Archive for the ‘Young Writers’ Category

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

Partnership Writing Primer

Partnership Writing Primer

What is Partnership Writing?

Partnership Writing is the most overlooked stage of writing development. It is a writing-revising-editing partnership between a young writer and a writing coach (YOU!). It’s the stage where parent and child write together, with the parent providing the much-needed support to get those precious, quirky insights to the page.

How do I know if my child is in the Partnership Writing stage?

Your child:

  • can write a sentence or a few words at a time but tires easily.
  • needs help with spelling, punctuation, and getting rich vocabulary to the page.
  • shows interest in using a pencil or keyboard but is not ready to “go it alone.”
  • needs modeling for how to take thoughts and put them in writing.

In other words, your child wants to share thoughts and ideas through writing but original writing does not reflect the mind-life or verbal fluency. This is often seen in nine and ten year olds but don’t be governed by age range. Focus instead on the description and match it to your child.

Partnership Writing

I think my child is in the Partnership Writing stage. Now what?

1) Read the blog post, “The misunderstood ‘child-led learning’ model”

2) Listen to the Partnership Writing Podcast

3) See Partnership Writing in action

4) Check out Brave Writer products and online classes for additional help such as our Partnership Writing Home Study Course:

Partnership Writing productA Year-Long Language Arts Plan!
9-10 year olds (age range is approximate)

Developmentally appropriate projects.
Step-by-step instructions.
A weekly and monthly plan.

The Writer’s Jungle provides you with the essential tools that enable you to be an effective writing coach. Partnership Writing is the product that gives you a practical routine (think, schedule ala Brave Writer).

Download a FREE SAMPLE on our product page.

If your child isn’t in the Partnership Writing stage, here’s a helpful guide for all the stages.

Learning Through Play

Play is their work.

A Brave Writer parent asked this question on the BraveScopes group:

I get that “play is their work” but how and when do we
start to transition to at least some “schooling?”

Ask yourself what it is you hope “schooling” accomplishes that is not currently being accomplished by play? Is it possible to teach reading through play? Writing through play? Math through play?

And when I say “play,” I mean the spirit of curiosity, engagement, and excitement that play gives children. Everything they are doing touches on the very subject areas you care about. You can get there through what they are already doing, and you can entice participation in the areas you think require more structure through a spirit of play with those materials!

Entice participation in the areas you think require
more structure through a spirit of play.

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What if you played with the handwriting book under the table, using a flashlight? What if you doodled pictures for her to find as she completed math problems? I know you don’t want to do these all the time—but if you come from a spirit of discovery rather than requirement, you may find yourself seeing learning opportunities right now that you are missing.

Don’t look for openness. Focus instead on parallel play. In other words:

  • make observations in his presence,
  • talk about what is fascinating about language,
  • try out the pencils and pages in the book,
  • or leave some math manipulatives out to be discovered.

It’s tempting to “play school” because that’s what we remember.

Foster a spirit of discovery rather than requirement

For example, in her presence in the morning, simply get up from the floor where the two of you were playing, and silently begin writing at the table with a big variety of utensils. You might even start by writing her name on the windows with window markers, or making cookies that look like the alphabet and then playing with the letters and putting them into arrangements that are words.

Perhaps while she is playing, you sit nearby and simply begin reading aloud in her presence and see if she is enchanted or interested or simply absorbing what you read.

You don’t need to “teach.” You want to simply include in your day conversation and activity that points to the tools he will need for his life, a little at a time.

Party School!