Teaching Kids to Have Fun with Writing!
Guest Blog by Mary Ellen Ledbetter
What is the secret in teaching students to write? It’s simple. Young writers must feel that writing is fun, exciting, a vehicle to express the unlimited volumes of opinions, stories, poems—whatever form it takes to motivate them and experience the thrill of success. Certainly a work must have structure / organization, but it’s the freedom to express their unique voices that will hook them, experimenting until they find their own way of choosing just the right words, lining them up just so, making them dance to the beat these students hear playing in their heads. Only when they are allowed to write something fresh and exciting will those boring, lackluster papers turn magical, and it is at that moment writers are born.
Ray Bradbury often has used just one word as a starting point, such as “carnival,” which became a short story, then a novel, and finally a movie. He believes that above all else, writers need to see to their “zest” and “gusto.” Sometimes, though, student writers bemoan their erroroneous assumption that they “have nothing to write about” or that they have “writer’s block.” Just a few ideas might be enough to put pens to paper or get fingers tapping away on their computers:
Activities Involving a Partner or Parent:
- Give the writer five words to be used in any order in a poem.
- Write five possible settings, characters, and conflicts. The student writer chooses one of each to compose a short-short / vignette (around 500-600 words).
- Ask the student to write to an advice column about a problem he /she is having. The partner should write a response
Activities Students Can Do Individually:
- Make a Play-Doh “sculpture and describe it or turn it into an element in a short story (e.g., a baseball, heart, birthday cake).
- Write a different ending to a short story or novel. Compare the two; yours just might be better!
- Look up colors of crayons and explain what color you would be and why or write from the perspective of that color—personifying it.
- Choose whether you would prefer to live in the past or future and write an expanded moment with you in that era.
- Draw several scenes from your reading and describe what is happening. These could take the form of a collage, four-frame cartoon, or sequence strip.
- Compare you and your best friend, giving specific incidents / examples of how you are alike as well as different.
- Choose a word that best describes you and one that least describes you, giving three reasons for your choices.
- Make a list poem of things that annoy you and another one of things that please you.
Mary Ledbetter is a national speaker for the Bureau of Education and Research, owns her own company MEL’S Pen, LLC, that enables her to visit classrooms to instruct students and teachers across the country, and the author of many books such as The Writing Teacher’s Activity-a-Day and Ready-to-Use English Workshop Activities for Grades 6-12 (Jossey-Bass).
See www.maryledbetter.com for more information.