Our Students Need to Write More

In order to write better, write more. During the past decade, I’ve spent a fair amount of time evaluating student writing and teaching SAT prep essay workshops and online high school literature classes. I’ve had the chance to read hundreds of papers from students all over the country, and I’ve discovered one small key to success in writing: write more.

That’s a directive that easily questioned — write more what? Words? Minutes? Pages? My response is simple — YES to all of the above. Students who write often, tend to write better and more easily than students who are rarely required to pick up a pen (or turn on the computer).

It makes sense, doesn’t it? “Practice makes perfect” is an axiom that can be applied to everything from riding a bicycle to crafting the perfect pie crust or writing a coherent sentence. Even if perfection isn’t the goal, competence should be.

At several of my Beat-the-Clock Essay Workshops, I’ve encountered teens who are noticeably concerned about their ability to write. Some privately ask me to read their essays and suggest ways they can study on their own to improve. My heart goes out to these young people who realize they are facing college or career almost completely unprepared. Their skills aren’t at grade level, and they know it and feel very insecure.

What is the solution? Write more. It doesn’t matter what style of schooling you’ve chosen, or how comfortable you are with composition — just have your student write something daily. My favorite method is to follow the classic Charlotte Mason sequence of copywork, narration, dictation, and composition, because each of those activities builds skills needed for the next activity. (If you’re not familiar with this sequence, read “You Can Teach Your Child to Write,” Parts I and II on my website.)

Just having your student copy something daily will build writing skills. A few of the teens from my workshops have confided that they have never written more than a paragraph at one time before, and they are so aware that their skills are lacking. Although my workshop is a good start for many studentss, it’s not a substitute for simple, regular practice.

Here’s an easy practice tip

You can easily give your student the practice he or she needs to feel competent and confident. Consider starting a new morning routine of having your student copy a stanza from a Psalm or other poem, or a paragraph or two from a well-written book or magazine article before school begins. It would take less than 30 minutes a day, and over time, the student’s skills would be strengthened. (You can read more about how to use copywork with teens in my previous post on Copywork for Teens.

Whatever you do, please take the time to help your students gain the skills they need to become comfortable, confident writers. They’ll be able to face exams, college, and their future with peace if they know they can at least put words on paper. If your student needs a writing mentor or help with evaluating writing, check the Evaluators and Tutors page at Excellence in Literature. Until then, copywork is a good start!

You may also like How to Hold a Pen or Pencil.


  • This week, the company blog of The Old Schoolhouse magazine is holding a contest, and the prizes are a copy of each of my books- Transcripts Made Easy: The Homeschooler’s Guide to High School Paperwork and Get a Jump Start on College! A Practical Guide for Teens. If you already have my books, feel free to share the link with others!
  • March 7, 2008- A Beat-the-Clock Essay Workshop is planned near Short Pump, Virginia. If you’d like more information, or to register, please contact Patty Randall at 360-5155 (area code 804) or e-mail her at bprandall6 at verizon dot net (substituting the usual symbols for at and dot!).
  • If you’re south of the James, we are tentatively planning a Beat-the-Clock Workshop in Colonial Heights for February 18. I’ll post more information when it all comes together.
  • Two nice reviews of my books have been posted on The Old Schoolhouse website. You can read them at these links:

I always like to know when a new review comes out, so if you see one as you’re browsing the web, feel free to send me a link. Thank you!

As always, I welcome your comments!

8 Responses

  1. Kimmie says:

    Hi Janice;

    Wondering if you could help me…we need to find an editor (my 16 year old has written 2 books). Not sure where we should start and they should be ready soon for the editor (my husband is doing the last of ‘our’ editing).

    blessings to you…
    and we have adoption news too!

    mama to 6
    one homemade and 5 adopted

  2. Michele says:

    Thank you for your blog Janice. It’s more helpful than you may know.

  3. Recently Lifestyle Homeschool Blog received an E is for Excellent Blog Award and I would like to pass it onto you. As you will read on my post that I want my blog reading to inspire me to be better, to keep my focus on the main thing, to be challenged to pick up the slack. Your blog does just that. So thank you!


  4. Kimmie,
    Are you planning to self-publish, or to seek publication through traditional channels? The kind of editor you would want depends on the kind of book she’s written, and its intended audience. For example, a fiction book for middle-grade students would need a different type of editing than a non-fiction picture story.

    When the National Association of Independent Writing Evaluators (http://www.naiwe.com) launches this year, it will be easy to find exactly the right editor for your needs. For now, I’ll just e-mail you privately with a couple of suggestions.

    Congratulations to your daughter (and to you) on the completion of her books! It’s a worthwhile achievement.


  5. Belinda-

    Thank you for the E is for Excellent Blog Award! I’ll enjoy passing it on.


  6. Barbara says:

    This was great. Well said, and well needed. I found you at the Carnival and am thankful for the reminder. My girls LOVE to write, even before their spelling skills ever caught up. Didn’t Pierre Burton say one needs to “Read, read, read and write, write, write” to be a good writer? Sounds like good advice. I linked to this post.

  7. Janice,

    Your Beat the Clock Workshop sounds great! Maybe my teens can attend one sometime.


  1. January 29, 2008

    […] Campbell declares that Our Students Need to Write More posted at Janice Campbell: Taking Time For Things That […]

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