EXCUSES! SET 10 We all know how children love to make excuses for doing things when asked so why not use their creativity to help them to write. One suggestion which had worked for me in the past has been the following situation.
You are late for school. Rather than giving the excuse, 'The alarm didn't go off!' or 'I overslept.' or 'The car was stuck in traffic.' Why not ask the children to invent the most outrageous excuse they can. They could be abducted by aliens or chased by a hungry lion that has escaped from the zoo. They could have fallen down a crater or got lost in a mysterious fog. The list of ideas is endless and you would be surprised at some of the children's responses. Once they have decided on their excuse, they have to write how they eventually arrived at school. Why not try and see? Later on in the year you may want to try this again with creative excuses for why they didn't do their home work or why they didn't tidy up their bedroom. The list is endless. Hopefully you will receive some interesting and fun pieces of writing.
IMITATING A RECOGNISED AUTHOR. SET 9. One good way of encouraging children to write is to give them some good examples of writing by an author that they may know or have read. Anne Fine's Diary of Killer Cat is a super introduction to this type of exercise.
She writes this in the first person and in the voice of the cat, Fluffy. Read the first chapter with enthusiasm as if you were the cat and the children will love it. Talk about how she starts with short sentences to grab the reader's attention. Talk about the voice of the cat and ask them questions about how the cat is feeling- how do they know? Read the second chapter in the same way and the children will love you for it. This time look at her longer sentences.
Then ask the children, in groups, to brainstorm other activities a cat could do to cause havoc . For example they could climb up the Christmas tree and pull it over or they could play with the Christmas decorations or they could scratch the new furniture or knock over a vase or get stuck in a tree. There are so many to choose.
Then when they have all come up with an idea, ask them to write their pieces in exactly the same way as Anne Fine. I'm sure that you will be delighted with their results.
I have used this exercise with Years 3,4,5,and 6 and have been blown away by their response and the quality of their writing.
You could also connect this to a project on writing about Cats. T.S Eliot's book of poetry called, ' Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats' is a sure fire winner. I have also added a couple of poems that I have written to my poetry page for children, which might be of use.
WHO LIVES IN A HOUSE LIKE THIS? SET 8. Children usually like this exercise because the title is based on a TV programme. It is a simple description exercise but the choice of house is crucial. The more strange or unusual it is; the more creative the children can be in describing the family or person who might live there. Encourage the children to use powerful verbs and wow adjectives in an exercise like this. The use of dictionaries and thesauruses should also be encouraged to help them explore new and exciting vocabulary. Explain to the children what a synonym is and encourage them to use them rather than use the more common word e.g. ancient rather than old.
A SACKFUL OF STORIES ! SET 7. In set 3 below I mentioned creating a sackful of stories as a way of keeping children's work. Children can be encouraged to write if they have a purpose and an audience. Each class in the school could create their own set of stories each with a different theme. Once they have written or published their stories ( see set 1 below for some booklet ideas) they could be collected together in a pillow case or sack. A design could be painted or printed onto the sack and the sacks could be swapped around the classes; maybe keeping them for two weeks and then passing them. If you don't want to swap them you could add them to your book corner or library for children to read. I would suggest that this could be built into their reading time or English lesson as well as in their free time.
VISUAL STIMULUS! SET 6 Character descriptions are a good way to encourage children to write and using a picture can be really helpful in getting children started. As with pictures of scenes, locations or places, pictures of people, especially unusual and exotic ones can stimulate children to write. Here you could again start with 10 words then add in senses and then develop with personality traits; likes/ dislikes, enemies and so on. Obviously these pictures are quite extreme but they do work. Once the children have got use to working with a picture stimulus you could use more ordinary, normal people for them to work on.
VISUAL STIMULUS! SET 5. Using pictures to help motivate children is a fantastic way to get them writing. The words are already there is some ways. Ask children to write down just 10 words to describe what they see in the picture and you have a paragraph without them really trying. You can then build on their confidence by developing their work further such as by adding the different senses. This would create a good description piece or be a setting exercise for a story. Obviously there are thousands of images to use but I've included put a few that I have used in the past successfully.
BRING IN A BAG! SET 4. I have used this exercise many times with all year groups in the Junior department of a Primary school but I am sure that it could be used with children of a younger age.
It is really simple; bring in a bag and place it on a table at the front of the room.
You could do this in two ways, bring it in as an exercise and explain what the children have to do or have it in place before you enter the room and be as surprised as they are.
1. Leave it there until children start to ask questions about the bag. Encourage them to discuss, "Why the bag is there, who does it belong to? How do they know?" Ask all of the 5 W questions as well as," How did it get there?" Children to write down what they have found out. This could be done as a class or as individuals.
2. You could extend this further by adding clues on the outside of the bag such as; a luggage label or a key ring holder or a sticky label which says, "Handle with care!" Again the 5 W questions and How can be answered.
3.You could give the children a questionnaire sheet like an evidence collection sheet, which they can fill in as and when they have an answer. This note taking can help them when they come to write up their final piece of writing.
4. You could put evidence or clues inside the bag. Encourage children to open the bag and see if the evidence is helpful or not.
Children could write an account of the bag. It could be written as a police report. It could be a way into writing a newspaper report. Bag Found in School Classroom!
However you choose to do it, it is a fun activity and I have been pleasantly surprised by the imaginative ideas that children have had regarding the bag.
Sue Westcott(C.) 2016
WRITING WITH A THEME. SET 3. Motivating children to write can be difficult. However I have always found that with the correct kind of stimulus, children can show interest and enthusiasm for writing. Writing to a theme can be used effectively to create a variety of genres. One theme that I have used successfully is that of, Superheroes!
Just showing children a still frame picture of Spiderman from one of his movies can make a classroom buzz. Superheroes appeal to both girls and boys. (There is also a selection of girl superheroes to choose from as well!)
Once the children have chosen their superhero, remember always allow them to discuss the heroes first. This talking can generate both interest and ideas. You can direct them to the genre that you wish to cover in that lesson. or series of lessons. Here are some ideas:
1. Biography- Most children know the background history of their chosen hero. 2. Character description;-The characters of superheroes are well known. (see an example on my children's writing page about Robin the Boy Wonder!) 3. Speech-Imagine two superheroes meet. What would their conversation be about? 4. Explanation- Explain how the superhero got his or her super power. 5. Story- Children to create their own story after looking at some of the stories already written about their hero. This is a fantastic way of getting children to read either books or comics (nowadays known as graphic novels!)
6. Recount- if you were a superhero what would do all day? 7. Newspaper report- Give children a headline taken from one of the superhero films. Children to write about the incident in the report style. 8. Persuasion:-Children to write about the need for superheroes in the world. 9. Letter- A thank you letter, which explains what the superhero did. 10. The fun one- design your own superhero. What costume would he/she wear? What are their superpowers?
The list could go on. I think by now you will realise that the choice of theme is crucial. Other themes could include; Dinosaurs, Villains, Pirates! Roald Dahl/ JK Rowling characters, Sport's Personalities, and Celebrities.(You know all the 'good stuff' that use to be popular but has now fallen by the wayside.)
What do you do with the writing? Obviously it could be kept in the children's exercise books (evidence collected for monitoring and assessment purposes) or you could produce a class booklet with the different types of writing or you could create a sackful of stories, which is another motivation tool to get children writing and one which I will go into in more detail another time!
Using a theme is a great way to start children of any age or year group writing. This activity could be used in a series of lessons which teach a particular type of writing with templates and examples to look at or in a writing workshop day. Each table is given a different genre and after 40 minutes of writing, children then move to another table. Children love this activity. If you have a parents -get -involved -day, it works well here too. So over to you!
Sue Westcott(C.) 2016
WORKING COLLABORATIVELY. SET 2. Some children find it intimidating writing on their own so why not let them work collaboratively in a pair. The ideas should flow when the two of them start to talk about their ideas. Ask them to jot down ideas first as they talk. These notes could then be photocopied so that each one has a copy and then ask them to write using the notes. Although the notes are the same their writing will be different. Another way of using collaboration to encourage children to write is to ask them to write one sentence or one paragraph at a time. They can talk about it as they write but one child writes down the words and then the next child carries on the storyline. Give the children different coloured pens so that they can keep a record of who writes which part.
PUTTING PEN TO PAPER. SET 1.
Use post it notes to write on. They are small and won’t intimidate children into thinking that they have to write lots of words in an exercise book. The post it notes could then be re arranged into an order so that children can organise their writing easily, rather than having to re write their ideas.
Use a story board template of either, 4, 6 or 8 blocks depending on the child. These small spaces for writing can be filled up quickly. The children can see quite clearly how they fill a page this way. This can be less daunting to the reluctant writer than writing on a A4 piece of a paper.
Use large paper like display paper rather than A4 writing paper. This can encourage children to write big and bold and can help them to free up their ideas and loosen them up. It doesn’t matter what it looks like at the moment, getting words on a page is the most important thing. Tidying up can come when children re-visit their work.
Ask children to use different coloured pens or felt tips rather than their normal pen or pencil. Colour and the novelty of using it can be a treat and motivate children to write more. This activity is a great way to get down a first rough draft.
Sometimes just giving children a different type or colour of paper with a text box of lines or a picture to help them keep focused on their writing can motivate children to write. Variety is the spice of life especially for children. You could add a list of words that they could use in their writing as well. Children are given praise or a reward for using all the words.
Children are allowed to draw pictures instead of words to help keep their interest. Obviously you have to give them a guide line such as every 10th word could be a picture or they could draw a picture after 5 sentences.
Why not cut a small, A5 exercise book into half, horizontally across the middle. Children can now have the small pages to write on but a book to write in. This is a great way to publish children’s writing. The books could be covered with plain paper and then a book cover designed, and coloured in. Children could do their own illustrations as well. At the start; one page of writing, one page is a picture then as you use this technique over a period of time the pictures become less and the writing more.
Zig - Zag books are great fun to make and again the small space for writing is ideal to help encourage children to write.