Writing Club Ideas for the New School Year....
Susan Richman, 9/20/2010
The Writing Club that I've been leading for over 20 years has just started up again for this school year-- and so I'm excited to get you thinking about the benefits of having your kids involved in a group that meets regularly to share and enjoy one another's writings. It doesn't take too much to organize an effective homeschool Writing Club:
- Have a place to meet -- could be your home, around the diningroom table, a co-op program location, a local church or synagogue friendly to homeschooling families, a library with a community room you could use, or some other suitable location.
- a core group of kids to invite-- hopefully including at least 2 who are already kids who love to write. I've found over the years of leading our group that everyone will rise to meet the level of your top writers-- and so it's a great help to have some kids who already write with real voice and enjoyment and energy.
- Gather together ideas for engaging writing topics that would be fun for the kids to do-- hopefully for kids of a variety of ages, as you'll probably have quite a few siblings spanning a wide age range. I'll help with that here-- every few weeks I'll post one of my back Writing Club assignments here on our online magazine, to give you ideas. I also welcome any other Writing Club groups to send on to me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) their ideas they've developed for their groups-- and feel very welcome to also forward on a few great sample responses to that assignment.
- A regular schedule for meeting so that everyone knows what to expect. The group I lead just meets once a month... and that seems like plenty with everyone's very busy schedules of activities, classes, and regular on-going studies at home (we do want to have time to be home, after all!). We meet in the afternoon, from 2:30 to 4:30pm, so that families will still get in a good 'normal' morning of homeschooling that day.
- Consider if you'd need to charge families or not.... When my kids were still at home, I probably would have paid others to join, just so my kids would have this opportunity for sharing their writing on a regular basis with friends. Now that I'm 'empty-nesting', I do ask for a small donation from each family, just to help make sure that I don't 'opt out' of being ready for Writing Club each month. Some families may feel a bit more commitment to 'sticking with' something if they've paid a little bit to join. The families who come each help out by bringing snacks to share, so that's never a burden on me. Some families may share leadership of meetings, or the group may need to pay a small fee to secure a location.
- Have a vision for what you want to accomplish-- my personal goals are to help kids become engaging, fluent writers who realize that they actually have something to say that will move a real audience of their peers (and other homeschool moms who are also listening in with great appreciation and interest...). I want them to feel that their stories matter and can have an impact on others. I want kids to feel comfortable sharing their work with others, and I want them to feel that our group is a place where their work will be, in a sense, performed for the best impact. To this end, I always read aloud everyone's assignment pieces to the group-- and I make very sure that I read aloud with enthusiasm and energy and enjoyment, with occasional pauses to ask the group what they think might be coming next, or to say, "Aha!! Now this is what is called foreshadowing!", or to laugh when appropriate and savor the piece slowly. I know some kids, especially younger kids or self-conscious teens, don't yet have a good ability to read aloud their own with dramatic 'flair'-- and a piece that was really good might come off as 'flat' and boring, just because of poor delivery. So I'm the vehicle for making the child's work come alive-- and one of my greatest compliments was the year that a mom shared that her daughter (who had very reluctantly agreed to attend the group at the start...) said outloud as she was working on her Writing Club piece one week, "I can just hear how Mrs. Richman is going to read this outloud! I can just hear it!!!" When kids bring an 'extra piece' to Writing Club, they read that aloud themselves-- and I see real growth over time in how well kids do this.
And now here's a sample Writing Club Assignment-- it was our first one for this year, and I'll be posting as 'comments' below several fun examples of what the kids in our group wrote in response to this prompt. At the start of the school year, I generally aim for personal narrative writing, hopefully one that might lend itself to humor, to help the kids relax in one another's presence and enjoy each other's stories. I aim for an experience that everyone will feel they can write about.... so, here it is:
Getting up in the morning…..
I remember reading once that there are really just ‘two ways’ to wake up in the morning—either you say to yourself while groaning and moaning and hugging the blankets: ‘Ooooh….. It’s *morning*!!!’ OR you leap up with excitement, calling out, “Oh! It’s MORNING!!!!!”
Or you might have heard Proverbs 24: 33-34—“A bit more sleep, a bit more slumber, a bit more hugging yourself in bed, and poverty will come calling upon you, and want, like a man with a shield…”
Soooo, what’s it like in the mornings at *your* home—and how do YOU get up in the mornings? Do you have an alarm clock (or a cell phone or a radio or a nearby rooster…). Or do you figure you’ll just wake up ‘whenever’ – or do you wait till you mom yells up for you?? Are any siblings cheerful early risers – or do you have sleepyheads for sibs?? What’s your ‘morning routine’ (if you have one! If you don’t let’s see you stumble through the process….)… shower? Get dressed? Make your bed (or toss the blankets back on… or just ignore the bed entirely???). Stumble down to breakfast? Get some quick exercise? Sit on a heating vent while numbly becoming vaguely aware of the day starting around you? Is anyone else awake when you are? Are you a cheerful morning person, or a bit of a ‘grump’?? How are your parents at ‘waking up’ (coffee or tea a necessity??? Do you need to be quiet to let them sleep in a bit longer?? Are they up way before you ever are??).
Take us through a real morning…. And let’s see what type of ‘wake up’ kids you are! Hmmm, and maybe you could even ‘try out’ waking up in a way that’s new for you?? Your mom might like that!
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