Giving kids clear writing expectations

clear writing expectations, teaching writing, WriteShop

IF you have kids, you step into the role of teacher every moment of every day. Your toddlers and teens alike look to you for guidance and approval as they navigate a complex world of social interactions, household responsibilities, and time management.

Clear expectations from you make all the difference in their learning experience. If children fail to understand what you require, the confusion quickly leads to frustration or discouragement. The realm of writing is no exception.

You might not have an antique desk and blackboard or the perfect “teacher outfit” for the first day of school. But when it comes to teaching writing, I’m confident you’ll be the poised and prepared Writing Teacher of the Year if you avoid two common pitfalls!

Pitfall #1: Giving an “A” for Effort

In the writing department, this parent requires little of her kids. She may only ask for 15 minutes of freewriting each week or give a purposeless assignment here and there, yet she rewards any student who fulfills her arbitrary requirements. Liberally bestowing checkmarks, smiley faces, and passing grades, she lets her children’s grammar and spelling mistakes continue and multiply.

The problem with this mom is not her fun-loving or soft-hearted spirit, but her non-existent expectations. This haphazard teaching style not only creates a stumbling block for overwhelmed students, but it quenches their confidence as well.

Pitfall #2: Giving an “A” for Perfection

If you have a background in English, love creative writing, or consider yourself a grammar geek, you may have especially high standards for your children. This becomes a problem only when you don’t communicate these great expectations.

Guard against foisting vague standards of perfection on your kids (which sets them up for failure). Instead of burdening them with unclear ideals that can turn them off to writing, take the time to distill your expectations into well-defined, achievable goals.

The Write Solution

Giving clear expectations will help you raise better writers and reduce stress in the meantime. That’s why I’m such a fan of teaching writing skills the WriteShop way. Red-pencil corrections such as “too vague” become unnecessary when you make tasks concrete and give kids measurable targets beforehand:

  • Include emotion words to add a stronger voice.
  • Choose vivid, exciting words instead of dull, vague words.
  • Write one paragraph of five to seven sentences.

Now, instead of criticizing your children’s writing as “too vague” or “too short,” you can instruct, guide, and correct with confidence. As you and your children practice communicating specific ideas, requests, and concerns, the habit of sharing clear expectations might just overflow into the rest of your home life as well.

Interested in learning more about WriteShop curriculum choices? Read more and feel free to send us your comments and questions!

WriteShop Primary (grades K-3)

WriteShop Junior (grades 3-5)

WriteShop I and II (junior high/high school)

Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella blogs at

Photo: Steven S., courtesy of Creative Commons.
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