Writing in High School: Tips for Clarity and Organization Part 1

By the time students arrive in high school, expectations for their writing have risen dramatically. While teachers should review the fundamentals with them, some will simply expect students to know what they’re doing as soon as they walk in the classroom door.

This post explains some essential skills for writing that will help students organize their thoughts, write clearly and address their assignments completely. Of course, depending on the school and individual teacher, writing expectations and protocols may differ from what follows. It is always important to confirm a teacher’s preferences for each assignment.

One must read in order to write well

If a student is struggling with writing, the first question is always: do they read at home? Reading and writing are intertwined. Grammar, vocabulary, and critical thinking skills required for writing are all practiced by reading. Additionally, reading helps nurture a passion for writing. The best way to ensure that a student continues developing writing skills is to teach them to love reading and writing. 

Follow the steps of the Writing Process

There are a few basic steps to writing across all forms: planning/prewriting, drafting, editing, and publishing. Many students neglect one or more of these steps and their work suffers as a result. 

  1. The planning phase should include an outline where the student brainstorms their main idea or position, decides the main idea for each paragraph, and starts finding quotes to support their ideas. What emerges is a plan for each paragraph that they can follow as they write. Ideally it feels like filling in the blanks when they finally sit down to write.
  1. Drafting means writing out a full assignment without worrying too much about grammar and other minor details. The goal is to bring the writing to the designated length while following their plan. If it is too short or too long that is okay.
  1. Editing is the most commonly skipped step by younger students; however, many curricula require it and teachers often integrate it into the final grade for the assignment. Editing means that the student revisits their draft to fix grammar, remove unfocused passages, and bring the writing to the correct length. Some teachers may require peer reviews to be conducted with classmates to gain feedback on drafts. Alternatively or additionally, students may choose to seek feedback from trusted adults including parents and guardians or their tutor. These outside perspectives can go a long way towards improving ones writing.
  1. Publishing is the final step and should feel like a celebration! This phase includes finalizing any formatting or aesthetic issues, sharing their work with their peers and turning in the assignment.

Write the thesis first

If a student is writing a piece of nonfiction, their paper will have a thesis. The thesis is their argument and prepares the reader for what to expect from the rest of the paper. Many teachers will ask to review a student’s thesis before they are allowed to continue with the paper, but if they don’t, students should ask directly for confirmation that their thesis is sufficient. 

If these tips sound new or stressful, please don’t worry. Every young writer must start from somewhere. Students in Middle and High School are just beginning to develop these skills and they will continue honing them for the rest of their lives.

Look out for future entries in this series, and now, go enjoy a good book 🙂

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