Monday, January 31, 2011

How I teach creative writing

My methods for teaching creative writing are a priority to me because my oldest son wants to be a writer. Although this part of my children's education has always remained important to me, I have not given it my best attention lately. I had become disorganized and didn't have a routine. So when my best friend was preparing to teach a creative writing unit to her son's second grade class, I became inspired to be more consistent. Here is what I am now doing for my 4rth and 2nd grader.

4rth grade son:Each Monday he gets a writing assignment that is due on Friday. He writes a lot, so each week I observe his techniques and pick something on which to focus for the following week. Last week he needed to concentrate on his stories having rising action, a climax, and then falling action. I noticed his writing was beginning to become chaotic because he was including too many climactic moments. I made a simple chart about how stories progress (rising, climax, falling) and I gave him the topic of "a snowman" to write about for the week. After a short lesson, I gave him five days to complete a story. I didn't look at his story until it was complete on Friday.

Here was his exact story:

Carrot the Snowman

Once upon a time, there was a house in the middle of a field of wheat. It was the house of a family that lived on a farm. One day, it snowed. In fact, it snowed so hard that they had enough to build a snowman. They named him Carrot, and then went inside for hot cocoa. That very night, a comet fell down out of outer space and hit him on his whole body. He had now come to life, and was wondering what he is. "Maybe I'm a very white man", he said. "With a carrot nose and button eyes."

So he decided to leave his family and figure out what he was. He journeyed through the city next to the countryside. Meanwhile, the police spotted him. "Officer 415, we've got a walking snowman on the premises." They got their guns and got in their cars. Meanwhile, people started gasping and pointing at Carrot. He was confused. Then, all of a sudden, police cars pulled up, their sirens blazing. "Put up your, the air, snowman!" "I am a snowman???", said Carrot. "Yeah, duh", said a girl from the crowd. "Ooh, so that's what I am!" Then a police officer got so scared he shot a bullet straight into Carrot's heart. "Uhhh, oooowwww!" Suddenly, he drew his last breath, and fell down dead. And that is the tragic story of Carrot.

There are some really great things Jackson did in his writing. He used plenty of descriptive words, he used "ly" words, he combined narrative and dialogue, and he used the rising action-climax-falling action model in both paragraphs. Even though the ending was a bit disturbing (but so very boyish), I loved what he wrote!

This week we focused on what makes a good paragraph. We talked about topic sentences and how to support them, indenting the first sentence, and developing a main idea. His assignment this week is to compose a different paragraph each day on a given topic, with these parameters in mind. Other topics that will we will cover this year: time order words, vivid verbs, precise nouns, using all of his senses in descriptions, developing the setting, etc. I am using this book as a guide for my assignments, along with the Institute for Excellence in Writing curriculum:
2nd grade son (reluctant writer): My goals for my second grader are to enjoy writing, to be able to have a smooth beginning, middle, and end to the story, to use more descriptive language, and to become more adept at expressing his thoughts into words. His assignments are simple and concise.

Assignment from last week: Practice using details. We took at the topic of a snowman and he had to answer five questions. He wrote a little each day. Then he combined the answers to create a story with an illustration and turned it in on Friday. I introduced the idea of personification to him. Here were his simple questions:

What is his name?

Where does he live?

What does he do?

What does he look like?

What is his favorite color?

His story: My snowman's name is Snowy. My snowman lives in a snow house. My snowman goes sledding down a hill and goes shopping for food and cleans his house. My snowman has a hat, a scarf, a sweater, and a smile. His favorite color is light blue.

Even though there is no plot, I was proud of his descriptions. He did the assignment without frustration. As usual, he spelled every word correctly and remembered to capitalize and punctuate. He understands the mechanics of grammar very well. We just need to work on his creativity and ability to express himself well.

This week his assignment is to make an acrostic with the word WINTER. Each line must have a complete sentence, cursive writing, and punctuation marks. Then he has space at the bottom for an illustration. I divided the assignment by days for him:

M- W, I
T- N, T
W- E, R
Th- Illustrate
Fr- Color and turn in

So far, he has:
W- Winter is when snow comes.
I- I love sledding in winter.

Jackson will probably have assignments involving poetry, creating comics, and different types of letters. And with Joshua I will probably continue to keep it simple. I saw in the second grade classroom at my friend's school that they were learning about cinquain poetry. Maybe we will use that idea for an assignment. If he continues to enjoy writing, capitalizes and punctuates well, and learns to develop a smooth plot I will be happy!

So, that's how my boys are learning to write. Teachers/Moms out there, how do you teach your children??

1 comment:

Tiff said...

I'm so inspired!