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Want to take it easy on school during summer but not abandon it altogether?
For writing skills practice, here’s an idea for you: have your kids write online product reviews!
Not only will your kids get a thrill from seeing their review published online, but the activity is excellent for both critical thinking and writing skills practice. And it’s outstanding prep for those longer papers they’ll have to do later.
This review will be on something your kids know well and use a lot. But to write a credible review — one that others read from beginning to end and take seriously — it has to include a few things.
3 Steps to Writing Credible Online Product Reviews
First, the review needs to open with a clear statement either for or against the product. Does the product do what it’s supposed to do? How well? Write an opening sentence that answers those two questions.
To catch readers’ interest right at the start, use colorful adjectives in that opening sentence. Try to avoid “good,” “great,” or “bad.” Overused words make less of an impact on readers. An online thesaurus is a valuable and convenient tool for this. See the colorful adjectives I just used in my last sentence (valuable and convenient)?
Second, the review needs to dive right into the “whys” behind your kids’ opener. That means giving examples to support and explain the opening statement. What makes the product excellent? Why should people not spend any of their money on this product? For the body of their online review, kids explain the parts of the product they think people need to know about, what those parts are supposed to do, and how well those parts perform.
This portion of their online review actually requires a lot of advanced critical thinking. But if your kids are experts on the product they’re reviewing, this will be super easy for them.
Finally, kids end their review with a closing statement. Do they recommend this product – yes or no, and to what extent? Sometimes a product is best for people of a certain age group, skill set or interest level. In their closing statement, your kids should give a specific recommendation that speaks to those differences. People who read online reviews look for that! They rely on it. Closing with a statement like this will create a review that gives readers a clear idea of when the product should be used, how and by whom.
If your kids are doing this for the first time or want your help, discuss the content of their review with them. It’s so much fun to sit down with a youngster and have an adult-like discussion on the pros and cons of something like the Rainbow Loom with them. Personally, I think it makes them feel very grown up. Take notes during the discussion and let them continue with the writing from there. Remember, an online review can be only a single paragraph or more, depending on what your kids want to write.
In Fortuigence’s Essay Rock Star writing program , we have a short course on writing reviews, called the Textual Analysis Short Course. While the course asks middle and high schoolers to go more in depth on their product reviews and follow a structure used at the high school and college level, we still let kids pick their own topics. That’s more fun for both the teacher and the student. Truly, I’ve learned more about about paintball guns, hunting rifles, Christian films and misogynistic ketchup ads – to name a few – than I would ever have known about otherwise.
There is one major no-no in published online product reviews that will kill their credibility.
Your kids must do their best avoid this mistake, especially after they have done all that complex critical thinking.
The big no-no is this: grammar errors!
Misspelled words, incorrect punctuation, poor sentence structure, and using the wrong word in the wrong context (for example, using “except” where “accept” should be used) are all common errors that make published pieces of writing look sloppy.
Sloppy is not credible! Sloppy makes the reader question the writer instead of taking the piece of writing seriously. If your kids need help with grammar, please do so before they publish their review.
Try the online product review with your kids. There’s nothing like knowing their writing could be seen by a large number of people to make them step up and do their best!
Lily Iatridis is a former long time public and private school secondary classroom teacher who firmly believes that there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” education for children. To learn more about her new online school, Fortuigence, and access the free offerings available there, visit http://www.fortuigence.com.