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Se7en + 1 Ways To Tackle Creative Writing…

March 22nd, 2012 · 13 Comments

This past year of school we learnt the secret of keeping going with all this topics that we start with enthusiasm and then fizzle: A little bit every day works for us. Never has there been a subject that this was more applicable to than with creative writing. There is no point in scheduling reading twice a week or map work on Mondays… we need to do a little bit every day. Now like many folk I would like to write a book one day – I know now is not the season – and I am not a natural writer, but I do believe that a little writing every day will stand me in good stead for the day I actually do begin. In fact I believe everybody has a book inside of them and given the opportunity to share our ideas or the skills to communicate our thoughts. Well I firmly believe that practice is a good place to start and I want my kids to have plenty of practice at writing… So should the book inside of them need to get written then they will have years of practice at writing under their belt.

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Most school years we have begun our writing with enthusiasm and then faded, we tend to get so excited and involved in a project and then totally crash and burn. This past year we managed to go the distance and my kids have begun a writing portfolio of note… We began our school day with a little art because everybody loves it and it set the tone for a good day… then we did a little writing and then we got on with reading and bookwork. For the writing it was not something I necessarily taught my kids I was getting into the habit for myself as much as for them… And I think that may well have been why it worked – I was working alongside them, we had similar struggles and similar projects that we succeeded at. It was more of a team sport than me just saying “do this, do that” and then ticking it off on the schedule.

So here you go: Se7en + 1 Tips to keep you writing and enjoying it…

  1. Create a writing environment:
  2. To begin with we created a shelf for our writing materials – sort like things together! – and then we worked at the table together. While we have always had heaps of crafty materials available this year was the first time we had a spot that was specifically just for writing materials. A box of paper, lined or unlined, colored or not. Blank postcards and writing paper in case inspiration hits. And a jar of pencils or pens or whatever your kids like to write with. That is the writing spot… when we find a stray pencil then we know to return it to the writing spot. This is a screen free spot – no distractions, no internet – this writing was about creating and not resourcing so much. I wanted to emphasize the writing rather than the artwork so I purposefully kept it quite minimalist. But we all like illustrating our work so we added watercolor crayons for illustrating…

    Creative Writing006

    An interview for Christopher Columbus.

  3. A Time to Write:
  4. By scheduling our writing at the same time everyday it quickly became a habit. Now I have a tendency to “get things done” and I learnt to say “take your time” rather than “lets finish this up.” Not exactly the easiest lesson for me!!! Most of our writing projects take between fifteen and twenty minutes. By saying we had as long as we needed and taking our time was very enabling… we took the same amount of time as when I said we needed to speed things up… but just the idea that we could take our time, made the whole thing more relaxed and tension free.

  5. Get Inspired:
  6. There are so many things to inspire a writer… I gather up a couple of resources and drop them in our writing corner. Old photographs and albums, magazine pictures, old calendars… picture books without words, really anything that you might want to chat about with your kids…

    Creative Writing005

    A News Report.

  7. A System for Recording Work:
  8. We keep all our writing assignments in large journals. I have kept piles of my kids school journals from previous years but I have a feeling that their special writing journals are going to be just that: Special. For years to come. Any writing that gets done on paper or elsewhere is added into the journal throughout the week. Ownership is important here and my kids work hard to make their journals look good. I have one child whose school books always look like a scrap heap, with books literally falling apart from day one of the year… his book I tackle with tape and glue and whatever it takes to keep it looking good!!!

    Creative Writing003

    Word Play.

  9. Writing Prompts:
  10. There are few things more daunting than a blank page!!! If you google writing prompt and the age or grade of your child you will discover heaps of online ideas. I have managed to get away with:

    • Imagine if…
    • Describe…
    • Tell me…
    • If you could…
    • Remember when…
    • Who / What / Where / When / Why…

    Creative Writing004

    A Mini-Report in progress: Mind Mapping.

  11. A Writing Rhythm: We have different writing exercises on different days of the week… and folk have come to expect certain assignments on certain days of the week. So while it changes from day to day, and we never dwelled on any one assignment for long we got used to a routine from week to week.
    • Monday – A report back: An outing or an adventure we have experienced in the past week… a diary entry really. Here we add in pamphlets collected, photographs taken… maps and other artifacts collected.
    • Tuesday – Current Affairs: We listen to the news… well we used to listen to a brilliant podcast: World News for Children… but they are no longer posting so we are looking for a new and wonderful listening source of news for kids. What we do is listen to the three minute podcast, everyone chooses a snippet and then we take the thirty snippet news flash and expand this into a story. For example don’t just say there was an earthquake, think about the location and the season, for example, and that consequently folk will be homeless and cold, it will be snowing or raining and so on… use the information we have to build a story… this has been one of our most fun writing assignments!!!
    • Wednesday – Mini-Report Day: We are all for mini-reports, remember this is about writing rather than research. I know my kids can spend hours and hours on research as they browse through information… but I want them to know that they know lots of facts already… So we all pick a word or a topic… and then we mind-map… Choose three things about the topic that you would like to write about. Then choose three sub-topics for each topic… We turn each of the sub topics into a sentence and then three of them make a paragraph. We add an introduction and a conclusion to surround our three paragraphs and a mini-report is born. For my older kids I might sometimes make them make sub-sub-topics… then they can think about three chapters… it is an easy model to expand or contract depending on the ability of the writer. Very often my kids surprise themselves, writing about topics they didn’t realize they knew about.
    • Thursday – Creative Writing: This is the day we may use writing prompts or photographs… often times we will take these bits of writing to create a newspaper… We also use Thursdays to write our not so traditional book reports for books that they may have read for school. Rewrite a section as if you were one of the characters… What would this book be like if it was set in a different city… If this book were a painting what would it look like… if this book were a meal what would it taste like… If we are going to write poetry then it would be on a Thursday. Everyone knows that on a Thursday we will do some seriously fun writing and we look forward to it after a week of hard work.
    • Friday – Letter Writing: Fridays are an easy school day for us… so our writing is a quick letter shot off to a friend. All my kids have someone special that they write to and we have a pile of folk that we write to as a family, the names on our writing list just rotate round…

    Creative Writing002

    The morning routine: “I am going to wake up in the morning and then I will have breakfast and then I will do school.”

  12. Error Free Zone:
  13. Keep in mind that this is supposed to be fun writing… between fifteen and twenty minutes each day. It is not the time to learn that a story has a beginning, a middle and an end or the structure of the business letter. We do learn that in language arts… but this is the place for fun writing. I expect it to be fun… I don’t worry about spelling or punctuation too much – just ignore it and appreciate the effort that went into it. There is definite improvement as they go along. When my kids are small I scribe for them, but as soon as they are able I will write a little bit for them and then they can copy that into their journal. I do help with spelling if I am asked and will write a tricky word on a piece of paper for them to copy correctly – but thats as close as we get to perfection. I am far more interested in them having a piece of writing at the end of the exercise that they wrote themselves and that they enjoyed working on.

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    And the se7en + 1th thing.

  14. Make it Fun: I work alongside my kids for this, if I am not having fun then nobody’s having fun. I am not expecting epic essays, one or two paragraphs are enough. I expect the work to be a good effort, nice enough hand-writing and good content but I am not expecting perfection. Sometimes there isn’t even a story… a fabulous illustration or a story outline, just a speech bubble added to a photograph. As the mom it is my job to lead the way and to inspire – often my fellow writers need little or no encouragement and other times they hit a blank and need all the encouragement in the world. For non-writers and I am sure every family has at least one… then make it short and sweet… as long as they write anything – shopping lists, fill in junk mail forms, anything… One of my non-writers has become a writer just because the habit has stuck… a little bit every day does eventually pay off.

So that is our creative writing journey so far and I have to say I think my kids are looking forward to a fresh year of school and more writing fun.

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Tags: Language Arts · Se7en at School

13 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ren Lady Of The Arts // Mar 23, 2012 at 12:47 am

    Love this post- what great advice- while we were in Guatemala the boys kept a journal- something which I am trying to keep going now that we are back- I will certainly follow some of your tips- I agree that everyone has a book in them.

  • 2 se7en // Mar 23, 2012 at 1:14 am

    Hay Ren Lady of the Arts… Lovely to hear from you!!! I have loved following your trip – and stunning photographs on instagram!!! You never know maybe there is a Guatamala photo/travel book in one of your family members!!! Hope you have a fabulous weekend!!!

  • 3 Corli // Mar 23, 2012 at 5:44 am

    Just the post I have been waiting for! Heaps of do-able ideas – thank you! A question: is this writing on top of or instead of the Sonlight creative writing assignments?
    And do you do the same as the kiddo’s, or your own projects during writing time?
    (A few letters arrived today – so wonderful to receive snail mail. There will be some your way soon!)
    Corli´s last blog post ..winter beauties

  • 4 se7en // Mar 23, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Hay Corli, This writing is totally separate to our sonlight school… we do their creative writing when we do our files later. I found the Sonlight language arts to be very educational!!! So it has it certainly has its place, but we needed to take the pressure off that one piece of writing a week and we needed to have a lot more fun!!! So this is just fun writing and doesn’t go into our school journals… a bit like sketch booking, compared to actual art… and I am going to blog about our art really soon!!! Hope you have a fab week – so glad that you got some letters – AT LAST!!! Lots of love and have a fun weekend!!!

  • 5 Pam F. // Mar 23, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    I just needed to chime in on this one! What a wonderful post full of practical ideas and inspiration. We also tend to fizzle, but have added some nice journals this year for science and writing assignments. I think the idea of quick, fun projects may be just what we need to take some of stress out of writing. Writing with them is also something I should do more of. Thanks!

  • 6 se7en // Mar 23, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Hi Pam, So glad you were inspired!!! I ave so found that having a beautiful journal really helps us all to keep filling it!!! I always craft alongside my kids – it stops me from getting “over-involved” !!!, but this was the first year that I thought of writing with them – it was a lot of fun and I could quickly tell which writing assignments were the most fun, the hardest and so on!!! It’s not that my kids can’t write, I just really want it to be fun so that they enjoy writing!!! Hope you have a great weekend!!!

  • 7 Lillian Marsh // Mar 24, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    This is a fabulous post! Thank you for sharing it. I will definitely be using some of these ideas. We already do a journal once a week, but we aren’t getting to those book reviews and other fun ideas. Thanks!

    Also, if some of the Hoods would like some other pen pals in the southern US, please let me know. I have some dc ages 8-15 who would love to write them. They already enjoy your blog. :)

    Hope you’re having a great weekend. It’s a beautiful spring Saturday in Alabama. Lillian

  • 8 se7en // Mar 25, 2012 at 2:40 am

    Hay Lillian, Thanks for the lovely comment!!! It was a great post to write and made me get all our writing into order!!! I will chat to my kids about more pen friends and get back to you!!! Hope you are having a fun weekend as well!!! Lots of love…

  • 9 Andrea // Apr 20, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    I just found your blog through a link today as I was reading up about writing journals . You mentioned something about current news. have you tried watching CNN Student News? Our 10 year-old daughter watches the 10 minute CNN Student News segment each morning before we start our homeschool day.

  • 10 se7en // Apr 20, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    Hay Andrea, That’s a great idea!!! I was kind of thinking my kids should create their own news but that is quite a bit of a big project!!! Thanks for the tip… Hope you have a great weekend!!!

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