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How to Improve Writing Skills for High School Students

How to Improve Writing Skills for High School Students

Developing strong writing skills is essential for high school students, no matter what path they intend to take after graduation. From submitting college entrance essays to preparing research papers to communicating with colleagues, writing skills are critical to every student's future plans.

However, teaching students to write more clearly or concisely is often easier said than done. Learn how to improve writing skills and help your high school students master this important accomplishment.

Assess Students' Levels

Before you begin designing a strategy or preparing lesson plans, it's important to know how much help your students actually need. You can easily create a simple writing assessment. Think about the type of assignments you expect students to complete. Then create a relevant assessment with both multiple choice and short answers.

After reviewing the assessments, use the results to guide your approach. For example, your students may need more or less assistance with grammar, exposition, research, or other aspects.

Invite Students To Share Opinions

In many cases, students who struggle to pen complex thoughts or write longer essays can improve by sharing their opinions. To help high school students write better persuasive essays, start by asking a question that requires nothing more than an opinion to answer.

For example, you might ask students about their opinions on educational policies or the technology they use every day. Encourage them to respond to the question affirmatively or negatively and then write down about a half-dozen points to support their view.

Then guide them through turning the list into an outline, which can become the basis for their essay. Consider this assignment an in-class activity so you can ensure every student spends at least a minimum amount of time writing the essay.

Teach Students To Brainstorm

Lists can work well for some writing assignments, but they may not be optimal for every student or project. To avoid letting students feel discouraged at the very beginning of the writing process, introduce them to alternative brainstorming techniques.

For example, you might teach students:

  • Outlines, which can easily transition ideas into rough drafts and completed assignments.
  • Mind maps, which allow them to organize thoughts, connect relationships, and form more cohesive arguments.
  • Sticky notes, which add a physical element to structuring thoughts and formulating more complex papers.


Make Time for Writing Practice

Whether you're teaching creative writing or you simply want to help students expand their tool set, regular practice is important. Consider giving daily assignments, but keep them short to help students maintain focus and avoid burnout.

Giving students daily journal prompts can help them think and write creatively without requiring excessive time. Craft each prompt so it helps them hone different skills, such as using new words, experimenting with different styles, or trying out alternative methods of organizing their thoughts.

Write as a Group

Students who struggle with writing may constantly feel like they're a step behind other classmates. In turn, they may feel like they'll never catch up, which may prompt them not to try to complete their assignments or invest more time than necessary.

To help high school students become better writers, balance teaching time with group practice time. You'll effectively give students a wider variety of opportunities to master writing — including learning from their peers and practicing their skills.

To facilitate group work, give students tasks like transforming storyboards into plots or writing new endings for their favorite movies. Assign each student a role to ensure that everyone contributes, and leave them with plenty of time to discuss their thoughts, make the case for their preference, and work together to produce a successful result.

Encourage Reading

Teaching students new skills and encouraging them to practice regularly can help many high school-age writers improve dramatically. However, some students need more than lessons and assignments. Many students can benefit from reading good essays, articles, and passages — or seeing good writing in action.

In addition to your regular lesson plans and homework schedule, make time for students to read in class. Assign short passages that convey a range of writing styles, linguistic methods, and structures. By showing students what good writing can look like, you can help them identify patterns and techniques that they can apply to their own assignments.

Edit Assignments in Class

For many students, the writing process can be downright discouraging. As they write, they may have the sense that their introduction could be better or that their argument could be more persuasive. Yet if they don't have the skills to edit their work, they may never be able to improve effectively.

Start by teaching students a standard editing workflow. For example, you might encourage them to read their work aloud to check for typos, misused words, or poorly written transitions.

Then walk students through editing sample assignments in class. Go beyond the standard typos and errors and show students how to make their writing markedly better. As a class, brainstorm better ways to phrase concepts or ideas for improving key parts of the essay.

Allow Draft Submissions

Turning in a complete writing assignment in its final form can be daunting for any high school student, especially when a grade is at stake. Taking this step can be especially difficult for students who question their work or writing skills.

To help students feel more confident in their work, allow or require them to submit one or more drafts before the final due date. With this process, you get multiple opportunities to help students correct issues and improve their work.

In addition to or in lieu of drafts, consider allowing students to revise and resubmit their work for a better grade. This policy can help students improve outcomes in a quantifiable way, and it can also guide them towards becoming better and more confident writers.

Helping your students develop better writing skills doesn't have to be as difficult as you might think. Use these tips or modify them to work with your teaching style to help students understand how to improve their writing skills — and learn why this ability is so important.

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