How to Help Kids Become Better Writers
Writing comes more naturally to some than to others. When we can teach our kids, not just the mechanics of writing, but how to get their thoughts and feelings out on paper, creativity will flow and their voice will be captured on the page. Jessica Wolf helps students to write, including writing college essays.
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She now writes short stories and personal essays.
Personal essays are what college applications are all about. Jessica knows the pitfalls and the ways we psych ourselves out about writing.
Jessica has been involved with the Amherst method group, bringing a group writing experience to under-served communities.
She took the method to middle school kids and started running creative writing groups there.
Getting Started with Writing
Would-be writers often struggle with mechanics, but in the methodology she teaches, they don't pay attention to that.
Jessica suggest that students write by hand, and tells her students no one else will read it. This allows a level of calm and creativity and makes it powerful.
This helps them find their voice and creates a space that allows them to be who they are, as well as creating confidence.
Most students are nervous that they haven't done anything great.
Help students understand that they have plenty of stories to tell.
We all have a voice in our heads that says we're not very interesting.
We need to quiet down that negative, critical voice.
Two Ways to Quiet the Mind
1. Don't listen---don't give that voice a chance to thwart the process.
2. Timed Writing--write very, very fast
Writing College Essays
Break it down into small, manageable chunks.
Underneath all college essay prompts, they all want to know: who are you and what do you care about?
Another place to start: "If we were walking for an hour together, what would you talk about?" Hint: it's their passion!
These essays need to get to the heart of who they are and hit on things they care about.
Tips for Teachers
Teachers often give assignments to do essays, but it can help to do personal essays also.
Kids need to be able to practice this skill without the pressure of a college essay.
Throughout high school, give them practice on personal essays.
Provide encouragement about personal writing to build confidence.
Give kids low-stakes practice.