“Hey Mom, how do I write an essay?”

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Our founder and executive director, Carole Richards, has been working in the education field for over 30 years.  A former teacher, she wrote the award-winning Richards Learning Systems ®, which is the reading program used by North Coast Education Services.  She has received multiple awards and is a guest speaker on radio and TV.  In addition, her articles are often published in newspapers and magazines.

Here is one of Carole’s articles, which was published last week in the Chagrin Valley Times on January 8, 2015:




“Hey Mom, how do I write an essay?”

By Carole Richards


Of course, we expect the public schools to teach our children how to write … and spell, and use good grammar, and form a paragraph.  But is it happening?


Yes, in some schools, but not in all schools.  Writing has become a dreaded subject at the dinner table, in class rooms, and in the locker room.  What do the kids do now?


First, we need to find out what they already know.  How is their grammar?  Can they write a sentence that is grammatically correct?    Do they know how to create complex sentences with interesting word choices?  How about spelling, can they write a paragraph without any spelling errors?  Do they know how to us Spell Check?  Use a dictionary?  Can they create an outline about a subject?  Do they know how to pick a subject to write about?


Well, here’s an obvious observation.  If your children are in 10th, 11th or 12th grade and they really don’t know how to write a paper from scratch, they (and you) are in trouble.  It’s not possible in one night (assuming the paper is due in 24 hours — “advance notice” to teens) to show and explain how to write a good paper.  So what’s a parent to do?


We suggest you start by talking to your child’s English teacher.  Actually, I would see the teacher BEFORE the emergency arises.  Ask some direct questions about selecting a topic, structuring an outline, making the outline into an interesting piece of writing, and learning and practicing the skills.  Ask the teacher how many papers your child will write this semester and this school year.  Will the class learn how to use research, footnotes, and a bibliography?  Will the teacher provide your child with insights on how to improve their writing?  How much writing will be done in class?  How much writing will be assigned for homework where the child will have more time to organize, think, and write effectively?


Find out if there will be opportunities for your student to edit essays, and how often.  This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of developing good writing skills.  All good writers do not just write their ideas once and consider their work finished.  Good writers conceptualize their ideas, create an outline, and then write their essay, story, article or research paper.  Then they edit their work: read and rewrite their ideas several times if not more.  This allows them to find spelling errors, improve word choice, spelling and organization.


Know that many colleges ask for an essay, as do some of the college entrance tests.   Once in college, your student will be expected to write essays and term papers.  Often there are several assigned per class.  Imagine how overwhelming it would be if your student has limited experience in writing essays and term papers before college.  While some people have a special talent for writing, all good writers become good writers with … practice and experience.


Even if your child is in college prep, honors, or even AP English, do not assume your child will leave high school equipped with all the necessary writing tools for college and life.  Find out now before it is too late.


We get calls on regular basis from parents facing the “essay problem.”  If you are still concerned, we can help, and you know who to call.


Carole can be reached at CaroleR@northcoasted.com.




Photo Copyright. [stock_kid-writing]. Retrieved January 13, 2015 from www.komonews.com.

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Dave Hoffman