There are a bazillion writing programs out there. And there is usually something of value in each of them. I’ve tried many of them, with mixed success, depending on the particular child, their age, what they had for breakfast, and the current tilt of the moon.
But I’m going to share with you the most successful writing program we ever used. And the good news is. . .you won’t need to buy a thing.
The place where my kids got stuck it seemed was on starting.
And then producing.
They had great ideas, but they never got beyond that.
They were waiting for inspiration.
They had writer’s cramp.
They had writer’s block.
They had a cramp in their writer’s block.
I grew weary of the excuses.
I just wanted them to write.
I didn’t even care if they said anything worthwhile.
I just wanted them writing.
And that’s when it hit me.
They needed to learn that they CAN write, any time, about anything, at the drop of a hat, with little or no prompting.
Heavens knows they can verbalize any time, about anything, with little or no prompting (and incidentally, little or no real knowledge either).
So writing shouldn’t be much of a stretch.
Thus, for a whole year, this was my only writing objective.
Here’s how it worked.
FIRST–Talk about Reporters.
I explained that journalists and reporters don’t have the luxury that most students do.
They don’t get to pick their topic.
They don’t get two weeks notice.
They are told to rattle off a thousand words on a topic of the editor’s choice.
It may be dull.
It may be unpleasant.
It may be a topic that holds absolutely no interest whatsoever for them personally.
And oh yeah, it may also be due in one hour.
That’s the real world of journalism. There’s no time to sit and whine about waiting for inspiration.
They must simply start writing. . .NOW!
SECOND–YOU, dear teacher, are now the Editor
Create Your Assignments. I created 25 or so writing prompts. You can make your own as well. Or, you can find a gazillion of these on line. Just google the words “writing prompts” and you find them by the hundreds. You’ll also find page after page of them at the on-line Writer’s Digest Site.
You get the idea.
Here are some of the one’s we used, just to give you an idea.
Sometimes they were really short and simple.
- Write about a woman who has a phobia about string
- Describe your dream house
- Write a short piece that includes three shades of blue
Sometimes they were more substantial prompts.
- Babies typically talk in babbles that adults can’t understand. But one day, while at the park, you’re sitting on a bench next to two babies. They start their babbling, when all of a sudden you realize you can understand them. Even more, they are plotting a nefarious plan. Write this scene.
- “What piece of junk are you keeping? Open the ‘junk’ drawer in your life…it’s probably in your kitchen, your garage or your desk. Take one item out of it that’s been there for a long time. Write a piece that explains why you haven’t thrown the item away yet.”
If you want some prompts that take your child far into the story line before expecting them to write, take a look at a book called Story Starters by Karen Andreola. These have several paragraphs of lead in and are accompanied by a beautiful illustration to further encourage imagery for your child.
If you think these prompts are not appropriate for your younger writer, just add “for kids” to your “writing prompts” google search and you’ll find plenty created for the younger child.
Once I had my 25 prompts chosen, I typed and printed out each prompt. I put each one in a separate envelope. Sealed it. And dropped it in a basket.
Now even I didn’t know what was where.
THIRD–Daily Writing Time
Each day, for a mere 15 minutes, we had writing time. Five days a week.
We set a timer.
My daughter sat at one computer. I sat at another. For us it worked better if more people participated rather than less. But you can decide what works for your crew.
My student selected her “assignment” from the pile of envelopes.
We set the stage of being journalists in a buzzing office. Our assignment editor was coming up to our desk.
The pressure was on. We were told what we must do.
She tore open the envelope, read it aloud, hit the timer and then we both began to write.
We wrote till the timer buzzed that our 15 minutes was up.
Then we just read to each other what we’d written and filed it away.
There is nothing amazing or astounding about this process. But there was an amazing outcome.
My daughter learned that she could produce–on the spot–some kind of commentary or fiction about anything.
And after a few weeks, she owned the fact that she could write on demand.
The next year I worried about shaping the writing, proper spelling, line of thought, etc.
But we no longer suffered from the pain of just getting started.
And it turned out that this was about 90% of the battle.
If your Sizzler hates writing, this may be the ticket.
As always, we endeavor to continually supply one more thing to try.