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Monday, April 19, 2010

Midwest Homeschool Convention-Writing Helps

Another thing I bought at the convention was a book that goes into the paragraph process called Just Write.

I also got another book with great helps called Kids Write! (fantasy & Sci Fi, Mystery, Autobiography, Adventure and More by Rebecca Olien.

I also attended a session called the Natural Stages of Writing by Julie Bogart. You've probably heard the saying, "When the student is ready the teacher will appear." Well she was exactly what I was looking for. 

 I really went to the convention with "Writing" being my top priority this year. Since getting the paragraph mastered is pretty much my goal with my son this next year. I really was blessed that I heard what I needed to hear, and found what I needed to find to help me in this process.

I started implementing some of her recommendations this past week, and plan to do it once a week as she recommended.

Here are a few tips she shared:

The next time your child comes running into the house to tell you something, Stop what you are doing, grab a pencil and paper and start writing it down. (I'm sure your kids will think you are crazy.) But keep doing it.
Tell them that is a great story and you want to capture it on paper. (Being a scrapbooker, this really appealed to me because I am always capturing moments in pictures, but I never thought to capture their words like this.
She said that this communicates to the child that what they have to say is important and that writing is just communicating your thoughts on paper.

Another thing she shared was that the writing process is like a baby eating. When they are very little they need to be spoon fed, and you are the one in control of the spoon, food etc. But as they get older they begin to grab for the spoon, and want to learn to feed themselves. At this point things get pretty messy. (You can picture food all over their face, their hair, the floor etc.) Well that is the same with the writing process.
When the child begins we are usually writing down their stories for them.(We are in control and it looks pretty neat.) Then they begin to take the pencil, and it gets messy. The are learning to write their letters, learning how to structure a sentence, how to put words together correctly etc. When this happens we don't want to 
get on them about missing a period or not capitalizing, we want to encourage them and offer a little constructive criticism at a time. Not all at once. 

She said that writing is a process and no matter where a child is in the process they can learn where they are and go on to be effective writers. Another thing she shared was that most people will have to write an essay or term paper in High School and College and for the SAT or ACT. But unless they actually plan to write a book or novel, they really don't need more extensive writing knowledge. She said for the most part...Kids need to learn how to write an effective email that can communicate to others. Because that is where we most use the writing process in every day life. (I really never thought of it that way.) As I have been pretty concerned because I, myself am not a skilled writer, and English was not my favorite subject or even one I excelled at.

She shared a technique called Timed Writing. She said to set the timer for 3 minutes, 1 day each week.
Tell the kids to write something. (Anything.) It can be about what they did yesterday, what they plan to do today, about an animal etc. The only catch is the pencil must stay moving at all times. (So if they get stuck and cannot figure out what to write, then they need to write "I can't think of what to write.." She also said that this is NORMAL. Even she gets writers block.  She also said that the parent should do it too, along with the children.

So we did our first timed writing assignment this past Wednesday.

She said to do this for 8 weeks in a row. Then let the children pick their favorite one. This is the one that they will revise. This is where we begin helping them with editing. She also mentioned questions to ask the kids taht will help them think more about what they wrote and draw out more details. She said to underline great sentences that show good description and praise them (Act as a coach that is there to HELP them.) Not just pick apart what they did wrong.

In the editing process, the will work on spelling words they may have spelled incorrectly, they can capitalize and punctuate properly, add more detail, etc. In this way they learn how to revise their work. Then after revision, they go on to make a final draft. (This process may take several weeks to complete.) But that is okay, they are learning. 

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at what both of my children were able to get on paper in the three minutes.  Lexi misspelled a lot, but she knew what she was trying to put on paper, and it was longer than Peyton's. I realized that Peyton was hindered more because he was worried more about spelling and the nuts and bolts of what to write. (Which kept his paper shorter.)

I will share more in another post on their timed assignments and how we are implementing this process.