Since November is NaNoWriMo, I figured that this was the perfect time of year to talk about how my writing class is going at my weekly homeschool co-op.
For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is “novel writing month,” and a lot of my friends join in every year. The idea is to get ideas down on paper. The ultimate goal is to get 50,000 words of a semi-coherent novel written, but I think the underlying hope is that it gets people thinking creatively and trying to write.
There are options for Young Writers as well for the educators and homeschool parents out there. Definitely something I’m going to be encouraging…probably next year. I realize it would have been much better had I alerted you to this last week, but still, better late than never.
At any rate, I have been teaching a writing workshop class at our weekly homeschool co-op this year and it has been an educational opportunity for me. I am not a certified educator: in Illinois, homeschooling parents are considered private school educators, and they do not require a teaching certificate. However, I consider myself to be intelligent, and having done a fair share of reading about writing instruction and writing workshops, I felt I knew what I was getting in to.
The most challenging part of the class is that the seven students I have are at completely different levels. The oldest (third and fourth graders) are able to write more than one sentence at a time. The first and second graders struggle to write a sentence at all. And I don’t mean just the physical challenge of writing: I mean they don’t realize that “The Big Spider” is not a sentence. I have realized we need to break it down into the steps of writing a bit more.
The main goal of my class is not to get kids writing novels for each other. My goal is that the kids recognize that they have great ideas that are worth sharing. We have free writing time each week and I tell the kids that I won’t spell words for them: it’s only for them to get their ideas down, in words or pictures. The time we spend together will be for learning a basic concept that could help them in getting their ideas down!
I’ve decided the next few weeks, before our Winter break, will be dedicated to understanding the basic parts of speech: awesome adjectives, active verbs, and strong nouns. I also hope to impart the fact that beautiful beginnings make a difference and that “Once upon a time” should not be the go-to story starter. We’re going to go back and start at the beginning of what makes a sentence, then add paragraphs to that. We’ll learn to write step by step…line upon line…just as we learn everything else one step at a time.
So our first activity was to look at adjectives. For this activity, I made a game like Apples to Apples. The person who was “It” got a picture (I used some famous paintings by Norman Rockwell and Mary Cassatt and so forth). The rest of the group got four index cards each with adjectives written on them. Each person playing had to decide which adjectives best described the picture.
It was so much fun! The kids begged to play it again, but we were out of time. I think we may have revisit it. I suspect we could replay it with verbs, as well!
I’m working on pulling more pictures together, as well as the adjectives cards, so that I can offer the full game. For now, though, I have a few of the pictures in a document below so you can use these too in your writing workshop.
[ddownload id=”1720″ text=”Download Artwork Adjectives” style=”button” color=”blue”]
If you don’t want to make the game, you could always use these pictures as basic writing prompts. Ask questions like these: What adjectives would you use to describe the picture? What is each person thinking? What is happening in this picture? Describe the setting.