Tuesday, January 20, 2009

SmallWorld's WordSmithery: Good Words (Assignment 2)

Welcome to SmallWorld's WordSmithery! If you haven't yet, you really should read and complete Assignment #1 before continuing.

Do you have your journals ready? Do you have a whiteboard or a big sheet of butcher paper or poster board? Are you remembering to be excited so that your kids catch your enthusiasm?

This week's lesson is an introduction to creative writing. It's a little longer than most lessons will be because we have lots of basics to cover. I'd suggest about 30 minutes for the first part (or perhaps two sessions of 15-20 minutes each), and then I've provided four days' worth of journal writings.

How you do the journal writings is up to you. You may wish to work on them together each day and then immediately share your work, or you may prefer to work separately and then share the whole week's worth of writing at your next "big" session. Younger children will likely need help with writing. Let them dictate to you if handwriting is frustrating for them. Even preschoolers can join in if you help them. And if you are doing this with older middle schoolers and high schoolers, please adjust accordingly. These is really geared toward 3rd-7th graders. And don't forget, parents/teacher: you should be doing the assignments, too!

In a co-op setting, I teach the lesson (with lots of boisterous class input), send home the journal writings, and then we read the journals aloud (IF the students wish to) at the next class. I never force a child to read his or her journal, but within a few weeks, most kids are begging to read at least one entry each week. Give the journal assignments on a sheet of paper to each child (provided at the end) or give one assignment each day, as you choose. This program is meant to be totally flexible for your own family (or class) use.

This lesson is loosely scripted as a means to generate discussion and response with your student(s). I've also included the lesson and assignments on a PDF file, linked at the bottom. I try to put the "speaking" parts in regular type and the answers in italics.

The Power of a Good Word

Discussion/Introduction of Creative Writing:
A. What is creative writing?
1. What are different kinds of writing? Why is creative writing different from research papers, for example? (Allow for answers. These might range from fiction and nonfiction to more specifics. There are not right and wrong answers; you are just generating discussion)
2. Name some kinds of creative writing. (Allow for answers)
3. What are some specific types of fiction? (answers might include mystery, romance, adventure, comedy, tragedy, historical fiction, etc.) What are some genres of fiction? (novel, play, short story, etc.)
4. What are some types of nonfiction? (essays, memories, autobiography, biography, magazine article, newspaper, etc.)

B. Personal Discussion
1. What kind of books do you like best? Who are some of your favorite authors? What do you like about their books?
2. Discuss plays. Have you seen any plays? Do you realize that plays are written by someone? What about nursery rhymes? Do you realize that nursery rhymes are a kind of poetry?

1. What is every piece of writing made out of? What is the most important part of writing? (Wait for answers. Often kids will say "sentences," "nouns," etc. before they get to the answer: WORDS.) Without words, you can't have writing. For today, we are going to be word collectors. Have you ever said a word just because you like the way it sounds? What are some words that you like the sound of? (Allow for answers. Write words on a board or in your journals.) Some words that I like are _________. (Think about this ahead of time. I like words like buttery, cranberry, cacophony, serendipity, crisp, and many more. Encourage them to find words that they like the sound of, not that they like to eat (pizza) or play with (Lego)!)
2. We're going to read a poem that has some really good words in it. This poem is called "Jabberwocky," and it is written by Lewis Carroll, who also wrote Alice in Wonderland. (You can read and/or print out the poem here. Be sure to read with lots of emotion!) What did you think about that poem? What were some words that jumped out at you? Did you realize that lots of those words weren't even real words, but ones that he made up? And yet we seem to understand the poem! (For "definitions" of the made-up words, check out this Wikipedia article.)

D. Part of Speech Review
1. Before we go any farther, we need to have a very basic grammar lesson. Give me brief definitions for these parts of the sentence
* Noun (A noun is the name of a person, place, thing or idea. Ask for an example of each.)
* Verb (A verb is a word that does an action, shows a state of being, links 2 words together, or helps another word. Ask for examples)
* Adjective: (a word that describes a noun or another adjective. Ask for examples.)
* Adverb: (an adverb is a word that describes a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. Words ending in LY are adverbs. Ask examples.)
2. Parts of speech game: Write a letter (for example, W) on the white board, if you have one, or a big sheet of poster board or butcher paper. Tell kid(s) what part of speech to use, and have them shout out as many words they can think of that start with that letter. For instance, if you write the letter "W" and say "noun," then they can only choose words like: woman, wilderness, woods, worm (but not words like walking, wear, and wiggly). Do this with 4 different letters, using a different part of speech for each one. So, you might have W-Noun; B-verb; P-adjective; and C-adverb.
(If they still want to play, you can do the same thing with other letters, or here is a second part to the game. Try to make sentences out of the words you've used. For example: The pink worm barfed carefully.)

E. About Writing Journals
• The very best way to be a good writer is to write every day. Even if you only write one word everyday, at least you are writing something. We will be doing journal writing four days every week. These will be very short assignments. They are meant to be fun and to get you thinking about words and sounds and to give you ideas. But you don't have to write just what I give you to do. You can write anything you want in your journals! If you feel inspired to write a story or a poem, do it! If someone says something funny, write it down! If you have a weird dream, write about it! I won't make you share your journal, but you will always have a chance to share if you'd like.

F. Positive Feedback
• Now—one more thing—it is very, very important that we give positive feedback. It is absolutely NOT ok to snicker or laugh or say that someone's writing is silly. You can only say good things about someone's writing! So if your brother writes a story about a man named Bob, and your sister doesn't like the name Bob, she must not say "Bob is a bad name!" Instead, she can say it like this, "What about naming him Joey instead of Bob? He just doesn't seem like a Bob to me." Do you see how that's a nicer way to say something?

Week One Journal Writings

Use any kind of words you like: nouns, verbs, adjectives

On Day 1 write:
3 words that describe your mother
3 words that describe your father
3 words that describe yourself

On Day 2:
Think of at least five words that, when you say them, might make someone feel SICK.
(For example: vomit, putrid)

On Day 3:
Think of at least five words that, when you say them, might make someone feel COLD.

On Day 4:
Pick an animal. Think of at least five words to describe the way it moves.
(For example: Elephant-lumber, tromp, stomp, sway, thunder)


Hope you enjoy writing with your kiddos this week! If you have questions, suggestions, or things that just didn't work for you, please let me know. As I have only taught this in a co-op classroom setting, there may be some glitches to work out in a family setting. In other words, this is a work in progress and I value your input!

Click here for the beginning: Assignment #1
Click here for Assignment #3: Using Powerful Words to Create More Interesting Writing
Click here for Assignment #4: Similes


  1. Thank you SO much for posting these wonderful lessons. As soon as my husband heads back to Iraq this weekend and we start back with school next week, we will definitely be doing these exercises!!

  2. I'm going to share this with my homeschooling support group -- a mom was asking me just recently for creative writing ideas! I can't wait to dig further into your blog!

  3. I have been visiting various blogs for my dissertation research. I have found your blog to be quite useful. Keep updating your blog with valuable information... Regards

  4. I have been searching for a writing program for my oldest son (13), and I end up finding something for everyone! I tried to follow the link for your printables, but they no longer work. Keep up the good work!

  5. I just discovered your blog and was thrilled to see your recommended procedures for creative writing. It's always been a challenge for my kids so I'm excited to give this a try... starting tomorrow!

  6. Okay, I just wanted to tell you that we're on Day 4 of Assignment Two and LOVING it! Thank you for inspiring my kids to write without complaining - finally! This morning my 8 year old son asked: "How long does Wordsmithery last? I want to just keep doing it because I really like it!"

    I'll be writing a blog post about it and will link up, if that's okay. Thanks!!

  7. Thank you for posting these creative writing ideas. I want to start this week with my son and daughter (5th and 7th grade). My son struggles and I am hoping that this will be a good tool for him. Thank you so much for sharing :)

  8. I have just discovered Wordsmithery and finished reading through all the assignments. I canNOT wait to start doing the assignments with my children this week. Just one question, I noticed that you mention a link in your post for printing out the assignments but I can't find it. It really would be helpful to have the assignments printed; can we still do this? Thanks for all the effort you put into making this available for all of us!

  9. What more can a mom say THANK YOU! My son struggles with writing -English assignments. I think this will help tremendously. I hope your lesson are for the entire school year.

  10. What more can a mom say THANK YOU! My son struggles with writing -English assignments. I think this will help tremendously. I hope your lesson are for the entire school year.

  11. do you have any ideas about grading? writing has to be the most difficult subject to grade! Any direction you might be able to give would be helpful:)


  12. I found this site Sunday Night and am just now starting writing with my Special Needs 6th grade class and your lessons are perfect, short and easy for them to understand. We begin Lesson # 3 today! It is just the right amount of visual, auditory and written work for them!

  13. this is awesome!!!! thanks for your blog!!!!

  14. this is awesome!!!! thanks for your blog!!!!

  15. Thank you. I'm going to teach this at our co-op in the spring!

  16. Thank-you so much! My third grader was not enjoying writing until we started this! It really put the fun back into it! Love your blog!

  17. This has been such a blessing to us! My third grader was really hating to write until we tried this. The best part is doing it as a family!

  18. your blog was a sign from heaven for me! I am teaching creative writing this fall at our homeschool co-op here in Michigan and was stuck on ideas! You have given me a great outline and wonderful tools to build on! Now I am not anxious about teaching the class but really excited!

  19. Sarah, just now finding this. How did I not know about this?! Anyway, hopeful that this will help my son (especially) and daughter enjoy the beauty of words and writing. Thanks for sharing your ideas with us!


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