptions
Check out the free resource I’ve created for specific examples and more detailed explanations!
Of course there’s more to this than just these 3 quick tips, but they are certainly a great starting point.
If you'd love your teen to be handed aaaaall the tools, tricks and strategies for ultimate (and sustainable!) writing success click the button below :)
3 Ways to Instantly 'Up' Sentence Quality
Having specific tactics and techniques to write with ease and grace, without having to figure out the wording of a sentence for themselves is one the favourite things my 'Write Like an A-Grader' students report back on.
When students have a set of go-to strategies for making their writing more interesting and sophisticated, then they can give clear, succinct, confident responses with maximum efficiency (achieving more in the marking criteria and making a stronger impression along the way!).
This builds on the foundations laid down in Module 4,
that explain and give the steps to achieve the 3 E’s of making a strong impact on the reader (most likely their teacher or external examiner!)
to establish themselves as a strong student… and gain the best possible results for their work.
I've come to realise, through over a decade in teaching, that I have a skill in being able to take something that feels wishy-washy or vague and
(for those who are, like me, NOT great with vague!)
nail it down to clear and concrete steps, techniques and strategies,
so that students are not relying on throwing their info and responses at the wall and hoping something sticks.
Because there definitely is a science behind writing with confidence and flair.
And we can learn and hone the ‘artistic flair’ elements when we know what they are, and when and how to use them.
In the full online WLAAG training, each of the nine modules are under 10 minutes long, so there’s no fluff or padding and every strategy, tip and technique comes with explanations, examples and summaries, plus accompanying PDF resources for instant action and easy reference.
I’ve kept things short and sweet (using the N-E-T system of ‘No Extra Time’ needed!) so they can grab snippets any time they need or just have a spare moment or two.
(Or of course they can geek out and Netflix binge, taking in one after the other during these summer hols!)
And if you’d love your teen to get all the steps and strategies that'll move them from confusion to clarity and waffle to ‘word-wizardy’,
as well as tick sheets, checklists, steps and other resource sheets to help them every step of the way,
then here’s your chance:
Writing Tip #4
Fact: I am not a natural writer. In any way, shape or form!
I’m not particularly imaginative,
so creative writing doesn’t come naturally and I (still, even as a real bona-fide adult!)
feel kinda ‘fake’ when it comes to writing formally.
(Which is why I write like I talk… and is why these 'tips' have ended up so flippin’ long!) :)
But here’s what I do know and like (ok, LOVE and geek-out on)…
The fact that these 'creative' things can still be done well by following proven steps and engaging specific tools and techniques at specific times.
Your teen can do this for their writing.
In fact they NEED to do this when they're required to complete all different types of tasks, in all different genres and for all different purposes.
- A speech
needs to be written differently to
- an analytical essay,
which needs to be written differently to
- a scientific report,
which definitely needs to be written differently to
- a short story.
That’s a lot of demands on writing styles and formats!
But I’m here today to tell you it is toooootttttally possible to meet all those demands (without having to be a word-wizard or naturally gifted in the creativity department!).
It’s simply about using quick and simple tactics for adapting their writing style to suit formal or more creative and informal genres.
Use contractions (and casual asides like this) when you’re writing informally (like a diary entry, blog or for speech in a narrative),
so that you do not sound like a robot (see?) ;)
Instead use full words, no contractions, and plenty of technical vocabulary for a scientific report or analytical essay, to make everything a lot more formal.
If your teen's like me in wanting clear guidelines and techniques with a tool-box of tips to help them craft their writing (rather than rely on naturally born – or not, in my case! – writing talent and creativity) knowing this will catapult their performance and confidence AND cut down on the confusion or multiple re-writes,
then they need to dive right into Module 5 in my Write Like an A-Grader training.
I list out a ton of specific tactics they can use to quickly and easily match their writing to the task, with examples of the types of tasks that would fall into each category.
When to write like a robot (and when to definitely not!)
Writing Tip #5
The all-important finishing touches
Okay, so the essay / report / assignment / answer is written (woohoo!).
Time to celebrate with a bout of Netflix?!!
Ahhh, nope :(
This is where the criteria-capturing, grade-grabbing party really gets started!
Think the grand finale of fireworks at a New Year extravaganza.
When 27 rockets all explode at the same time, with the wiz-bang glittery-star-y ones fizzing up from the ground to meet them.
Yep, now you’re with me ;)
Proofreading and polishing is where the icing on the cake is piped beeee-ootifully and cherries are carefully placed on top to create a true masterpiece.
It's an ESSENTIAL part of the writing process.
There are 3 overarching stages your teen needs to complete,
(either themselves, or, after having tidied their room, done the dishes and [insert chore of choice here!], by asking you very nicely to run a fresh pair of eyes through it!) ;)
i) Editing – reviewing content and structure
ii) Polishing – specific improvements to QWC (quality of written communication) elements
iii) Check - correcting errors
Each of these stages in the grand finale is a huuuuge opportunity to grab (a LOT) more marks in (compared to the actual writing) easy ways.
And in my ‘Write Like an A-Grader’ training I break down ALL of the essential 7 steps to ‘Proofreading Like a Pro’.
So they have a clear checklist and process to stick to.
So they hand in the best possible version of their work.
So they don’t miss out on any ‘easy’ marks they shoulda, coulda, woulda got.
In fact I’ve dedicated the whole of Module 9 to this crucial element of writing to WOW the marker.
So that your teen never:
- Gives a weak or careless impression of themselves to the marker by missing minor mistakes that can so easily creep in, even in the smartest students
- Misses opportunities (big and small) to show the absolute best of themselves and their true ability
- Loses marks in the ‘low hanging fruit’ that are often picked up in the 7 steps of proofreading
If this sounds good to you, then you need to enrol your teen in the brand new WLAAG training for just $197, and do it soon (like, now ;) ) because when you make it in before 9pm AET, this Monday 11th Dec , they’ll ALSO get two very special tinsel-laden bonuses!
Happy Writing! ;)
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