Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Writing Gem #1: The Fun of Asking "And Then What?"

Sixth grade has begun in our homeschool, and for the first time, we’re building creative writing time into our learning schedule each week.

We’ve done bits of creative writing in the past, but this year I am intentionally working it into our schedule, giving it some priority time in language arts. And I’m so glad we are. Not only because I love writing and teaching writing, but because teaching writing craft (how does a writer think? plan? organize? brainstorm? choose?) is a wonderfully organic way to teach literature as well. When you’re unpacking how a writer does something, you’re teaching how to analyze writing. How and why did the writer do that? is a great analytical step; the creative step comes when we apply it ourselves and our work – now how can I do that when I write?

I’m using Boris Fishman’s The Creative Writer: Level One (Five Finger Exercises) as a springboard here at the beginning of the term, but because I’m a writer, I can’t resist adding plenty of my own thoughts and exercises. We’re having fun. Today we talked about plot points (or beats). Fishman presented an excerpt from Tom Sawyer, then presented the part of the plot we’d just read in 10 points. S. liked that; she liked it even better when I asked her to verbally give me plot points for Peter Rabbit (a great, well-built plot that is both short and memorable) and even better when we brainstormed the beginning of a story together and then she took off to create plot points for where the story might go next.

The delightful part of plotting, of course, is that you can take a story in so many different directions, and you can always go back to where a story branches into a new place and change its course.

That’s the gem we took away from today’s writing time. I’m calling it gem #1, because I suspect we’re going to collect a lot of gems this year, which I will record here in case they are useful for other young, growing writers and their teachers! Perhaps when the year is done, we will string them into a necklace.

Writing Gem #1: Writers ask “and then what?” when they are crafting stories. Stories can go in lots of different directions depending on how the writer answers that question.

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