Archive for the ‘Email’ Category

Help with Dictation

Fitting Dictation Into Your Homeschool

A Brave Writer mom asks about her 11 year old daughter who has a low tolerance for schoolwork and struggles with spelling:

I want to start dictation with her but am not sure where and how to fit it in.

Hi! I think it is a good idea to use a passage she knows well for dictation. Initially she may even need you to offer to verbally spell words she is unsure of as you dictate. This is still great experience for her as she will have to listen and write what you say (another way to encode the spellings). Exaggerate your pauses for commas and make a strong finish sound when you get to periods. Help her in all the ways you can. If she needs some words written in advance on a notecard to copy when she hears you say them, then do that too!

You might try our practice of French-style dictation. This is where you choose which words will be written. You type the entire passage, then you omit some of the words and replace them with blank lines. Print the whole thing. Read the passage aloud and she reads along with you until she gets to a blank space. When she hears the word that goes there, she will write it. This is a wonderful, gradual practice for kids who are just struggling to write and spell. You can isolate words she knows well the first time you do it so she has success. Then gradually include a word or two she doesn’t know well and prep her before the dictation by orally spelling them together.

For freewriting: spelling doesn’t matter AT ALL. It doesn’t matter if she misspells every word. You can help her if she calls out to you in the middle of a freewrite by spelling it back to her, but remind her that all spellings can be cleaned up later. That’s not the goal of freewriting. If there are words she can’t even attempt in freewriting, then write them for her on a white board or note pad before she begins so she can copy them exactly.

Always use Spell Check on the computer (it teaches kids a lot) and offer her the opportunity to correct her own work against the original so that she is the one making the connection between where she missed the spelling and what it should be.

Keep ALL these sessions short. She will tire easily (it’s an enormous amount of work for her). Give her shoulder rubs and light candles. Eat treats after she finishes. Use pretty paper and flowing pens—let her write in colors other than blue or black.

Make this a nourishing experience, not just school work. Remind her of how smart she is and how you know that she is capable of growing in this arena. Keep her first dictation in a file and compare it to one six months and then a year from now so she can see her progress.

Good luck!

Want to learn more?
Check out our Copywork and Dictation webinar!

Facilitating Play with Words: More Wacky Revision

More Wacky Revision

Dear Julie,

My kids and I have not had any experience with utilizing Brave Writer materials in the past, so I decided [your Wacky Revision workshop] would be a fun experiment for us all. It is always exciting to approach writing in new ways and learn new techniques for Re-Vision (I liked your word), or seeing our words through new eyes.

The kids cut and stapled their freewrites last night, and wrote new versions from those cut up lines this morning. I’ve copied them below, since the kids were excited to hear that you wanted to read their results.

Emma, age 8


I got out the game while my sister told me which game to get. We picked the color of our pieces and began to play. I went first and I drew a double purple. My sister went next and got a single orange. A little while later, one of my other siblings who was not playing accidentally knocked over the deck of cards. Then I got mad and chased him. When we got back to playing I was winning but I drew a card that said I had to go backward! After a few more turns, I lost.

Wacky ReVision

My sister and I picked the siblings who were not playing to knock over the deck of cards. Then I colored our pieces and began to play. I went first and I drew a double purple. Then my sister got mad and tackled me and we had a “lovely” wrestling match. After a few more turns, I lost. A little while later, one of my other sisters wanted to play…

Haha! Love that change! I’d love to see a “lovely” wrestling match! Wonder what that would look like! Have you thought about it? I’d love to read a description if you think of one. So funny! Now I’m wondering if the two of you will have a lovely wrestling match! Such a fun piece! Thanks for sending it to me! —Julie

Joshua, age 10


When I got the game out, I tripped over a sibling. Emma and I rolled to see who would go first. I went first so Emma placed her settlements first. When I rolled, I got an 8. After a while I had 4 victory points left. I bought 2 cities which boosted me to 8 victory points. Next turn I bought a road to make my road 5 segments long. I got the longest road card and won. Emma demanded a rematch, so we played again. We had excellent settlement placements so the game took a lot longer. Eventually I won again. We have a fun time playing Settlers of Catan.

Wacky ReVision

Emma and I rolled to see who would boost me to 8 victory points. I bought a road to make my road 5 segments long. Eventually I won. We played again. I got the longest road card. I won again. Emma demanded another rematch, so we decided who would go first. I went first so Emma placed her settlements first. When I rolled, I wanted to go again. We had excellent settlement placements so the game took a lot of time. Eventually, I had only 4 victory points, while Emma had 7. I bought 2 cities which gave me more resources. I won for the 3rd straight time. It was much closer.

Nice twist! That your opponent through a roll might boost your score! Inventive, right? And who doesn’t want to go again after rolling? Too funny! And true! Very good! Though I’m wondering now how you won with fewer points! That’s what’s funny about the scramble! Enjoyed this very much. Thanks for sharing it with me! —Julie

While this technique was delightful in a freewrite narrative format, it seems counterproductive if one had written a more logical or non-fiction piece. Is that true, or do you still use a similar wacky revision exercise? My son in particular usually likes things in their proper place and all very regimented!

Thanks again for facilitating our play with words!


Wacky Revision only teaches the technique of revision—that is, looking at the writing closely and making changes. Each of the techniques I showed you cause kids to engage in revision (to look at the words and reconsider what’s there). We are drawing with big crayons on a big sheet of paper without lines! This is the chance to explore what it feels like to look at your own writing and consider that it is not in finished form. It also allows kids to make connections they wouldn’t be able to see without the techniques. So they get to see what happens when you rearrange order, or contradict a commonly held belief, or add a new element, or change the tone of voice. All of these have real world value in more careful revision practices. But most kids don’t want to do revision! It’s too subtle and it feels like a violation of their original intent.

To help them over that hurdle, sometimes it’s good to simply play with the language and see how that feels (what new discoveries can be made!).

Then, as I shared in the workshop, you might try the serious revision practices for another piece. You might see how it goes to be intentional about adding an opening hook or expanding the writing for a couple of elements or revising a certain repeating term. You could also play with the wacky methods too and see what emerges.

Revision isn’t only about systematizing the content. It is about bringing power into the writing. Both styles of revision help to get you there. 🙂 —Julie

Free Writing Workshop: Wacky Revision

Wacky Revision by Jesse

Wacky Revision by Brave Writer student Jesse

Hello Julie,

We enjoyed the writing workshop. Only my eight year old has something to share with you because my older two are ill. The five year old just waved at you and was convinced that you could hear him talking to you. Jesse insisted that I send the art work that goes with his story. He illustrates everything! He also wanted you to know that he thinks you are fun. Because of the November Alliance topic math is on everyone’s mind.

Jesse’s original

When I get up I do math before I get breakfast sometimes. I get out of my bed find where ever I threw my math. I do CLE math* a Torcherwhepen!!! This time I had to do two lessons of math. Now I’m thinking it’s an altimatekillerweaponn and I couldn’t figure out 20 X 24 and I threw a hissy fit and then figured out that it was 480 which was on Fact Focus. The LAST Question I got finished with. TORTUREweaponputitaway!

*Crappy Little Education

Wacky Revision

Before I eat dinner I do math. I did not know 24 X 1,000,000,000 and I was so frustrated. I said “Crappy Little Education!” The answer I did not know. I skipped it. So I went and built a portal machine and I went in it. It brought me 480 years into the future. But what more math?! I have to find wherever I through my math. Hey! A CLE math store. It is against the law NOT to do math. Now I have to do two lessons of math–it is an ultimatekillerweapon! I wonder if there is a way to get away from doing math. No? Then I found a tunnel under ground. With math?!

Mom’s note: CLE actually stands for Christian Light Education


Audria!! Thank you so much for sharing with me! I love seeing the pictures with the writing. Such explosive powerful words—creative, funny, smart. He’s adorable! Please say hello for me! –Julie

Free Writing Workshop: Wacky Revision

Notes from a homeschool mom

Notes from a homeschool mom

The following comes from a number of exchanges with Brave Writer mom Carla:

At the beginning of the year

Just a quick note to say “Hooray!” about a comment that my son made as we were working on his travel journal entry from a recent trip to CO. He was filling in answers to “I saw…” and “I felt….”, etc with as much alliteration as he could muster. He was clearly amused with his efforts and said,”I tried to match what the Incorrigible Children of Ashton place would say about that.”

I was delighted because I had just read the chapter in Writer’s Jungle that talked about encouraging them to emulate their favorite authors, and here he was doing it all on his own!

Hooray for Brave Writer and Hooray for my little brave writer!!

I know it’s just a little thing, but I loved that there was a spark of the right idea in his mind.

Shortly after

Encouraging thought for the day-

My son was entertain himself writing a “book” that included this sentence:

“She held a baby that squirmed in her arms like a rosy worm wiggling in the freshly dewed soil.”

(I wasn’t sure if you could use the word dew as a verb so we ended up changing that to “in the dew covered soil,” but I loved his original thought so much that I wanted to share it!

He was really proud of the sentence. He said, “I could’ve just said that the baby wiggled, but I really wanted to make it sound like Penelope! I am going to do a whole bunch of these!” (We are in the fourth book of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, which we learned of from The Arrow.)

He was so enthusiastic about using flowery language. It really filled up my heart with joy! Thank you for what you have given our family!!


We started our Language Arts co-op yesterday (which would be more aptly named the Brave Writer co-op!!) and my friend, whose kids are new to homeschooling, said their favorite part was learning about the punctuation in the poem we were studying! What?!?! Now THAT is a successful day! Thank you for The Arrow, which is what I use as a guide for studying any literature! You have really taught me how to explore it for all it’s worth!

(I will add that I had the moms from our co-op watch the writing workshop with their kids, and they all LOVED it! One fourth grade girl said, “Mom, I really like her! She is so cool!” My kids felt the same. So know that despite the random yawns some folks were sending, your enthusiasm for writing and for encouraging kids made its impact! It certainly didn’t hurt that you gave a shout out to two of the girls! The kids LOVED that! It reminded me of Romper Room when I would wait desperately to hear my name called, but then when she actually did say the name Carla, I freaked out and went crying to my mom for fear that she could actually see me through the TV. Hee hee! But I digress…..).

12 Days of Brave WriterCarla

The Arrow language arts program

Revision: creating a new lens

Revision: Creating a new lens

When we use “wacky revision” tactics, we sometimes stumble upon a truth that was hidden from view in the usual order of things. One of the pieces below, written by Sofia, is a great example! Her original freewrite was about how to perform on stage. We’ve all read articles and paragraphs that teach us a set of principles to put into practice. Even when they are clear and well articulated, we may still glaze over due to information overload.

In this case, Sofia applied the wacky revision tactic of turning everything around into a lie. Unwittingly, she stumbled upon irony and humor! By framing the notion of how to perform on stage through the lens of lies, she set up a paragraph that mocks performance! Because of that mockery, the reader is thrust into complexity—turning the writing around to a positive in the imagination. Humor holds our attention, and the principles become apparent through negation. We see this online all the time. Some of the best articles about politics, for instance, make fun of politics. We remember them for their denying power and the humor they evoke.

Wacky revision tactics are not just about play. They are about generating insight, too. Stay alert for those brilliant moments that pop through the writing when it is conceived through a new lens. -Julie

Hi Julie!

Here is the writing from the writing workshop. The first piece is from my son, Judah (age 9). He had followed the freewrite prompt you suggested encouraging them to tell about an ordinary event, and he chose his morning routine:

I wake up in the morning and at 7:00 I get out of bed and go to my living room. I say hello to my dad and he makes breakfast and I eat it all up. After I do that I go and get dressed. Then I go and comb my hair and brush my teeth. After I do that I play Legos until mom says it’s time for school.

Here it is after the Scramble [revision technique]:

I wake up in the morning and at 7:00 I get out of bed and go to my living room to brush my teeth. After I do that I play Legos until mom says it’s time for me to go to my room. I say hello to my dad and he makes breakfast and I eat it all up. Time for school. After I do that I go and get dressed. Then I go and comb my hair.

He added words and punctuation here and there, like you suggested, to make the transition from line to line sound intentional. And now that I am thinking about it, he found that process really amusing. ?

The next piece is by my daughter, Sofia (age 7). It is a previous freewrite she wrote after she was in a play. I had asked her what advice she would give to a new actor and this was her response:

If you are new to the stage, you need to do your best. Smile big. You might not get the part you want, so be ready to do whatever the director tells you to do. Use your imagination. Acting on stage is tiring so get good rest before your show. You might fall down or go on the wrong side of the stage or forget a line, but just go on and keep acting no matter what. Skip to the next line that you know. Even if you don’t get the part you wanted, acting is really fun. I didn’t get the part I wanted and it was really fun for me!

She was really amused by your revision technique about “lying,” so we went over the piece doing just that:

If you are new to the stage, don’t give it your all. Do not smile, but just relax your face. You are going to get the part you want anyway. Don’t listen to the director, but do whatever you want. Do not use your imagination, but instead act mad. Acting on stage is no big deal, so you don’t need to get good rest before your show. Nothing will ever go wrong, but if it does, start crying and quit the play. Even when you get the part you want, acting is not fun! I got the part I wanted and it was boring!

We had a fun conversation about why someone might give this bad advice to a new actor and decided that it might be given to an actor who is auditioning for the same role as the advice-giver! That could be an interesting story to write in the future, and one she would not have thought of otherwise, so we were able to see the benefit of that revision tactic.

Lastly, I really like the concept that revision is “re-vision”….seeing again the piece of writing and giving it a new spin. I hadn’t thought much about editing being separate from revision, so I appreciated the clarification.

Thank you again for the writing workshop!! “See” you on Periscope!


Free Writing Workshop: Wacky Revision