Scheduling The Writer’s Jungle
Some of you wonder how to use The Writer’s Jungle once you’ve got it. You wonder how to make a schedule that will help you execute your intentions yet also allow you to realize that you have in fact covered material that benefits language arts and writing. I’ve given the following advice when emailed or asked these questions.
The Writer’s Jungle is set up so that you can do one chapter per week (particularly the first 9 chapters). The first chapter focuses on language arts. I usually suggest reading the chapter and then actually doing the suggested practices (just one or two to get started). So often we hs moms are in such a hurry to “get through” stuff, we miss the chance to really take our time and learn how to do things, to really enjoy them and make them successful one thing at a time.
From chapters 2-9, you will want to schedule (to your heart’s delight!) a week for each one. You can read the material and then execute the task, exercise, or writing idea that goes with each one. These chapters focus on the writing process and they are the ones you will return to again and again as you repeat writing tasks (like forever…).
The rest of the manual, though, can also be used one chapter at a time. Read it over the weekend, think about how it would be useful to you in the coming week and then *actually do* what it suggests. Word games, poetry, reports, turning a dumb assignment into a high quality writing topic…. these are all worth doing and can be scheduled.
For moms and kids who struggle with writing and the teaching of it, I suggest in the intro to the second edition a practice that has helped lots of BW moms: the eight-week freewrite. Here’s how it works.
You and your kids freewrite once per week (a Friday works well). On the Thursday before that first Friday, have everyone freewrite a list of topics he or she knows really well. Then on the next day and the seven Fridays that follow, select from the list a topic for writing (or use a freewriting prompt from my blog posted every week) or the writer may choose a totally different topic that means something to the writer that day.
Set the timer for a length of time that is reasonable (younger kids – 5-6 minutes, older kids 10-15 minutes). When it dings, stop writing. Offer to share your writing (as modeling) and invite the kids to share theirs. *They don’t have to.* When sharing is done (with or without full participation), thank the kids for writing and have each of you (mom included) put the freewrite into a manila envelope.
Do this for a total of eight weeks worth of freewrites.
On the ninth week, have each writer open the envelope and take out the eight pieces of writing. Ask the writer to select the freewrite he or she would like to work on for the revision stage of writing. That’s the only one that will go through the revision process. You can then spend the next three weeks revising that one piece.
Effectively you could do this process all year and wind up with four or five high quality writing products that have gone through the revision process while having promoted writing every week of the school year.
One more “check list”-y kind of idea.
Sometimes the science and math types are used to measuring school in terms of quantifiable work (grammar, pages, spelling tests, paragraphs written, punctuation taught). I like to recommend making a different kind of check list:
- I had a long conversation today with one child about a topic that really interested her.
- I laughed at something in a magazine article and shared what I thought was funny and why with my kids.
- I watched TV with my kids and we talked about what we watched (including new vocabulary, the campy dialog – isn’t it always? – and stereotypes).
- I complimented one child for a great use of a new word, an insight, his sense of humor or the clarity with which he expressed himself.
- I let one child teach me how to do something I don’t know how to do.
- I read aloud to my children.
- I read one poem with my kids.
- I paid one child a quarter for identifying a typo in published material. (We’ve been doing this since my kids were little and my 20 year old still calls me to tell me the typos he finds in books! Still wants the quarters too.)
- I provided stimulation for new ideas, beauty or experiences (cool new book, artwork, nature…).
Sometimes if we just put the intangibles in a list, we’ll be more likely to execute them and believe we’ve actually done something worthwhile.