“The day is full of possibilities. It’s all in the way you look at things.”
I love to write. Ask any of my current and former students and they’ll likely tell you that I also love to teach writing. Hand me a prompt and a rubric and it’s go time. Many of my students are right there with me, while others…
…not so much.
I get it. Writing is hard and staring at a blank page can be terrifying. In following up with my last post Unplugged Literacy Activities, here are some of my favorite ways to encourage young writers from home.
Encourage children to journal each day. If they struggle to come up with ideas of what to write about, offer them a daily prompt.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
What superpower would you most like to possess?
What are your goals for today, what will you do to accomplish them? What did you achieve yesterday?
Narrative writing is one of the three tenets of writing taught to elementary students. Simply put, this is the ability to write a story. These stories can be fiction or nonfiction, can take place in present time or the past, and need to have characters and dialogue. If students are struggling to come up with narrative prompts, here are a few ideas.
Free Write Based on a Photo
I love to show students a picture with no backstory or details and tell them to write about it. It’s amazing what they come up with as far as characters and plot. Many even write a poem based on the photo. I’m always impressed by their creativity. This photo in particular is one I took inside of the Lewis and Clark Caverns. Without telling my students that, I would show them the picture and say…Go!
Write an Alternate Ending
Read children a story, or have them read a book, and then write a different ending. You can also take a story they enjoy and ask them to write what happens next (think: modern fan-fiction)
Write from a Different Character’s Point of View
If Harry Potter was told from Hermione Granger’s perspective , what would happen? Similar to an alternate ending, how would the narrative change if it was told from another person’s perspective?
Write a Fractured Fairy Tale
I love reading fractured fairy tales, which are basically fairy tales told from the point of view of the antagonist. My favorite is a picture book The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig. I’m also currently reading Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin to my fifth graders. Students love reading the perspective of the antagonist. Why not have them write a story of their own based off of the “bad guy?” Personally, I’d love to read a story about Syd from Toy Story. That kid is a chasm of twisted creativity.
Write a Script
My son loved writing scripts when he was younger, which he turned into homemade movies. He had backstory, tragedy, and a lot of cousins to act out his movies. In fact, these days he’s still writing scripts as one of the Assemblies Coordinators at his high school. One way to increase creativity is to have students write a movie script that they can perform and film at home. Kids are super adept at technology so why not embrace it?
The second type of writing students are expected to know in elementary school is informational, or informative, writing. This writing is meant to inform a reader about a topic. Informational writing in nonfiction and must have a main idea and evidence to support the main idea. Here are some ways to improve informational writing.
Research a Topic
Choose a topic that the writer can teach others about. Remember, all evidence must be fact based as the main priority is to educate the reader. For example, if the topic is The Black Hole, have your child research about the black hole and write a paper or create a slide presentation to teach you about it.
Create an Informational Pamphlet
Again, research a topic and create a pamphlet with information and nonfiction text features- pictures, graphs, diagrams, charts, etc.- to engage the reader. As I tell my students, the best way to engage a reader is to make them interested from the get go. The best way to keep a reader is to hook them from the start.
Start a Family Newspaper
There are a lot of current events and news that can be added to a family newspaper, not to mention editorials, book and movie blurbs, and advice columns. Make it fun and collaborative! Also, share it with me because I love reading about current events!
Create an Encyclopedia
Do current students even know what an encyclopedia is? Have your child choose a letter and write informational pieces about various topics that start with that letter. It’s also a great way to work on alphabetizing words and information.
My children, and some of my students, love to argue. That is fact. So why not encourage it through their writing? Opinion writing is the ability to convince others of your belief in a topic and/or to persuade them into feeling the same way. It is also the third major type of writing students need to understand before leaving elementary school. Opinion writing should include a paragraph stating your opinion, a few paragraphs including reasons and evidence to support your opinion, and a final paragraph restating your opinion. For older students, you should also include a paragraph that presents the counter-argument as a way to acknowledge the other stance while also reinforcing why your opinion is correct. Below are some ideas of how to not only build on children’s opinion writing skills, but to also encourage the argument in an academic way.
You Don’t Agree with My Rules? Prove It.
Encourage children to argue with you through writing. I need you to state your opinion and give me plausible reasons and evidence for why it is correct. If you are anything like me, you will acknowledge the argument and give reason for your counter-argument, before coming to an agreement.
Choose a Topic and Encourage Children to Take a Stance
Is a dog or a cat a better pet?
Should animals be kept in a zoo?
Which is better? Chocolate or vanilla?
What time should elementary students go to bed at night?
Remember that students should be able to state their opinion and that their opinion should stay consistent throughout their writing. For example, if they state chocolate is better than vanilla (obviously), they need to back that up with solid reasons and examples without singing vanilla’s praises in the second paragraph.
Write Book Reviews
A great way to reinforce persuasive writing is to write book and/or movie reviews. State why you liked or didn’t care for the book and give reasons why. Convince me this is a book I should read!
Stay tuned for my next post on unplugged math ideas!
Until then, as I would say to my students…be kind, stay awesome, and ask yourself, What have I done for others today?