Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Entertaining Beginnings . . .

Art credit here
I couldn't write fast enough to keep up with the ideas that flew at me.  I turned to see my kids rising out of their seats with energy.  I stopped writing and asked as I laughed out loud, "What's happening here?  Do you feel how full of life you all are?  Look how your bodies can't even stay seated!"

"You're right, Mom!  This is great!"

"How funny!  I'm standing up in my chair!  I like doing this!"

"I can't wait to do some more!"

"I'm going to do this during my free time!  This isn't like school at all!"

"I'm so glad you're enjoying this!  And I'm so glad you're excited to write on your own.  Let's keep practicing because there is so much to learn!" I said, and we returned to our writing lesson on "Entertaining Beginnings."

Every day (except for E12 who only has time once a week because of her job as a mother's helper) the older girls get out their creative writing journals and write for half an hour.  They can write about anything, and they have a little plastic bag filled with journal prompts they can draw on if they don't have an idea of their own.

They actually really like it.

Once a week we're meeting for a Writing Workshop (we're using this that I picked up for a dollar at a used curriculum sale) during which they get to read a favorite selection from their journals and I present a writing concept for practice.

Last week's lesson on types of writing was a total dud--useful, but not inspiring.

This week's lesson was such a joy that I still can't stop smiling when I think about it.  S10 left the lesson and completely rewrote the beginning of her pirate story during her free time.

The funny thing is that the lesson was nothing more than me standing at the white board listing techniques they could use to grab the reader's attention and having them practice the techniques with me.  It wasn't the lesson that was inspiring--it was the actual act of writing that lit us on fire.

We've had very little formal writing instruction in our homeschool so far.  I just read to them a lot.  And I give them good books to read. 

We read a lot.

A lot.

The kids have developed such good ears for good writing that just handing them the tools they need is allowing them to create masterpieces.  At the beginning of the lesson I asked them to start a story about  finding a mermaid at the beach; without fail the stories all began, "One day I . . ."  At the end of the lesson I asked them to use any one of the 5 techniques we'd discussed to start the same story.  The difference was astonishing.

They won't let me copy their work here, but I can say that J8 used sound effects and dialogue to set up a story that I wish she would finish!  M10 and S10 used action and sound effects to create very engaging beginnings.  E12 knocked my socks off with a beginning that was worthy of an award-winning adventure novel; it had a capsizing boat and a brush with scales . . .  and I can feel my heart rate picking up just remembering it. 

(Yes, I am their mom, but I'm also very critical of their writing.  I like good writing, and I know good writing when I read it.  I wish they'd let me show off their work!)

I challenged each girl to use the techniques we talked about this week during their creative writing times.  Seriously, I am so excited for next week's Writing Workshop!

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