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Old 08-10-2011, 07:40 PM   #1
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Question How do you get kids to write?

Just giving a general call out to those wonderful teachers and homeschool Mums out there for ideas on writing activities for kid.

I have a nine year old boy who does his school at home. It's not really homeschool as it is through the public system and they send all the work out. Every week he has to do a couple "journal entries" which should be free writing on a topic of their own choice. My son hated it! With a passion. He hated coming up with the ideas and hated writing them all down.

Last week I got a chance to do a workshop with a children's author and she changed my thinking of everything and so I've already tried a couple of things and am trawling the internet for more and more ideas to make his free writing time fun for him (and me!). She made me realise that a few well written substantial sentences was going to be a lot better than a page of uninteresting words.

So far I found a cartoon strip without any speech bubbles and he filled them in.
And today I printed out a mug shot from the 'net and got him to write a description of the man and the crimes he committed. I know this sounds like it could be dodgy but my son really enjoyed writing today so that made it worth it.

Would love to have any more ideas on what you try, or your favourite websites .. particularly for boys! We aim to do a couple of things a week.
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Old 08-10-2011, 08:56 PM   #2
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I like the ideas you've used so far! My sons are older (ages 15 and 12) but they had similar writing assignments when they were younger.

Regarding the mug shot idea, you could do that with any photo from the internet or a newspaper. Don't show him the caption. Have your son describe what's happening in the photo and give some details about the people in the photo. It doesn't necessarily have to be factual. Let him write what he thinks when he sees the photo.

Try to use your imagination to come up with various prompts to get him started. My older son's 3rd grade teacher used to have some really neat ones. My favorite was "When I woke up yesterday morning, it was raining chocolate pudding! So I decided to... " and then the students had to describe how they spent the day.

Another good one was "Imagine George Washington and Abraham Lincoln met for dinner. Write the conversation they would have." You could substitute people from Australian history.

If your son likes sports, maybe you could have him write a conversation between Ian Thorpe and Michael Phelps, or a conversation between Ian Thorpe and Marcos Ambrose discussing the differences and similarities in the types of racing they do.

Building on the cartoon idea, you could ask your son to write what he thinks Odie would say to Garfield if Odie could talk.

Does he like animals? Have him write what his day might be like if he were his favorite animal. Or have him finish the thought, "If I were locked in the zoo overnight, I would..."

This is probably a longer one... but if he enjoys reading, have him write a different ending to a book he's recently read.

Maybe the two of you could come up with ideas together. Write down each idea on a separate slip of paper and put them in a container. Then when it's writing time, have him pick one slip out of the container and let that be what he writes about that day.

That's all I can come up with right now, but if I think of more I'll post again. Good luck with it!
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Old 08-11-2011, 07:38 PM   #3
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could you make a little box with writing themes to jump start his writing. have him pick one each day.
another thought have him do his writing early in the day. try not to save it til he is tired.
or set it up that after he is done w/ his writing he has a few minutes of free time.
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Old 08-12-2011, 09:05 PM   #4
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I've taught over 20 years and the daily journal thing was painful. I tried doing it along with them and heck if I could think of anything to write about. I started guiding their writing a bit by slapping a sticker eg. a hippo or a heart or a cup of coffee on the top of their page and they had 3 minutes to write about that sticker, any way they wanted.
I also had paper bags full of stuff that went home at Valentines as homework. They had to write a love story using all of the things in the bag. It was great getting back long stories about brussel sprouts, paper clips etc.
This way it is still creative writing with a wee bit of guidance. Tons of fun.
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Old 08-12-2011, 09:42 PM   #5
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Thanks so much for the replies. I'm noting them all down to try
Honestly, kudos for anyone that goes into the teaching profession willingly!!

I am a little annoyed at his school for seeming so pigheaded on the idea that the entries had to be so long. I guess they see the work that comes in and despite me putting notes with it they don't really realise just how much it took to drag the entries out of him.
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Old 08-13-2011, 07:51 AM   #6
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Just realized you are from Australia and up here in Canada your education system is really respected in so many ways. You have given our children so many alternate ways of teaching and learning.
but....as for dragging out journal responses I hear you, ask the teacher if you can view their own journals....
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Old 08-13-2011, 05:11 PM   #7
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Well that is nice to know, Praireiejen. I think we probably have lots of the same problems that other countries have with funding (there is never enough!) but it's nice to see that our system is respected.

I just had another little idea that I will try tomorrow. For two days a week I have a girl come and do school with us so I though we could each write a little paragraph and then swap around and finish off each other's work. My son will usually write about Star Wars and our visitor will write about horses .. it could be a funny exercise.

LOL at looking at his teacher's entries He had the same teacher the last two years and she was very organised and regimented that worked well with my personality (a place for everything and everything in its place) but his teacher this year is much more free and " thinking outside of the box" which is great for my son but not for me LOL
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Old 08-16-2011, 07:09 AM   #8
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LOVING this thread! As a homeschool mom of three boys (ages 8, 11 & 13) this thread is wonderful!! I don't have time to ready everything now, but I WILL be back . Thank you!!!
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Old 08-20-2011, 07:18 AM   #9
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Hi,
I am a retired teacher and I loved to teach writing. Here are a few of my thoughts which I hope might help you.
Writing can be a mystery to some children. It might help to start with a simple story your son likes and liken it to a cake. Together work out what you need to make it - the ingredients, then create stories, or slices of stories, with your own recipes.
Make lists to post on the wall and refer to later, of :
-the ordinary/everyday things that happen in the story (your son will relate to these),
-the interesting things that happen in the story (sort them into funny, creepy, unusual, unbelievable),
-the verbs, adverbs, nouns, adjectives, phrases and clauses you both like the sound of from the story. Now talk about and make lists to post on wall of :
-other interesting events which could have been in the story,
-other places the story could have been set,
-other times the story could have been set in (e.g. Caveman times, the future),
All the above could be done a little at a time over a week.
Then...
Using the charts to refer to, you both retell parts of the story, set in different places, times, etc. If you like what you hear, then write it down. You may need to be the scribe for your son, but only write it when it is worth saving. If you do this over a few more days, you should have some good writing which you can enjoy together and help your son build a positive attitude to writing.
Good luck with it!
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Last edited by purplepatch; 08-20-2011 at 07:22 AM.. Reason: Adding
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Old 08-22-2011, 09:22 PM   #10
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I'm neither a teacher or home school mom but I do have a son (13yo) that absolutely detests writing. He loves to read though so I can't quite figure why he so reluctant to write. His older brother is the same way but is getting better.

Anyhow, I just wanted to thank you all for these ideas. Writing needs to be fun for older kids too.

I took a children's lit class in high school and one assignment consisted of an envelope with 5 words in it. Everybody's words were different. We had to incorporate those words mostly nouns) into the story. It was a blast trying to come up with a good story using those words. I got an "A"
I think I'll try having my son do some fun creative writing things when he isn't deluged with other homework.


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Old 08-23-2011, 11:52 AM   #11
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Hey Shellie,
As a teacher of the ages you mention this is very common. Kids that can write amazing stories but don't like to read and those that read all day/night long but refuse to put a pen to paper.

I've seen some pretty amazing students grow into pretty amazing adults. Some I had to tackle in the hall to remember their homework and others you had to drag out of the library when the bell rang.
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Old 08-23-2011, 12:12 PM   #12
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I can tell you we do plenty of tackling around here Jerod has such a fantastic imagination (I encourage him to use it often) and can orate a story like nobody else. He just doesn't seem to know how to put them down on paper. He's also ADD which doesn't help as far as any schoolwork goes. Unfortunately he has been on three different meds and none of them have worked so we just keep trying to push through.

I know he will succeed in life, he's too smart not to. I'm just gonna have to stand on top of him until he graduates
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Old 08-23-2011, 01:18 PM   #13
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Einstein and Bill Gates are/were ADD
I'm just saying.....

Jerod sounds wonderful.....
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Old 08-25-2011, 04:53 PM   #14
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i teach writing...i must admit i am not the best at it...
each school year i begin with "The First 20 Days of Writing" and it really helps to develop the writing atmosphere.
throughout the school year, i use several of Steve Peha's graphic writing organizers. the students fill them in, and when you read them across the organizer, their paragraph is formed. hard to explain on here, but if you ever need, i would be happy to do one, scan and send to you.
i find asking kids to write freely over any topic they choose, is a quick way to get them to shut down and detest writing.
oh, and there is also a book, My Map Book or The Map Book and I use that in their composition books. we make maps of things we "heart" , a map of their bedroom, etc. lots of ideas in there.
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Old 08-25-2011, 05:37 PM   #15
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Great ideas...
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Old 08-27-2011, 06:13 PM   #16
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This summer I pulled some worksheets from education.com for my kids to work on a little each week. I found some that had pictures they would have to write about or finish the story types.
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Old 08-27-2011, 10:49 PM   #17
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That looks like a great site Lorien, thanks for mentioning it!
Quick question. WOuld grade three kids be about nine? My son is nine and we call it year three here and just wanted to check it's about the same.
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Old 09-01-2011, 08:24 AM   #18
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A nine year old would most likely be 4th grade. My oldest is turning 10 this weekend and going into 5th.
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Old 09-01-2011, 03:02 PM   #19
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I supppose that would be about right. Our year goes Jan-Dec and his birthday is in July - just after the cut off.

Here's the activity that I made up last night:
* found a technical drawing of a contraption and titled it "Your Latest Invention .. But what does it do?". We're doing that one today and already he's asking if he can do it first off. (This is not the same boy from a few weeks ago who would ask to do writing last lol)
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Old 11-06-2011, 08:15 PM   #20
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I am a teacher of children with learning difficulties and cognitive difficulties. I use lots of different writing prompts that I got at a teacher store which has two prompts for each day of the year. The prompt I write is copied as their first sentence, then they add 3 details then a closing sentence. Maybe if your son has a format like that at first he won't be so overwhelmed. I too use a paper that the kids fill in to help organize their thoughts. They write two or three words in different sections of the page, then form their first draft by writing the phrases into sentences.

Another thing you can do is use magazine pictures which your son writes about. Let him choose the pictures. It's fun to look at say people in a restaurant and name them, tell why they are at the restaurant, are they married, are they on vacation, etc.

If your son likes video games, he could write about a time he reached the next level on a game. He could also write about what game he'd like to make for other kids to play.

Find things that your son knows about and encourage him to write about that. Have him research things he's interested in then write about it.

Put his writings into a 3 ring binder so you both can look through it often and re-read favorite stories written.

You can also have fun by writing a sentence, then he has to write a sentence. You go back and forth and tell a story. This encourages imagination and creativity.

I also tell my students when they are done writing, they can illustrate their paragraph.

You might also take a favorite story your son wrote and type it on the computer a sentence or few on a page and have him illustrate it. He will make a cover and title page and list his name for author and illustrator. It can be put into a 3 prong folder or have it bound at an office supply store.

You could have a free write where both of your write a journal entry each day about a given topic or anything you've done that day. Then exchange journals and write a reaction to what's there. It's fun to see other people's ideas and things they like or don't like.

Happy Writing.
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Old 11-13-2011, 10:37 AM   #21
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This is what DH does (5th grade) -- he has each kid write in a journal each week -- I think it's reflections on their reading. But what DH does, is he writes back to each kid. He staggers their due dates, dividing the class into 5 days so he only has to read 1/5 a night. When he writes back, he asks them questions about things they raised in their writing. It's actually been quite fun and I think the kids frequently go off topic -- how else did he find out about kids who are illegal, kids whose parents own Chinese restaurants, and random gifts of healthy homemade muffins? He lets the kids go off topic to keep them writing - he learns about them, but he also shares about himself - hence the muffins and gift certificates for dinner -- AND mid-year/Christmas gifts he can actually use. The parents enjoy it and appreciate it too -- sometimes they add a note. I know it's extra work for DH, but he has found it works to get kids writing, and valuing their own opinions -- because their opinions and thoughts matter to him.
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Old 07-01-2012, 10:41 AM   #22
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I am a fifth grade teacher who has journal writing weekly in class. It is really hard for me to read made up stories about aliens, talking pizzas and younger brothers who disappear, so I give writing prompts from a variety of locations. I use The Teacher's Mailbox prompts, a monthly magazine, as well as authors' birthdays or National anything to make up prompts. I never require length, just a reflection that shows they thought through the topic. I also give my students a rubric that shows what I'm looking for. Before I collect journals (a week or so out) I give class time for students to go back through their journals and compare their entries to the rubric. They can add or delete as they see fit. On the day I collect them, students circle the categories on the rubric in yellow and then I grade in blue. The goal........lots of green on the rubric!
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