HIGH SCHOOL is a key point in a student’s education because of the importance it carries in terms of writing skills. Writing is a big part of every High School student’s life. In fact, students write more than ever before – from school research papers to essays on standardized tests to texting their friends. Yet, writing problems abound.
According to the latest US-based results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), only 24% of twelfth-graders are at or above the proficient level in writing and only 3% write at an advanced level.
While these results are disappointing, the overall effect on student achievement is a larger concern: writing problems can greatly hinder college and career success. The good news is that with hard work, patience, and targeted help, High School writing problems can be overcome.
It is crucial to develop competent writing skills for the future, but students often encounter challenges in terms of writing. In order to help them, parents need to understand these challenges and learn the best way to face them in order to help their children.
IMPROVING students’ writing skills help them succeed inside and outside the classroom. Effective writing is a vital component of students’ literacy achievement, and writing is a critical communication tool for students to convey thoughts and opinions, describe ideas and events, and analyze information. Indeed, writing is a life-long skill that plays a key role in post-secondary success across academic and vocational disciplines. So, firstly …
What is Proficient High School Writing?
By understanding High School writing proficiency standards, parents can be more effective in helping their children meet grade-level expectations. At the proficient level or above, High School students are able to plan, draft, and complete error-free essays.
High School students should know how to select the appropriate form of writing for various audiences and purposes, including narrative, expository, persuasive, descriptive, business, and literary forms. Any type of essay writing!
Students in all grades should exhibit an increasing facility with . . .
- complex sentence structures,
- more sophisticated vocabulary,
- and an evolving individual writing style.
When revising selected drafts, students are expected to improve the development of a central theme, the logical organization of content, and the creation of meaningful relationships among ideas.
In addition, students must edit their essays for the correct use of Standard English.
What Does Your Writing Look Like?
How much do you relate to these three questions:
- Do you make errors in SPaG – Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar?
- Do you have poorly constructed sentences and unsuitable word choices?
- Is there a lack of organization or supporting ideas in your essays?
These three questions are relatable. Writing at High School is a complex intellectual task involving many component skills, some of which students may lack completely, or others may have only partially mastered by the time they leave High School. The few good to excellent ones do so by harnessing various skills chief among which, are overcoming certain challenges.
These certain writing mechanics which High School students need to master before moving on to paragraphs and then essays include:
- Correctly identifying the parts of a sentence.
- Understanding complex sentences.
- Learning subject-verb agreement.
- Differentiating between plural and possessive nouns.
- Using pronouns, adjectives and adverbs in sentences.
- Identifying and spelling words that often confuse writers.
- Correctly using commas, semicolons, and other punctuation.
- Proofreading their writing for errors.
Writing has now become a huge part of every student’s life, starting with the simplest content to the most complex writing pieces. At this point, students are asked to craft different types of essays, research papers and other kinds of creative writing tasks.
The reason for this increase in variety of papers lies in the importance writing carries in students’ lives during and after their education. Writing is a skill students will need for the future, which is why it is crucial to develop it to the proper level.
22 Common Writing Mistakes & Overcoming Them
It’s not a secret that errors in Grammar and Punctuation are one of the main reasons why people lose their marks in academic papers. This is a great problem for many High School students who may use wrong words, confuse prepositions and conjunctions, miss auxiliary verb or simply are not familiar with punctuation rules.
A number of High School students need to master skills involving, among other things:
1. READING COMPREHENSION AND ANALYTICAL SKILLS
Reading comprehension is not an innate and largely fixed mental ability related to levels of intelligence, but a series of skills that have to be mastered for effective understanding and analysis to take place.
To improve your COMPREHENSIVE SKILLS you should:
- Understand the author’s thoughts
- Understand diction, mood and tone.
- Reflect on the meaning of the words and sentences.
- Read and reread.
Complicating matters is the fact that many students’ reading skills are also poor. For example, if they cannot recognize the main point of an argument in their reading, they obviously cannot respond to this point in their writing. In addition, students often lack the meta-cognitive skills (planning, monitoring, and assessing one’s understanding and performance) to recognize the areas in which their prior knowledge and skills are insufficient – and thus, which skills they need to work to improve on.
To improve your ANALYTICAL SKILLS you should . . .
- Identify a topic, problem or issue.
- Gather information.
- Play complicated brain games.
- Join a book or debate club.
- Think multiple sides to a problem.
- Read extensively.
A key element to analytical thinking is the ability to quickly identify cause and effect relationships. This means understanding what might happen during the problem-solving process, for example, and examining how new ideas relate to the original topic.
Most analytical thinking requires trial and error. Students with strong analytical thinking skills are often capable of quickly analyzing a situation, topic or problem, and often work well in a team setting to accomplish goals.
2. ERRORS IN WRITING SKILLS
There are many mistakes that students are faced with, chief among which, include:
- Writing mechanics: grammar, sentence structure, spelling.
- Planning a writing strategy.
- Communicating ideas clearly and concisely.
- Constructing a reasoned, demonstrable argument.
- Effectively marshaling evidence and using sources appropriately.
- Organizing ideas effectively.
When students lack skills in these areas, their writing may be unsatisfactory in multiple ways – from poor grammar and syntax to unclear organization to weak reasoning and arguments.
Unfortunately, the majority of students still fail to develop their writing skills even after finishing High School. The reasons for this are numerous, including insufficient word stock and writing mechanics. Even the most talented students need to learn how to understand complex sentences, differentiate between different nouns, use proper punctuation and proofread their writing for errors.
3. SENTENCE FRAGMENTS
A sentence fragment is a sentence that’s missing a subject (the thing doing the action) or a verb (the action). Watch out for this in your writing!
- Example: Going to the football game this afternoon.
- Solution: I am going to the football game this afternoon.
4. OMITTING THE ARTICLE
Many languages do not use articles (a, an, the), so, some students tend to miss them in their writing. Articles (a, an, the) are determiners or noun markers that function to specify if the noun is general or specific in its reference.
- The articles a and an are indefinite articles. They are used with a singular countable noun when the noun referred to is nonspecific or generic.
- The article the is a definite article. It is used to show specific reference and can be used with both singular and plural nouns and with both countable and uncountable nouns.
5. RUN-ON SENTENCES
A coordinating conjunction connects two clauses that could be sentences on their own.
You can use the acronym FANBOYS to remember the most common coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. Unless the clauses are very short and closely related, you need a comma before the conjunction. If you forget to put a comma before the conjunction, it becomes a run-on sentence. What is wrong with these sentences?
- My dog barks at the mailman but she’s too lazy to chase him.
- I enjoy going to the movies first I have to finish my homework.
Solution: Check to see if the clauses before and after the conjunction could be sentences on their own. If so, insert a comma before the conjunction. Now, notice where the comma has been placed:
- My dog barks at the mailman, but she’s too lazy to chase him.
- I enjoy going to the movies, but first, I have to finish my homework.
6. LACK OF SUBJECT-VERB AGREEMENT
Singular subjects take singular verbs and plural subjects take plural verbs. Identify the mistakes in these sentences:
- Michael study at the library every day.
- She drive every day.
Here is the correct way to write these sentences:
- Michael studies at the library every day.
- She drives every day.
7. SQUINTING MODIFIERS
Modifiers are words, phrases, or clauses that add description to sentences. A squinting modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that could modify the word before it or the word after it; however, making unclear which one. Identify the error below:
- Students who study rarely get bad grades.
A squinting modifier can usually be corrected by changing its position in the sentence. The solution is to put the modifier next to the word it should modify. For example:
- Students who rarely study get bad grades. OR: Students who study get bad grades rarely.
Other common errors within the class of modifiers include: dangling modifiers, which describe something that is not in the sentence, and misplaced modifier which describes something in your sentence that is not what you intended it to.
Modifiers tend to be descriptive words, such as adjectives and adverbs and must clearly show the word, usually noun being modified. Always watch for their correct use!
8. NO COMMAS AROUND INTERRUPTERS
Interrupters are little thoughts in the middle of a thought, added to show emotion, tone or emphasis providing additional detail.. Thus, when we use an interrupter in the middle of a sentence, it should be emphasized with commas. Always remember to put commas around interrupters.
- WRONG: It was unfortunately the end of winter vacation.
- CORRECT: It was, unfortunately, the end of winter vacation.
9. SPELLING MISTAKES
Many spelling mistakes occur when incorrect homophones (words with the same pronunciation, such as “right,” “rite,” and “write”) are used in a sentence. I have a whole lot of homophones here:
Correct these sentences:
- Watch you’re words!
- Spell-check may not sea words that are miss used because they are spelled rite!
The correct way for these sentences are:
- Watch your words!
- Spell check may not see words that are misused because they are spelled right!
This occurs when a writer, either intentionally or unintentionally, uses far too many words or unnecessarily complex or abstract words. Wordiness can seriously detract from the coherency and quality of your writing and will likely frustrate your readers.
Good writing is simple and direct; it uses the simplest word possible that conveys the same meaning. Wordiness takes away from this clarity.
A sentence is wordy if it uses more words than necessary to convey meaning. Wordiness often makes writing unclear.
- Shona ended up having to walk all the way home due to the fact that she missed the last train leaving Central Station.
SOLUTION: Identify long phrases that can be replaced with a single word. Try to . . .
- Eliminate words that have the same meaning.
- Eliminate weak words, such as “basically” and “sort of.”
- Eliminate nonessential information.
The above sentence, can, thus be corrected as . . .
- Shona walked home because she missed the last train.
11. LEXICAL DIFFICULTIES
This is closely related to WORDINESS but here the problem is with the use of conjunctions/transitions or simply using words as sign-posts.. Proper linking words and phrases is actually not that simple for many people, but quite essential for High School students who have to write essays, reports, articles, etc. Each of these papers requires linking one idea/argument to another and developing coherence within a paragraph.
Here is a comprehensive list of transitions for you to apply to your writing:
12. INCORRECT NOUN PLURALS
The vast majority of nouns in the English language are made plural by adding an “s” or “es” to the end of the word. For example, book, apple, house, table, cat, and boss are just some of the many words that become plural with the simple addition of an “s” or “es” – books, apples, houses, tables, cats, and bosses, respectively.
However, certain nouns have irregular plurals that do not behave in this standard way. And, even though most irregular plural nouns follow a pattern, there are several different patterns to watch out for:
Noncount nouns (also called collective nouns) have no plural form because they are assumed to be plural. Most abstract nouns are noncount nouns. Some examples are: hair, grass , or mud.
- There are many different styles of hair.
- There are several varieties of grass.
- There are three different kinds of mud.
Unchanging Nouns – Certain other nouns have the same singular and plural form. A large number of animals happen to follow this rule. These examples will be spelled the same: deer, fish, bison, moose, shrimp, or elk.
13. UNABLE TO WRITE A THESIS STATEMENT
One of the core problems students have with writing is that they are not able to write a clear, understandable and strong thesis statement.
You may come across a similar problem while writing the essay. However, if you do some practice and check ideas of thesis statements on the web, then it will be easy for you to come up with a well-defined and quality thesis statement.
14. PARAGRAPH FOCUS
A paragraph is a collection of related sentences dealing with a single topic. Learning to write good paragraphs will help you as a writer stay on track during your drafting and revision stages. Good paragraphing also greatly assists your readers in following a piece of writing.
You can have fantastic ideas, but if those ideas aren’t presented in an organized fashion, you will lose your readers (and fail to achieve your goals in writing).
The basic rule of thumb with paragraphing is to keep one idea to one paragraph. If you begin to transition into a new idea, it belongs in a new paragraph.
15. TEXT STRUCTURE
Very closely related to the thesis statement is text structure. All High School essays/compositions have a certain structure which every student must master. Typically, they all are based on three main components: introduction, main body and conclusion.
You may be surprised, but many students have problems with structuring their work for a variety of reasons, the main one of which is the inability to draw up every single part considering the singularity of all other. The only way out is improving the knowledge, supplementing the vocabulary and practicing essay/composition writing. The second is reading how good students overcome this through peer editing/reading exemplar work.
Consequently, exemplar texts, whether published or created by teachers or peers, can clearly illustrate specific features of effective writing. As practice shows, both of them can lead to the desired result.
16. LACK OF EVIDENCE
If you are having a hard time writing an essay, then you should write enough examples to support your arguments. Another major mistake students make is that they do not provide enough proof or evidence to clarify their viewpoints.
When in High School, students must learn how to argument their thoughts and ideas in order to be able to write important pieces of content later on, such as an admission letter or even their resume.
To overcome this, I have looked at argumentative/discursive essays and come up with the acronym: RACPpER SEE to aid High School students in their writing. The link below will help you:
17. SENTENCE VARIETY
It refers to the practice of varying the length and structure of sentences to avoid monotony and provide appropriate emphasis.
“Sentence variety is a means by which the writer helps the reader to understand which ideas are most important, which ideas support or explain other ideas, etc. Variety of sentence structures is also a part of style and voice.”
To add variety, mix up your sentence structure. Some ways to do this include:
Starting with an adverb:
- Suddenly, she jumped to her feet and ran to the door.
- Unfailingly, he arrives at work at 6 AM every morning.
Beginning the sentence with a prepositional phrase (a phrase that modifies a noun or verb):
- In the garden, she worked to clear out the weeds and deadhead the flowers.
- Before purchasing a new couch, it’s important to measure your doorway.
Inverting the subject and verb in the sentence:
- Sprinting to the train, she made it just before the doors closed.
- Using baking soda and vinegar, you can unclog your shower drain.
18. FORGETTING THE CONCLUSION
Writing the introduction is as important as writing the conclusion in an essay. Basically, your essay should consist of three main parts: the introduction, the body section, and the conclusion.
The conclusion is often missed or ignored by students, and it can lead them to leave a bad impression on the marker.
19. UNNECESSARY QUOTATION MARKS
Quotation marks are an essential punctuation which serve to set off text (as in a quote, a phrase, or a dialogue). However, they are often appropriated for purposes the punctuation was not meant to handle.
Thus, used in the wrong place, these little punctuation marks can really “change the meaning” of a sign or words.
- ‘ – APOSTROPHE: It is used in contractions and to indicate a possessive. No space before or after. Eg.
- That cat’s cute.
- Mike’s cat is ugly. It’s not its fault.
- ‘ ’ – INVERTED COMMAS: It is used for short quotes, answers and media titles. Thus, wrap words at the beginning and the end of the quote, eg:
- The answer is ‘A’
- He said ‘OK’ and went on captioning ‘The Young and the Restless’.
- “ ” – DOUBLE QUOTATION MARKS: It is used for long and direct quotes.Wrap words at beginning and end of the quote. Eg:
- She said, “Use double quotes when quoting poems, prose or conversation.”
- Example to avoid: We offer the ‘best price in town’!
- How to Avoid: If you’re not quoting something, don’t use single or double quotation marks. If you want to emphasize a specific part of your message, use a bold or italicized font.
20. WRONG END PUNCTUATION
You have three options for punctuating the end of a sentence: a period/full stop, an exclamation mark, or a question mark.
Each one sets a different tone for the whole sentence: that of a statement, an outcry, or a question, respectively. Always remember to end your sentences correctly – with the correct end punctuation.
21. FORMATTING AND RESOURCE ORGANIZATION
This is a recurring problem among High School students where a typed project/research paper is not properly formatted. All sources used must have good organization and be cited in a way suitable for the type of paper: font type and size; referencing style; etc.
Make sure that your child has this clear and formats all papers in the way requested by their teachers. Simply checking their papers before the delivery date is enough to help them understand what they did wrong.
Plagiarism is not only frowned upon, but forbidden too. It is simply, trying to do the assignment, through borrowing passages from articles, books and even websites without identifying or acknowledging their sources.
With today’s technology advancing this rapidly, detecting plagiarism is now easier than ever. Teachers will surely try to explain this to your child, but you must make sure that they understand how important unique content is, if they want to succeed.
WRITING @ HIGH SCHOOL is not a walk in the park. It needs practice and by integrating writing and reading to emphasize key writing features help students learn about important text features. For example, asking students to summarize a text they just read signals that well-written texts have a set of main points, that students should understand main points while they read, and that when students write certain types of compositions they should focus on main points.
Reading exemplar texts familiarizes students with important features of writing, which they can then emulate.
Dear Student – Please identify where you see yourself falling short and work towards improving your writing repertoire.
Good luck in your endeavours