Is slang slipping Into your child's schoolwork?

Tips to help students improve writing skills

Plz practice ur writing B4 U head bak 2 school. C u n a few wkz. :-P

Millions of children (and adults!) use language like this to chat with friends, make weekend plans and stay in touch via email and Instant Messaging (IM).  It is important that this informal writing style of shortened words, improper grammar, lack of punctuation and use of "emoticons" such as smiley faces does not follow them back to the classroom.

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According to a recent survey by Sylvan Learning Center, 91 percent of teachers nationwide say they do not accept the use of this informal writing style in their students' assignments.

"Slang and shortcuts are commonplace in email and Instant Messaging, but not acceptable in schoolwork. Parents should talk to their children about using different styles of language to communicate with different audiences, as adults do in work and home environments," says Jim Han, Executive Director of Sylvan Learning Center in Mt. Kisco. "Just as students would talk to an adult differently than to friends, they also need to remember to adjust their writing style. Writing for the classroom must be grammatically correct, with full words and proper sentence structure."

Email and IM style of writing isn't all bad, since it does encourage students to write more often. In fact, more than three quarters (76%) of teachers surveyed agree that children can benefit from email and IM as a learning opportunity. The popularity of Internet writing is also helping children see writing as a fun activity that encourages creative writing, and not just something they 'have to do.'

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What Parents Need to Know

Parents will soon notice an increasing demand for children to express themselves more effectively in writing. For example, more states are testing writing skills on proficiency exams. College entrance exams, such as the SAT exam, will soon include a writing section that requires students to write a short essay that reflects their mastery of core reading and language skills.

To do well on these important exams, students need to know how to write clear, well-organized essays in the short time allotted. Parents can help children develop an understanding of the writing process by modeling. Think about a writing project, develop a brief outline and rewrite drafts. By showing children that writing is a multi-step process and not always instantaneous, parents can help their children make the shift to an academic style of writing easier.

What Parents Can Do

To help children boost their effective writing skills, the experts at Sylvan Learning Center offer parents the following tips to avoid IM and email style language making its way into schoolwork:

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• Talk to children about using different writing styles to communicate with different audiences. Describe the importance of personalizing messages and why it's important that students know their audience. Remind them that formality is required in school.

• Have fun with writing. Involve your children with writing grocery lists, thank you notes, dates on calendars and messages. Or play games like Blurt!®, TriBond® and MadGab®  that help build language and vocabulary skills.

• Review schoolwork for IM and email style language. Encourage children to write properly and take the time to carefully review assignments several times before submitting them to the teacher.

• Talk with children to establish ground rules for using IM and email. Work with children to develop a plan for using IM and email to make sure other responsibilities such as completing homework and chores are met before going online to chat with friends.

• Create a writing zone. Whether writing on a computer or with a notebook and pencil, it's important that children have a well-organized place to write.

• Encourage your child to read. Read with children at least 15 minutes per day (or roughly two hours per week) since reading will help teach them about sentence structure, grammar and vocabulary. Reading and writing support each other, and good readers become good writers.

Sylvan offers parents a variety of tools and activities to help children practice and have fun with writing, including tips for boosting effective writing skills and a free online writing journal. Parents can download the free writing journal, complete with suggested writing topics and decorative pages, at educate.com/activities. For additional information on sharpening children's writing skills visit educate.com/tips or call 1-800-31-SUCCESS.