Jump to content


How to Write a Report (without systematic teaching)

Recommended Posts

I have a child working consistently at an 8th grade level who has received almost no formal writing instruction. If I give him a several page story to rewrite in his own words, he not only can do so, but his writing is excellent. Gets all the main and supportive details in, varies sentance structure, uses interesting vocabulary, and manages proper grammar and spelling. But he is not a creative writer (and we've determined he doesn't need to be). He has to be working with facts or a given story. We have decided to focus on teaching him to write research reports and possibly a standard essay (so he knows how before he encounters them on standardized tests).


We've been trying to use WWS and it's just too incremenatal for him. I'm so disappointed, I really like the program. He needs something that is more condensed--something that you'd use for a child who has all the base skills, just needs to practice the steps and format of a research report. My main concern right now is being well prepped for rhetoric in high school. Does anyone have a favorite framework? I'm hesitant to come up with something on my own as I'm a natural writer and I'm having trouble breaking it down to a framework of steps.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My quick thoughts:

1. Encouragement for the decision to not pursue creative writing. That's fine. You do not need to include creative writing as part of your middle school/high school writing -- by those ages, it is an "elective" topic in writing, and does not need to be required.

2. If your student is writing at an 8th grade level, then he is already fine and will be prepared for high school writing. 🙂

3. Writing/formatting a research paper is NOT the only type of writing a student will do in high school. Also frequently required are:
- reader response papers of various lengths (1-paragraph, 3-5 paragraphs, 2-3 pages)
- literary analysis essays of different types (comparison, character analysis, etc.)
- timed argumentative essays from a prompt (SAT/ACT tests)
- personal essays (applications for colleges and scholarships)
- science lab reports
- research paper with citations

So I'd suggest spending a good amount of time during high school also on those types of writing.

For essays and for  reader responses, it's important to develop and support an argument or claim, so formal Logic, and Speech & Debate can be extremely useful skills to help with the rhetoric of those types of papers.

Regularly practicing with short (1 paragraph, a few 2-3 paragraph) reader response papers can be very helpful in moving a student forward in thinking / building an argument / supporting an argument. Also helpful in practicing building/supporting an argument: weekly practice of timed argumentative essays from prompts. In post #5 of the past thread: "Preparing for essay exams" I explained how we built up over time to full-length essays, and I also linked past SAT prompt questions for using as the practice.

re: writing program
If you want a program to make sure you're covering your bases, you might look at lewelma's thread on various middle school programs: "My evaluation of numerous writing curricula".

Or, take a look at these *high school* programs:
- Writing Research with Confidence (gr. 8-12) -- Sheila Moss; 1 semester
- Writing Research Papers: The Essential Tools (gr. 9-12) -- Leisha Myers; 1 semester
- The Power in Your Hands (gr. 8-12) -- Sharon Watson; 1 year; various types of essays and the research paper
- The Elegant Essay (gr. 9-12) -- Leisha Myers; 1 semester; parts of an essay, 2 types of essays
- The Lively Art of Writing (gr. 9-12) -- Lucile Vaughan Payne; book resource for essay writing + workbook put together by 2 WTM board members to go with the book

In case all you want is a list, below I'm copy-pasting my reply from a past thread ("Writing output. Essays. Preparing for high school and beyond"), in which I list writing goals/skills by grade level for middle/high school years. This is based on what I've been seeing in teaching Lit. & Comp co-op classes for the past 5-6 years, so take it with a grain of salt, but hope something there is of help. 🙂 My original post links many more threads -- I just left a few of the ones I thought might be of most help for what you are specifically looking for.

BEST of luck in finding what works best for you and DS for the rest of middle school, and into high school. Warmest regards, Lori D.


cutting/pasting from past thread:

"Students vary SO very widely in Writing abilities, that I hesitate to list amounts for output. Rather, I tend to think in terms of foundations and skills to develop for every student, but in each student's unique timetable. That development timetable will somewhat dictate how *much* you can reasonable expect or require as output. Just my 2 cents worth.  🙂

Don't know if this is the type of thing you're thinking of, but this is a continually evolving list I've slowly been pulling together over the years, seeing where most of my middle school and high school co-op students are in my Lit. & Comp classes. Hope it helps!  🙂

GRADE 6-7 (age 10-12)
(at this age, wide range of "normal"; some write multi-paragraph papers easily at this age; others struggle to complete one short paragraph; as the parent: adjust expectations/guidelines accordingly) 
- learn to touch type/keyboarding and basic computer/word processing (for typing of papers in later grades)
- most likely, use of a writing program for instruction
- beginning to understand that writing is a multi-step process (i.e., you're going to work several times on this same piece of writing -- it's not done just because you put words on the paper and then set your pencil down  ;) )
- short assignments in the 4 types of writing (descriptive, narrative, expository, persuasive)
- exposure to the 6 traits of writing
- learning how to organize thoughts
- key word outlines
- complete sentences
- learning how to write a solid paragraph, and what goes into a paragraph
- once paragraphs are grasped (may not be until later): regular assignments in writing shorter (5-sentence) and longer (8-10 sentence) complete paragraphs

GRADE 8-9 (age 12-14)
(again, a pretty wide range of "normal" -- this is the stage of just beginning to jump the hurdle, and it may happen along about grade 6-7, or not until about grade 10-11; adjust expectations/guidelines accordingly) 
- most likely, use of a writing program for instruction
- practicing keyword outlines and organizing thoughts (exposure to different "tools" for organizing: formal outline, mind map; graphic organizers; etc.)
- introduce/use proofing symbols
- regular practice in writing solid paragraphs
- attempting 3- to 5- paragraph essays (as is appropriate for the student)
- if ready, short History research paper and Science lab reports
- beginning literary analysis -- short reader response (1 paragraph) essays
- public speaking practice, with introducing developing an argument and supporting it

GRADE 10-12 (age 15-18)
(some may be ready for these "later grade expectations" in grade 8-9, others not till grade 11-12) 
- probably not using a program, but writing for the different courses (esp. English & Soc. Studies)
- settling in comfortably with the method/tools of organizing thoughts that fit that student
- practice structuring the writing by developing and supporting an argument
- practice, practice, practice revising papers -- be prepared to revise the same paper 2-3 times
- practice refining word choice and sentence structure/flow
- proofing symbols, and use of them for the proof-editing stage
- regularly writing complete paragraph answers to questions
- regularly writing 3- to 5- paragraph reader response papers and essays
- at least 2-4 times a year, write a shorter multi-page (2-4 page) paper
- at least 1-2 times a year, write a longer multi-page (5-10 page) paper
- incorporate other types of writing (below)

gr. 10-12 types of writing:
* science lab reports
* note-taking from a lecture
* outlining from a text / creating study notes
* complete sentence/paragraph answers to questions
* reader responses ("thinking question" answers)
* single paragraph, multi-paragraph, and multi-page writing
* essays -- literary analysis; comparison; cause & effect; process (how-to); definition; persuasive; etc.
* research papers with citations, and in format (MLA and/or APA formats)
* oral presentations with power point/slide show aspect
* personal essay for scholarship and college applications
* timed essays from a prompt (ACT/SAT practice)
* essay answer test questions
* real life writing (resume, cover letter, reports (an evaluation; summary report; problem-solution report), memos, article for a newsletter, meeting presentation, etc.)
* business letters/other letters (letter of inquiry; letter of application; letter of information; letter of complaint; letter of thanks or recognition; letter of commendation or recommendation; cover letter; political letter)"

ideas for prompts for beginning literary analysis essays:
Susan Wise Bauer's article: "What is Literary Analysis and When to Teach It"

past threads:
"Can we discuss apathetic writers and college prep" -- what writing to cover in high school to be ready for college -- lots of links included
"Transition to original writing"
"How do *I* teach writing across the curriculum?"
"What is your philosophy on teaching writing?"
"How to elevate maturity in 9th DD's writing"

threads about the reader response:
"Another writing option for tying together reading, discussion and composition" (post by Tullia)
"More about response papers and their context" (follow up to Tullia's thread)
"If you're frustrated with discussing history and literature with a high school student"
"Reader response paper vs. literary analysis essay"

Edited by Lori D.
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

PS -- You might also consider a short (4-6 week) writing class with Brave Writer for practice:
1. Essay Prep: Dynamic Thinking
2. Essay Prep: Reading the Essay
3. Essay Prep: Research and Citation

Middle School Writing Projects -- instructor support of/feedback on writing you are already doing in the homeschool

Edited by Lori D.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...