Archive for the ‘Young Writers’ Category

A Tale of Penmanship

A Tale of Penmanship

When kids are learning to write (and read), it looks messy to our adult eyes, trained to spot and kill all typos or errors.

To grow a writer, you want to let them explore hooking up the hand with the brain—allowing the two to develop a coordinated effort, no matter how the result looks to you.

Before my daughter Caitrin could read, she wrote—BIG capital letters, curvy connected lines to look like cursive, and she drew! Notice how accurate the drawing is (below), very much like a person. It’s captioned phonetically “DUN BIY CAITRIN.”

Click to enlarge

Caitrin’s hand-eye relationship was strong long before her spelling matched standard American English conventions. I saved these sheets of paper on the very clipboard where she wrote them 15 years ago. We carried them around. We “read” them. She had secret notebooks we weren’t allowed to “read” where she put the same writing, only the thoughts moving through her mind as she made the marks on the page were more private-personal.

THAT’S writing. Brain moving the hand. Over time her reading skills informed her transcription ability and they merged. Today, Caitrin has a linguistics degree, studied four languages, and in fact, works as a transcriptionist! She accurately types recordings into files. Game over!

Your task? Not to correct their writing but to love and support ALL attempts to express self—no matter how skillful. That’s how a writer grows.

Brave Writer is about growth, not grades. We’re here to help. Any questions? Email us at help @

This post is originally from Instagram and @juliebravewriter is my account there so come follow along for more conversations like this one!

Brave Writer Online Classes

*NEW* Jot It Down Planner

Jot It Down! Planner

Party time! 🎉

You told us what you wanted. We heard you!

  • If you’re a planner.
  • If you’re a planner-from-behind.
  • If you’re somewhere in between… 

We’ve got your back!

Last June we launched brand new planning and tracking tools for the Arrow and Boomerang, our programs that teach the mechanics of writing through literature.

These tools were an astonishing success! Thank you for using them and giving us your feedback.

And so, we looked ahead to our other products and Ta Da! 

We’ve added a planning and tracking tool to the Jot It Down! program, making it easier to use than ever!

Introducing a Jot It Down! supplement we call: the Jot It Down! Planner.

Each Jot It Down! project has a custom designed:

  • Week in Focus Planner and
  • Writing Skills Tracker 

That’s right! 

  • Ten planning sheets
  • Ten skills trackers
  • Customized to each project—over 20 pages in all!

The Week in Focus Planner will help you 

  • weave Brave Writer Lifestyle activities into your week 
  • schedule oral language practices: memorization, narration, and word play
  • plan daily activities for the writing project of the month

The Writing Skills Tracker will provide you with 

  • checklists to note basic and project-specific writing skills 
  • a word bank of academic vocabulary 
  • a space to incorporate that language into a short narrative about your child’s learning experience

These flexible tools help you

  • plan ahead
  • plan from behind
  • track growth
  • reassure yourself of progress
  • craft end-of-year evaluations
  • and show you the path to progress in writing 

Jot It Down! will now include the Jot It Down! Planner with every purchase.

NOTE: If you purchased Jot It Down! or the Jot It Down! bundle before 2/17/2020, you’ll need to purchase the Planner a la carte. Follow this link for more details.

We’re excited for you to experience greater and greater ease and clarity about your children’s growth in writing. We want to support you every step of the way!

Go take a look at the Jot It Down! Planner and let us know how it works for you!

If you’d like to hear me explain how to use the Jot It Down! Planner, watch this recorded broadcast:

Help Your Kids Breathe Life into Their Story Characters

Breathe Life into Your Story Characters

by Brave Writer instructor Karen O’Connor

Have you noticed that when your children are glued to a well-written story you can hardly pry them away for a meal? They get totally caught up in the lives of the characters and are often inspired to create stories of their own. You can help your kids breathe life into their story characters with a few simple guidelines.

Encourage children to:

1. Get to know their characters intimately. ‘Live’ with these boys and girls as they would a sibling or best friend. Have them create a short profile of each character. What does he like to eat? What games does she enjoy playing? What style of clothing does he choose? What are her habits and hobbies? What is he afraid of? Why is she so bossy?

2. Assign each character a distinguishing characteristic or core quality. For example, in one story, Jasmine is a ‘walking dictionary’ as her brother calls her. She has taken it upon herself to learn at least one new word each day starting with the letter A. Your son or daughter might create a character with a special talent or a personality trait that attracts attention.

3. Create multi-level characters. Talk with your children about the physical appearance, emotional makeup, and mental capacity of their characters. Suppose one of the girls is short for her age, quick-witted, and yet embarrassed to show her real feelings. On the other hand, imagine a male character who is “tall, dark, and handsome”—and that’s it. A reader might have a hard time relating to such a stereotype. Talk about what would help readers relate to the character.

4. Avoid labels. (Sue was sad. Andy was happy). Flat statements such as these rob the reader of drawing his own conclusions based on what the characters do. Remind your kids to show rather than explain. For example: Sue dropped to the floor and sobbed. Andy dashed through the door waving his first-place ribbon. Bring the characters on stage and let them talk and act for themselves.

5. Choose a name that helps to identify and individualize the characters. For instance, Gabby could be a cute nickname for a talkative boy whose given name is Gilbert. A striking and to the point name, like Dot or Liz, might work for a tough loudmouth.

6. Study characters that catch your children’s interest in the books they read. What makes them special? What is memorable about them? Creating characters of depth and substance takes time and practice. But all the effort is worth it to hear from a happy reader that their story characters are ‘true to life.’

Karen O’Connor is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction and a writing coach with Brave Writer (Write For Fun: Go Wild, Dream Big, and Fly High). She’s also Julie’s mom!

Write for Fun

Resistance in Writing: Drop the Rope

Do Your Kids Resist Writing? Drop the Rope!

Do your kids offer big resistance to handwriting, freewriting, or copywork? What do you do when your assurances that “This will be fun” are met with suspicion? Drop the rope! Here’s how:

Stop asking for writing of any kind

Use writing around them—catch them in the act of thinking (when they aren’t expecting it) and jot down what they say to you (when they are really excited about what they are saying, not when you ask them to tell you something). It will be inconvenient. Just know that. Grab a scratch sheet of paper and jot it down. If met with suspicion, say, “No worries. I just want to save this to share with Dad later—it’s so good!”

Then do just that—share it with Dad at dinner, say, and do it in front of them.

Talk with them about their resistance

What’s it about? Get curious in an interested way (not a “once I figure it out, I can get you to write” way). Let them know you are interested in whatever the block is. Then when you do know (if it’s boring or their hand hurts or they think they have nothing to say or copywork is not interesting), you can start there.

Ask for their input

One suggestion from Charlotte Mason is to let students determine how many words (or letters!) they can attempt with full concentration and the habit of excellence. Then that’s all they have to do for that day. They get to say: “My attention is flagging” or “I lost interest” and stop right there. Tell them that if all they can sustain is a single well drawn letter, that will be enough for you. Then the next day they pick up where they left off. They may find that they will naturally increase when they are in charge of how much they write. The key, though, is to remind them of the importance of doing their prettiest work for that letter or word.

Get creative

You might try doing your own copywork at the same time so that it is a group experience. Put on some wordless music.

Finally, if the passages are boring to them, you might look for jokes or puns where they get the next word each day without seeing the whole at once.

Jot It Down

What If My Child Hates Freewriting?

Freewriting Help

Not all kids love the timer or freewriting. If your child hates it then I suggest you freewrite yourself (with which ever kids in the family will participate) and pair it with brownies. You can also try freewriting:

  • at a local Starbucks,
  • the library,
  • outside on a picnic table,
  • or inside UNDER a table.

You might try “midnight” freewrites where everyone gets up at midnight and writes by candle light.

Noah, my oldest, was this way. He even today says that the timer is too much pressure for him. We got to a place where we didn’t set a timer for him. I also taught him how to keep a “special events” journal where he only wrote when there was a special event to remember. He has one journal from an entire childhood and it has probably 15-20 entries. It was enough. It helped. Stay open to who your child is.

Kids need to be shown that you really are okay with what they write (telling doesn’t always convince them). You might:

  • scrunch up the page first,
  • ask your kids to assign you a topic,
  • freewrite first and ask your children to read yours to you and give you feedback,
  • or offer gel pens and black paper.

And of course, you can catch them in the act of thinking and jot down THEIR words as they say them to you spontaneously in an unplanned moment. That counts too!

Let children create their own list the day before you freewrite. Set the timer for a minute and ask them to write in a list down the page ALL the things they love and know a lot about. Any topic. Then when you go to freewrite, they can choose from the list or just write what comes to mind. Their choice.

Mix it up! Get rid of the schoolish element. See what happens.

Freewriting Prompts