After a student is reading well (and sometimes even before if things are not quite taught in order), he will start learning to write. Remember this is not penmanship. Penmanship is penning words. Writing is putting words together to form sentences. Sentences are then put together to form paragraphs. And paragraphs are put together to design essays, reports, and stories.
A student can learn to write sentences either by writing them himself or by dictating to you and having you pen the sentences for him. Either way, here are some “sentence writing tips”:
  1. The CAVES acronym shows that a sentence must contain five parts: Capital; All makes sense; Verb; End mark; Subject. You can use this with your child as he writes sentences to evaluate if he truly has written sentences or just a group of words. (If he doesn’t fully understand the subject-verb part, ask him if his sentence has someone or something that it is about. And that someone or something doing or being something (verb). He doesn’t even have to know the terminology to see if the subject or verb is missing from a sentence.
  2. The other two “easily visible” part of CAVES—capital and end mark—can be spotted quickly by your student as you ask him for each one.
  3. The last one, All makes sense, is best discovered orally (both now and in writing for years to come). This is because what a person thinks he wrote (and reads silently) is not always what he truly wrote. Thus, if he reads something silently, he will often read in his head what he meant to write, not what he actually wrote. If he reads it aloud, he will “hear” it. (Incidentally, we use this “hear” your errors approach in our writing books for high schoolers as well—not just for individual sentence writing.)
  4. If he is learning to write sentences and feels at a loss as to what to write, point out the speaking-writing connection to him by dialoguing:
Student: I can’t think of anything to write.
Teacher/Parent: What did you do today?
Student: school
Teacher/Parent: Say it in a complete sentence with “I” as the subject.
Student: I went to school.
Write this down for him, showing him once again that the written word is simply the spoke word written down.
More homework help for early writing tomorrow. Happy learning!

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