This year, we added in a new subject to our day — independent writing. My eldest has always been a reluctant writer. I was taken by surprise because he learned to read extremely early… by 5 he was reading easy chapter books… by 7 he was reading long novels. But his writing lagged behind; he seemed paralyzed to try writing. Mistakes made him freeze up, no matter how much I said they didn’t matter.
Because of that we really took our time with writing. In the early years he did handwriting and copywork. He does spelling (which requires him to listen and write specific sentences) and does grammar as well. And, we did writing assignments on-and-off. Time has passed and he is more comfortable with the writing process. My middle daughter loves and enjoys to write and so he feeds off her positive energy and has been willing to write.
I thought I’d spend some time sharing some of the things the kids do with independent writing. First off, if the kids ever say they have an idea and want to write about something I always say GO FOR IT!! They own the writing. I always try to have an idea to throw out to them, though, if they’d prefer. After sharing the idea, I always tell them they can write about that — or they can write about something else that comes to mind. After they are done, I never correct their writing (or I ask permission to point something out). We have other forums for making corrections (we do spelling almost daily, we do some grammar once or twice a week.) The purpose (as I see it) for independent writing is to put their thoughts on paper. The kids are free to share with ‘the group’ (the 4 of us) or not as they please. They can read it or I’ll read it for them if they prefer.
Here are some of the suggestions I came up with for their journals:
- Earliest memory
- Write a story that includes quotation marks
- This was a 2-part assignment… On the first day they wrote about “Things I like about _______” or “How I feel about _______” On the second day, I had them finish the sentences…
- If it were a food it would be
- If it were weather it would be
- If it were an animal it would be
- If it were a day of the week it would be
They absolutely loved this and DD decided she wanted to spend a couple more days and do this one again!
- I’ve given them a word and told them to write what came to mind (Australia, owl)
- I’ve directed them to look in our ‘story starter’ notebook and find something that appeals to them (I have lots of story starters printed out from off the internet and from Scholastic e-books. They can flip through those whenever they want.).
- We talked about “voice” — we talked about how their writing should have personality and tone. They spent a day trying to have a different tone to their writing.
- write about your day (they had just come in from playing out in the snow)
- We talked about introductory words and how they can add feeling and emotion to writing. They wrote these words in their journals and then I asked them to use one or two of them in their writing for the day…
- How to make witch’s brew
- Write a story about a non-living thing (an inanimate object) that is alive (like a rock or a table)
- We talked about adverbs and how they can make writing more appealing and interesting. We talked about how adverbs answer the questions, How? When? Where? Why? The kids had to add adverbs to a boring sentence “The man got in the car. He drove his car to the old house. He walked up to the door and knocked on it. The door opened.” The next day they had to use an adverb or two in their writing.
- We brainstormed synonyms for the verb fly-flew and we talked about how there are words that are so much more descriptive. Then they had to use a couple of those words in their writing.
I’ve found that they kids were ready for this type of work at very different ages. I’ve tried not to stress too much about it as the end goal is to have the kids writing well (or better yet superbly!!) by the time they’re 18.
I absolutely LOVE, LOVE the things that Julie at Bravewriter has to say. I’ve read through her book, the Writer’s Jungle and found a lot of wisdom in that. And she also sends out a daily email that is the very first thing I read each morning. I found the free e-book she sends out when you sign up for her newsletter quite useful and my homeschooling friend immediately said she wanted a copy too. I HIGHLY recommend that you sign up for her daily writing tip (email) over at bravewriter.com.