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Monday, November 15, 2010

The Importance of Writing Checklists

A road map is a wonderful tool. It tells you how to get to your destination and it lets you know when you’ve arrived. Without a map, you may find yourself lost in the hills, or driving around for hours. If your goal is to arrive at a certain point, this may cause some stress on the part of you or your passengers. And the one who is expecting you may wonder if you will ever arrive. Mind you, there are times to drive just for the sake of driving, simply enjoying the scenery. However, when you have a time and destination in mind, a map will give you peace of mind and keep you on track.

Think of a writing checklist as a road map. There is a place for freewriting (freely writing thoughts down without thinking about spelling, punctuation, presentations etc), but when writing letters, stories, or reports for submission to family, friends, or your teacher, a checklist is helpful and necessary for a positive and complete writing experience.

If you are working through a piece of writing from start to finish – prewriting activities, writing, and post-writing activities-, then a checklist should be used. Most likely you will be handing in one of these ‘start to finish’ samples in with your portfolio so that I can see the writing process as it unfolds. I encourage you to create or use a prepared writing checklist as part of this activity.

Depending on the age and ability of your children, checklists can be simple or detailed. It’s important to include points related to meaning (ideas, opinions), style (vocabulary, descriptive language, variety in sentence structure, etc), form (sequencing, beginning, middle, end, conclusions, structure, etc), and conventions(punctuation, spelling, grammar, etc).

Following are some examples of what can be included in a personal checklist:
Use capital letters for important words and for the first and last words in the title.
Write the title on the first line, then skip a line before you begin to write your story.
Write an interesting beginning sentence.
Don’t use banned words (like, good, nice, etc). Use the thesaurus to help you.
Use 3 adverbs or strong verbs.
Use 3 adjectives.
Tell everything that happened in order.
Write a sentence to close your paper.
Leave margins at the top and bottom and edges of your paper.
Double space.
Use handwriting.
Check your spelling.
Check for periods, question marks, quotation marks, and exclamation marks.
Include all the parts of a letter (date, greeting, body, closing, etc.)
Write 2 double spaced pages.

The important thing is not to overwhelm your child with a long list to check off. Think about what you are focusing on in this particular lesson and write those down. A checklist can be changed with every assignment, although there are the basic requirements in any piece of writing.

The writing programs Excellence in Writing and Writeshop both use checklists as an integral part of their writing program. Both are highly recommended.

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