How to Help Your Child Prepare for a Timed Writing Test
Three Universal Truths:
Three universal truths should be the foundation of any plan of action for parents who want to help their children do well on any type of achievement test, most especially a timed writing test.
- The early bird catches the worm.
The very best thing you, as a parent, can do to help your child prepare for a timed writing test is to start practicing as soon as possible. Optimally, starting at the end of Year 4 would be the best possible scenario. This would allow your child two years to learn and reinforce the skills necessary to do exceptionally well on a timed writing test. The sooner you can get your child started practicing for the writing test, the more time you will have to identify and try to improve any weaknesses or issues you may see in his/her writing. In addition, your child’s confidence will increase with each writing. With some regular practice, your child will walk into that testing room with the confidence, knowledge and skills required to successfully master any type of achievement test.
- Practice makes perfect
Just as an athlete or musician must dedicate many hours of routine practice to improve the skills and confidence necessary to be considered exceptional, so must a student dedicate some time and effort to practice and sharpen the skills required to master a timed writing test. Here are a few suggestions to make your child’s study/practice time more productive and less painful.
Establish a routine study/practice time as soon as possible. Many timed writing tests are 45 minutes to an hour, some have an even shorter time allotment. So, it is best to study/practice for the same amount of time. Doing so will help the student develop a sense of how much time is involved and how to successfully manage the available time. The primary goal is to set a regular, predictable schedule for practicing at approximately the same time and for the same amount of time with each practice session. Whether you schedule practice time every day or once a week really does not matter, so long as you schedule regular, routine times.
You may want to include some type of action/consequence reinforcement system. When your child performs well during the practice period, provide a positive reinforcement. The most basic item can become a positive reward. Rewards do not have to be (and really shouldn’t be) expensive or complicated. Negative reinforcement for poor performance does not need to be complicate either. If your child is like most, just take away his/her electronics.
- It’s a family affair
Try to get the whole family involved. One of the most significant influences on a student’s performance on achievement tests is family support. Even if your child is going through a very rebellious stage, your opinion still matters more than you will ever know. If you want the test to be important to your child, it MUST be important to you.
As well as having a predictable practice time, it is also beneficial to spontaneously build verbal stories with your child. Keep it simple. Just begin with “Once upon a time, in a land far away…” (or something similar). When you feel you have told enough of the story, pass it on to your child. And so forth. This activity is a lot of fun, it’s creative, and it helps your child become comfortable with the process of storytelling. This is beneficial because so many writing test prompts are narratives (stories). If your child is comfortable telling stories, then writing stories won’t be such a threat.
Make up word games to play while driving, waiting at the doctor’s office, doing chores together, etc. Use words your child is studying in school or make-up your own lists. Games do not have to be complicated; simple is better. Just say a vocabulary word and have your child respond with a synonym or an antonym. You can also say a sentence and leave the vocabulary word out.
Write stories together or just make-up story lines, settings and characters that may be used later (on the test or in class).
Have your child “teach” you lessons. This could be based on academic vocabulary words being studied in a class like history or science, etc. or it could be a summary of the plot of a book he/she is reading. The best way to really learn something is to have to teach it to someone else.