Why do my kids struggle with English essays?

Why do my kids struggle with English essays?
November 2, 2021

Essay-writing is a common struggle for young children, and it can be frustrating when they have trouble communicating concepts. However, with the proper support from parents and teachers, kids can develop a better understanding of essay structures in no time. The earlier students start to understand the flow and structure of essays, the easier their overall experience will be in school. This can be solidified through additional primary English or PSLE English tuition in Singapore as well.

It is a common belief that language struggles are innate, but recent research has shown that this may not be the case. In fact, there could be many factors behind poor performance in English classes or other language classes. Understanding these causes can help students and parents find ways to improve their child’s ability in English. That said, here are three main reasons why kids continue to struggle with essays:

A limited understanding of the English language

Essays are, in the end, a gauge of how well children can express themselves through the written medium. A firm grasp of written language structure and flow is essential, and it is heavily different from spoken structure and flow. Specifically in Singapore, there are a large number of spoken colloquial terms that are disallowed from making their way onto the written form.

As such, loose studies and rote memorization of grammatical rules and vocabularies are insufficient to make good writers. Good writers need to know how to engage their readers; whether in fiction or non-fiction and no matter the topic, a grasp of the reader mentality is essential. This is something that can only be gained by doing two things: reading and writing.

Students should be encouraged to read far and wide beyond the scope of what is recommended by their teachers: story books, young adult novels, articles, and non-fiction classics are all fair game. While they are reading, students will also be able to learn more about the world and therefore, about other subjects.

A lack of feedback

Essays are often subjective, and the skills related to writing are often difficult to convey or train, especially in primary English or PSLE English classes at school, where teachers are often concerned with teaching whole classes instead of individual writing styles. Instead of encouraging a wide expanse of reading, teachers frequently need to go over assignments in class that relate to vocabulary memorisation, grammatical rules, or dictation. Reading is provided only in a structured format, and students are provided a list of books they ‘should read’.

Instead, two things are more relevant in improving your child’s writing. The first is to encourage them to go to the library or provide them with a Kindle, so that they may increase the amount they read. It can be about anything: from glassmaking to baking to politics and the rise of K-Pop, the library has it all. There is no need to restrict your children to the information they read; the exposure will simply strengthen their ability to write.

The second thing is to get a personalised tutor, if possible, for your child. School assignments are standardised, but language isn’t. Allow the tutor to push your child and provide personalised feedback for their essays and work. Let them help your child explore the meaning and depth of linguistics, and the breadth of words in the English language. In this way, your child will be able to improve their skills in a way that is more personalised to them than simply following along with the school’s templated format.

Discipline in writing

Many artists are creators, and frequently we hear of artists who lack inspiration and are unable to create. The same can be said with writing.

However, this mindset is a mistake for school-based essay writing. Inspiration is necessary to be able to write an outstanding piece of literature; however, in primary and PSLE English, what is needed is discipline and practice in the use of essay-writing skills. Many authors and writers adopt a habit of writing a certain number of words a day regardless of whether they have inspiration or not.

Think about it this way: a painter with inspiration cannot convey that inspiration if they do not have the techniques. No matter how profound, if their techniques are subpar, their work will also be subpar.

Train your child in those techniques, and allow the inspiration to come from their experiences and from their reading. Inspiration cannot be trained, but technique sure can be. That is where English tuition for essays will focus on.

To summarise: read, and then write. That is how your child will get better at essay writing. The English language is both expansive and limited at the same time, and a firm grasp of it is necessary for students to be able to succeed in their academics as well as their working life.

For tips on how your child can improve their English essay-writing abilities, do refer to the rest of the articles on our blog!

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