April 6, 2020

Writing is hard, especially when students are stuck at home. This resource can help.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Parents nationwide are shouldering yet another responsibility: teaching or home-schooling children due to COVID-19 school closures. All 50 states have shuttered buildings and ceased face-to-face instruction, affecting more than 55 million students, according to Education Week.

The Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) is a free resource for writing tips and assignments, research and citation tutorials, and teacher and tutor materials. Students, parents, teachers and tutors accessed OWL about 19 million times in March, said Harry Denny, an associate professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts and director of the OWL. The lab’s internet-based collection of resources has grown out of face-to-face and small group support for writers that Purdue has offered students, faculty, and staff for over 45 years.

“There’s volumes of information, whether it’s K-12 or college-level,” Denny said.

The OWL’s most popular feature is its research and citation pages, which cover writing and citing references in American Psychological Association, Modern Language Association or Chicago styles, Denny said. Instructions on how to proofread and how to write in different genres, such as argumentative or persuasive essays, also are popular.

Denny said these features also could be useful to parents and students completing English lessons at home:

Denny also provided these tips for parents who want to encourage creative and critical writing among their children:

  • Free write: “It could be really helpful and therapeutic for a lot of people to free write, such as taking notes or keeping a journal. It’s not about paragraphing and sentence-level correctness, but it’s about getting people to vent their thoughts and their stresses. I encourage my students to pull out their phones and tablets and just take notes. Writing can be really helpful, especially if they don’t fear anyone is going to judge or correct them.”
  • Explore the internet: “Explore, write and think critically about different sites and sources that they’re finding on the internet or at home. That’s another avenue through which parents and young people can keep engaged with writing that they’re doing.”
  • Create a blog: “Develop a space where they can post entries, photographs, poetry or any kind of writing about what they’re experiencing. But also use it as a space to start thinking about what their writing on the internet and social media says about them. It’s another way to cultivate their own voice. They can be more thoughtful and more critical about self-presentation, but also realize the web is this great space to be creative.”

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Writer: Joseph Paul, paul102@purdue.edu (working remotely but will provide immediate response)

Source: Harry Denny, hdenny@purdue.edu (available for phone and Skype interviews)

Note to Journalists: A homework stock image is available to journalists via Google Drive.

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