Academic writing is the type of writing students are expected to produce in response to content they learn about in an academic setting; i.e. school. It’s how they formally join the “scholarly conversation.” And it can begin at a very young age, when a child writes a report about a book he has read or a topic she has learned about. It is not a personal experience, nor a story, nor merely a description. Academic writing tells us what the writer thinks and what evidence has contributed to that thinking. The evidence can include the writer’s personal experiences, information found in other books or sources, or information gleaned from talking with others (such as, a parent or expert). The standard for good academic writing is how logical or reasonable the writer’s thinking is — is the author’s opinion based in evidence that is credible and convincing? As such, academic writing is a window into your child’s intellectual life–and that’s why it’s such an important skill to focus on. Not only does writing show us what a child is thinking; but the process of writing helps develop your child’s thinking. We call it writing to learn and learning to write.
If you run a writing-intensive program, the main benefit will be helping your children think more deeply and logically about whatever it is you are asking them to study. It boosts their brain power.
As students mature in their writing skills, we expect them to back-up their thinking with credible evidence (e.g. research) and we expect them to provide citations for where that research has come from (using the style guide associated with the particular discipline; for instance, MLA formatting for the humanities or APA formatting for the social sciences). Students should have some basic familiarity with academic writing that includes citations in order to be college-ready by the end of high school. Further this is an important skill that is measured on the SAT essay, all AP exam essays and the college application essay. In general, all of these writing prompts are attempting to get a bead on your child’s intellectual promise as a scholar.
What can you do to help? Just ask your children often what do you think about this? And why do you believe that? What evidence can you provide to support your opinion? Weekly encourage your children to write about what they are learning in school and to begin citing (even if it isn’t in standard formatting) where they found the facts, ideas and examples they are using to back-up the conclusions they have drawn.
At Aim Academy, our English classes are writing intensive and focused on developing academic writing skills in students starting in 7th grade. You can find out more here.