LS, CA, asks: My grandson is in his last month of his sophomore year, and he has been assigned to research and write a paper on a complicated subject. He has one week to complete this assignment, and with other homework, sports, and a part-time job, he has asked me to help him with it. I’ve done a bit of writing papers in school and work. I’m not sure how much to help him. If I help him, will that be teaching him that he doesn’t have to take responsibility for his own work?
Dear LS, By helping him, you can help him “learn how to do it.” He can complete his high school requirements and can learn some tools for researching and writing that will help him in the future. As a grandparent, your writing skills, “wisdom,” perspective, and objectivity can be very helpful to younger generations. (Sometimes, “getting it done” becomes the first priority, and you can help with that and still teach skills for later.)
I had a junior high teacher who presented a strategy that has worked for me many times: brainstorm the topic, write each idea on a separate line, then go back and order them in a logical order, and begin writing.
This method can also be applied to research. With information at our fingertips on the internet, documents can be downloaded and read for relevancy to the topic. He can learn to do this and use this information by saving it in a way that it can be retrieved when needed.
- Learning to accurately “cut and paste” the URL of the source, to be able to return to the source when needed, is important.
- By choosing and pasting in relevant information or ideas from authoritative documents, he can later order the information gathered and write in his own words on the topic, referencing when appropriate. [NOTE: Every student must understand that he or she cannot take another's writing, words, ideas, and call them their own (see comment below).]
- As he goes along, sitting with him, finding out what skills he needs to develop, asking him what he thinks is important, and encouraging his progress, will all be helpful actions.
- When finding spelling, punctuation, grammar issues, explain what needs to be changed and why.
Some good tips come from The University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension: Help the child with one or two examples to get them started; help them break down the assignment into manageable steps, help them think through to the answer (or in this case, to understanding the issues). http://www.fcs.uga.edu/ext/pubs/chfd/CHFD-E-59-11.pdf (Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, Cooperative Extension, The University of Georgia (7/2009) Additional, practical, suggestions include:
- setting a regular time for homework,
- helping the child complete one or two examples but not every question,
- breaking assignments into manageable steps (including thinking ahead for large projects),
- helping the child to think through to the answer.
- General suggestions include building self confidence, providing time for stress relief (i.e., physical activities), encouraging child to try new things and encouraging making friends.