When my son came home from the last day of school, he was sulking.
"Aren’t you happy that today was the last day of school?"
"Are you sad that you will miss your friends?"
"Did something happen on the bus?"
"Why do you look so sad?”
"Writing Workshop is over, I won’t be able to write!"
Really? It took a moment for me to process this. I tried to hide my smile and told him, "We cans still write this summer!" And his eyes lit up. So trying to take advantage of this incredible news, I googled writing workshops for children, did some tutoring research and priced both. Not in the cards. But I am a writer. I have met the challenge of technical writing, explored creative writing, and led a workshop at my local library. I came across a dynamic English teaching methods professor in college, and she showed us how to teach The Writing Process to students, and I saw it work when teaching undergrad Comp and Lit classes.
So why can’t I create a writing workshop for my second grader (or you, for your child)? I have a feeling that, like me, all that my son needs is a pencil and lined paper. And since he loves to draw, one of the comp books with half of a page allocated to a drawing may work. The bigger challenge will be motivating my older son to join us. He would rather read than write; game than read. So I know that I will have to work hard to motivate him.
Ideally, I want to set up a writing group with a few of sons’ friends. If I can’t enlist friends (with a parent), I’ll settle for my two boys and myself. My focus is on prewriting (getting ideas) and drafting (focused writing); revising, proofing and publishing can come in at a later date, when the boys choose 1-2 favorite stories to finalize.
Here are my rules (and they will be tweaked as needed):
- A Place to Write
Let the children choose a place to write (the kitchen table, the floor, on the couch or pillows) and write with a pen (exciting for children who use only pencils) or even a crayon.
- Brainstorm Ideas
Allow brainstorming time where your child thinks aloud and you write down ideas; have your child draw his ideas out, use a friendly organizational diagram.
- Timed Writing
Have the children write for a short time frame, like five minutes, and gradually increase it. If they complain they want more time, allow it. If they complain about writing, have them list ideas.
- Just Write, Don't Edit Ideas or Content
Ignore spelling and let your child write phonetically. They may ask for help, but the goal is to write without stopping, allowing ideas to grow.
- Write with Your Child
Write with your child and share what you wrote. It is okay to write imperfectly and make mistakes. Don't apologize for errors.
- Enjoy Sharing
When your child reads, don’t forget to say which parts you loved, smile and laugh.
- Build Up Not Tear Down
Only provide constructive criticism when you get to the revising part. If you want to work on one area, let’s say punctuation, target one area like using commas or apostrophes. If you want your child to continue to write for you, you can’t break out the red pen.
- Make a Big Deal Over Their Writing
The more that they write, their skills and confidence increase.
Here’s a few ideas to get started:
- Scrapbook – journal the 5 ws of a favorite summer picture.
- Movie review – Movie night, complete with popcorn, soda, and candy. Entry on what you liked best in the movie and why.
- Bucket List: make a list of things that you want to do this summer and add why.
- Midsummer’s Night Dream – recount a vivid dream or make one up.
- Adventures of Fluffy – either tell or write a story of your pet on an adventure.
- Use the visual/written prompts from Big Universe as a starting point: http://blog.biguniverse.com/.
More journal topics can be found here:
- ACBteach.com: graphics for visual learners
- Journalbuddies.com: list of writing prompts
- Superteacherworksheets.com: journal ideas
- Patterned Based Writing: prompts for older elementary level children
Please share with me if you are going to try this - I'd love to get your feedback on what works for you and what doesn't!
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net