A Year of Creative Writing
I enjoy writing, so naturally I make writing a regular part of our homeschool week. Following is an outline that we use on a yearly basis, as well as tips for developing good writing habits.
- Daily Journal: Those who write well, write a lot. Consider having your child(ren) keep a daily journal. Here your student(s) can write about daily occurrences or anything on their minds. How much should they write in their journal? A good rule of thumb is to have the number of sentences in their journals match the grade they are in. (i.e. If they are in 2nd grade, they should write at least 2 sentences in their journals. If they are in 7th grade, there should be at least 7 sentences in their journals.)
- Use a Thesaurus: Teach kids at a young age how to use a thesaurus. Good writers need to be able to use a variety of different words that convey similar meanings. Kids as young as 8 can be taught to use a simple thesaurus. Many thesauruses are available online for students. http://www.thesaurus.com/ If you use Microsoft Word, a thesaurus comes as part of the software package.
- Write with Pictures: A good way to teach writing to young children is to start with pictures. Take a blank piece of paper and fold it in half; then fold it again. Open it up and you will have 4 squares. Ask your K – 3 grade child to draw a picture in each square. Then have him write 1 – 3 sentences under each picture explaining what is happening.
- Read & Write: Good writers are also good readers. If your student needs to write an essay, have him read examples of good essays. If he is writing fiction, have him read excellent fiction. Newspaper article? Have your student read a few columns in a newspaper or magazine. Poetry? Have him read poetry written by the best!
- Think & Write: Good writers are creative thinkers. Most people cannot write immediately; they must sit and think first. Encourage your student to think and let his imagination run wild a bit before he sits down to write. The following questions can be considered: What will my topic be? Who can I interview? Who will my hero be? Who will be my villain? Where will my story take place? What “twists” can I include in my writing to entertain my readers?
1 YEAR PLAN:
September: ESSAY MONTH. Once a week have your student write an essay. Five paragraph, three proof essays are a good place to start. If you are unfamiliar with this type of essay, here a few links explaining how these essays should be written: http://www.brighthubeducation.com/help-with-writing/2999-how-to-write-a-good-five-paragraph-essay/ and http://www.education.com/magazine/article/Introducing_Five_Paragraph_Studies/. Usually the introduction and conclusion are the hardest parts of the essay to write, so if your student is new to writing essays, consider having him write the three (middle) supporting paragraphs first. Then have him go back and write the introduction and conclusion at the end. In need of essay topics for your student? Check out the following links for essay ideas:
October/November: STORY MONTHS. During these months students should be reading outstanding literature. For a list of my own personal recommendations listed by grade level, click here: https://phillyhomeschool.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/literature-picks/ Once a week have your student work on a piece of fiction. I have my students develop their stories over a period of four weeks. Consequently, their stories are basically divided into “chapters”. They are instructed to end each chapter with a cliff-hanger. This link describes what cliff-hangers are: https://www.google.com/search?q=what+is+a+cliff+hanger&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=nts. Every year I host a “Homeschool Writing Contest” on my blog, and I will be posting this year’s contest next week. I’ve found my kids do well with stories if they are given a story-starter. Here are ones we’ve used in the past:
- I know. I shouldn’t have been snooping around in my cousin’s room. But I couldn’t believe it when I found _____________ hidden _______________. What did you find? A love letter? A puppy? Drugs? A door to another planet? Something else? Tell us about it!
- “Help! Help!” my sister screamed frantically. I groaned. What a drama queen! What could it be this time? Reluctantly, I followed the sounds of her cries … What was wrong? Did she break a nail? Spy a cockroach? Did her boyfriend dump her? Was she kidnapped by bandits? Abducted by aliens? Cornered by a fire-breathing dragon? Something worse? Tell us about it!
(This year’s story starter!) ___(Character Name)____ looked around, but realized with a sudden dread there was no way out. He/She was trapped! Where was your character trapped? In a pit? In a closet? In a lie? In medieval Europe surrounded by fire-breathing dragons? What or who is your character? Yourself? A person? A puppy? A bug? An alien from an alternate universe? Tell us about it!
- More story starter ideas: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/story-starters/
- More story starter ideas: http://www.thestorystarter.com/jr.htm
- More story starter ideas: http://www.brucevanpatter.com/storykitchen.html
- More story starter ideas: http://journalbuddies.com/creative-writing-2/creative-writing-story-starters/
December/January: JOURNALISM MONTHS. Once a week have your student pretend he is a newspaper reporter and must report on events occuring within your family, homeschool group, neighborhood, etc. Your student must interview others for his article and include at least 2 quotes. Our family often writes a newspaper called “The Daily Buggle”. The kids report on some sort of insect or spider found outside (or more often inside!) the house. They include quotes from family members who discovered the insect and from those who killed it, or set it loose outside, etc. If your student has a flare for photography, he can make that part of his writing assignment. The following other ideas often make good “Homeschool Newspaper” stories:
- Sporting Events
- Music/Drama/Creative Arts Events
- Field Trips
- Co-op Events
- Interviews with relatives/friends on a variety of topics
February: POETRY MONTH: Once a week have your student create their own poetry. Spend at least two days a week reading works by famous poets.
- Early Elementary (Grades 2 – 4): Younger students can read nursery rhymes and try to replace words in nursery rhymes with their own. “Don Music” was a master at this! Check out his videos for some fun ideas for your early elementary students: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0hhcKQsJZA and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wY9O4M8DS7c
- Middle Elementary (Grades 3 – 5): Shel Silverstein is a great author for kids to read at this age. His poetry is entertaining, easy to read, and very, very funny! Other great works to introduce are “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Joyful Noise by Paul Fleischman. At this age kids can write simple diamante (examples: http://mgfx.com/kidlit/kids/artlit/poetry/hackley.htm) and acrostic poems (http://www.edu.pe.ca/stjean/playing%20with%20poetry/Hickey/acrostic.htm). Kids can also learn to write poetry with simple rhyme schemes of AABB, ABAB, or ABCB. For help with writing these types of poems, click here: http://www.poetry4kids.com/blog/lessons/rhyme-schemes-poetry-lesson-plan/.
- Upper Elementary (Grades 6 – 8): Great reads for this age include poetry by Carl Sandburg, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, Walt Whitman, and Emily Bronte. Junior High students should learn about the following topics: *Personification (http://literarydevices.net/personification/), *Metaphors (http://literarydevices.net/metaphor/), *Similes (http://literarydevices.net/simile/), and *Alliteration (http://literarydevices.net/alliteration/). Poems students create should be longer and more complex, utilizing more interesting and complicated vocabulary words, along with the literary devices mentioned above. This rhyming dictionary may be of help to the older student: http://www.rhymer.com/. I also highly recommend having junior high students read famous speeches from the Book of Great American Speeches for Young People by Suzanne McIntire. Many famous speeches include poetical devices.
March/April: REPORT MONTHS: Kids hate writing reports, but they will have to do many of them in highschool and college. So it’s important to begin the report writing experience as early as possible.
- Early Elementary (Grades 1 – 3) – Book Reports: Book reports are one of the easiest ways to introduce report writing to young children. The following sites have book report forms that make writing reports simple: http://edhelper.com/book_report_forms.htm and http://www.classroomjr.com/printable-book-report-forms/book-report-form/
- Middle Elementary (Grades 4 – 6) – Research Reports: At this age students can be introduced to simple research reports. Possible topics include: favorite land creature, sea animal, insect, sport, country, etc. Bibliographies should be included in final drafts.
- Upper Elementary (Grades 7 – 8) – Research Reports : Junior High students can include statistics, graphs and tables in their reports. Reports should include subtopics. Depending on the topic chosen, they can also include a final essay in their report, sharing their own perspectives about the chosen topic. Possible report ideas include: * Favorite author or artist: (subtopics: biography, short summaries of several works, why this is student’s favorite author/artist) * World Religion: (substopics: overview, different religious branches and summaries of each, how it compares and contrasts to Christianity (or own religion) * Today’s Issues (abortion, obesity in America, adoption, divorce in America, immigration, terrorism, etc.) [subtopics: overview, statistics nationwide and statewide, how it may affect future generations, student’s personal experience or opinions).
May/June: FREE WRITING: The end of the school year is a great time to catch up on a variety of subjects and to experience great field trips. Make writing a part of your weekly assignments if you can, otherwise, no worries. During these months kids can write on topics of their own choosing.
Hope this outline is a help to you!
Copyright October 12th, 2014 by Gwen Fredette