Wednesday, February 4

Creative Writing

I struggle with teaching creative writing. It was something I LOVED as a kid. I couldn't NOT write. It was a compulsion. I was a visual learner who learned to spell as I learned to read. There were a few mishaps, like when I gave my mom a card that read "You are the beast". But I was five and I remember thinking as I wrote it that some words used some fancy e-a combinations and that this was definitely a fancy occasion.

My boys have not embraced spelling and grammar as I did. They speak well, generally, but it doesn't always transfer on paper. Each book report they turn in requires major editing. I have dragged my feet on assigning creative writing assignments because I knew each story would have to be rewritten with many corrections and I have been afraid of hindering their love of writing. So far, their love of writing has only manifested itself in the form of comic books, but I hold out hope. I desperately cling to hope.

Until that day comes, I tried something a little different with them. It is incredibly simple - basic even, but leaves so much room for creative thinking without the pressure of coming up with a story from a blank page. It's a company called Writeshop. They have different story prompt ebooks:

  • World of Animals StoryBuilders – Retail $7.95
  • World of People StoryBuilders – Retail $7.95
  • World of Sports StoryBuilders – Retail $7.95
  • Christmas Mini-Builder – Retail $3.95
Basically, you print the books out on cardstock and cut them into color-coded cards. Each child receives a card from each color-coded category:

• Character Cards
• Character Trait Cards
• Setting Cards
• Plot Cards

There are several ideas that come with the book for implementing the cards into your writing lessons. Using World of People Storybuilders, I handed out 4 stacks of 4 cards and let my kids pick their favorites. They came up with their stories and dictated to me while I typed. I had them watch so they could see the correct spelling appear on screen and we discussed any grammar issues that came up (except the girls - their stories are unadulterated.) Here is what they all came up with:

(11yo)Ethan's Story:
Ethan's cards: rude, scientist, won a contest, beach

One day, there was a very rude and evil scientist who was invited to a party with his evil scientist friends. At the party, he put his name in a drawing for a lifetime supply of explosives. He won the contest and went back to his hideout which was close to the beach. He dominated the beach with explosives by tunneling under the beach and planting the explosives. He demolished the beach. The End.

Disturbing, Ethan. Very disturbing.

(9yo) Joel's Story
Joel's cards: clever, detective, grandma's house, could not move

There once was a very young, unclever detective. He was at his Grandma's house and he could not move because he was in time-out. He tried to sneak away once and was spanked. He tried to do it again and was spanked. And then he tried to do it again and his grandma said that she would tell his mom when she got home. He was then locked in a room with one window and one dresser. He looked in the dresser and made a sock rope and climbed out the window. He was trying to go to a crime scene involving a guy stealing a key. But the detective was caught by his grandma. Again. He was put in a different room with NO windows. But it just so happened that in that room, his grandpa kept some tools. He picked up a sledge hammer and made a big hole in the wall. And then he used the same sock rope and climbed out his new window to get to the crime scene. But no one would let him in because he was too young. And so he had to go back to his grandma's house to get the sock rope. But he got caught. Again. And so, he got in trouble for breaking the wall and was put in another room which had absolutely nothing in it: no furniture, nothing. But it just so happened that his grandma forgot to take away his handy-dandy spy kit. And so, he took out an alarm and triggered it. His grandma thought it was a smoke alarm. And so she unlocked the door, took him out of the room, and ran outside. But in the midst of it, he escaped. He went to the crime scene WITH the sock rope this time. And so he got in and fell off a wall and landed on tile. He landed on a secret tile which opened a secret door. And so he went into the secret door and tripped. And then he landed on another secret tile which opened another secret door. He saw the guy who stole the key and he tried to stop him. Tons of missiles shot out of the walls, but he was so skinny that the explosions didn't hurt him. And so he got the guy and he reached into his pocket for his cell phone to call the police. But then he remembered he didn't have a cell phone. So he yelled and some other detectives found the doors and came in and called the police and he got the prize for catching him so he could buy all the chocolate he wanted. The End.

I kid you not, it took 5 minutes for him to invent and dictate this story to me.

(5yo) Honor's Story
Honor's cards: Ungrateful, ballerina, hideout, finds a bag full of jewels.

One day, there was this king and he heard a noise just like a cry of a baby so he said 'Open the castle door" because he heard it and he saw a little baby wrapped in cloth so it would be warm because it would be cold outside. So he brought it in and then he noticed that it had a note saying "Please take care of my baby. It's not an ordinary baby. It's a baby that is a Princess Ballerina." In the morning, she is a kid. So he crowns her and then he says "Can you pick some magic eggs and then we'll have magic eggs and those weren't ordinary eggs. They made food for them to eat. So she picked up her basket and then she picked some eggs - the magic eggs- and THEN the king thought that it would make food but faeries would pop out when you crack them. And THEN they turned her into anything she wanted and would make anything she wanted.And then it was actually a dream and she was a baby actually. She just had a dream, she was just a baby. And she crawls out of her bed and she falls. She's a baby and she's sick and her mom called the doctor. And she looks like this (Honor does a headstand with her tongue sticking out and falls over) and then her face doesn't look good. And then the doctor picks her up and she crawls everywhere and she tickles him in his doctor suit but she doesn't bite because she isn't a biting baby so she doesn't bite because she doesn't have any teeth because she had them all pulled out by a different doctor. And then her mom sends her to crawl and get some daffodil flowers and then she gets caught. But not by a bad guy, but by a king who didn't get her earlier....that's the queen's the queen's husband gets her into his castle and NOW she's dressed up and she jumps up like THIS (lots of jumping) and now she's five years old and now she has a yellow dress and she lives with the king and the faeries turn her into a cupid. The End.

What are you smokin' there, Honor? And then?

(3yo) Sarah's Story
Sarah's cards: baby, exhausted, park, grew wings

Once there was a baby. She was exhausted. Her mama took her to the park. She grew wings and flew around the park. And then she went home and went to sleep.

Seeing Joel enjoy his story, Sarah told me her story wasn't finished and came back to do more.

(Mama, what does this one say?)And then it does the cannot mooooooooove! (what's this one say?) And then someone goes to the beach. But I don't know what it's name is. (what's this one say?) And then it does rude stuff. And THEN it does....I can't figure it out. And thennnnnn it does the clever ummmmm, I don't know. (And what does this say?) And then it wins a contest. The End.

The Christmas Storybuilder
would be a great addition to Advent studies....and cheap! I like cheap! But mostly, I like these because the kids get to enjoy writing without mom pulling out the dreaded red pencil. I could (and probably should) but I pull it out with so many other assignments and I want to keep this one all about the love of writing.


Mike said...

My high school creative writing teacher used a very similar method. I've been looking for something like that for a while.

Thank you!

Jenni said...

I wish I had known about these when my kids were younger and being homeschooled. Creative writing was very hard for me to teach, too. It was like teaching a kid how to cut with scissors. How do you do it? You just DO it! Caleb was a natural and still loves to write. It was like pulling teeth to get the other three to write--especially the girls. They would have a breakdown if I asked them to write a three sentence paragraph. I think they were just overwhelmed and completely lacking in confidence. Giving them the pieces to start a story would have helped, and I tried that, but I think it would have helped more if presented in this way. (You know, by cards from someone other than Mom.) I think it's much harder to teach something that you've never had to *think* about *how* to do. I think this was my high school Algebra teacher's problem--he could do, but he couldn't teach.

Shanna said...

Cute stories. Very funny!

I took a look at the review calendar the other day and saw we have as many reviews due in Feb and March as we did in Dec. Wow! I gotta get to work. Haven't even started TOG and FIAR.

Lillian said...

I think your solution might be an answer to my prayers. I have the exact same dilemma. I was/am a natural speller/writer. My kids are not.

And the part of homeschooling I've been struggling with the most is spelling, writing, and grammar.

I've switched my girls to Andrew Pudewa's The Phonetic Zoo. And we use a grammer program that is gentle and uses some narration & dictation.

But I've always felt like they needed more. But didn't want to push or make them dread it. I'm getting writeshop and making my own box of prompts this week.

Thank you so much for sharing your struggle and solution. I hope to benefit from this as well.

Blessings to you and yours.

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