Enter Store - AP Online Classes - Who We Are - Volleyball - PHAA diploma Program

Blog

Writing Club ideas-- and a first 'Writing Assignment'
Susan Richman, 1/28/2010

I’ve been leading a monthly homeschoolers’ Writing Club for years and years and years—it was a mainstay of our homeschooling program with all four of our kids, and I’ve loved continuing on with a wonderful group of younger homeschoolers since I began ‘empty nesting’ 4 ½  years ago. Why do I love Writing Clubs?? Many reasons…

  • Writing Club gave my kids a real audience beyond just me. Now, I was a pretty decent ‘audience’, but you know how moms can be… we start immediately nitpicking over stupid spelling errors (or a complete dismissal of punctuation protocols…). Or maybe our kids just don’t ‘believe’ our opinions about their work. Or maybe if they are only writing for us, it just doesn’t seem like it’s 'worth' much. My joke whenever I give talks on homeschoolers and writing is my version of the old real estate joke, that goes, “There are three most important things about real estate: location, location, location.” With writing, that goes:  “There are three most important things about writing: audience, audience, audience….” Having a group of their peers—especially once they get to know and care about the other group members—is a great audience.
  • Writing Club always gave my kids a real deadline. You know how it is with homeschooling—sometimes we are the worst offenders in breaking the very deadlines we set for our kids! “Oh, Jesse, didn’t I tell you we have dental cleanings today—well, guess we’ll just put off that paper you were working on… there’s always tomorrow…” But with our Writing Club coming up on regularly scheduled dates, my kids all just knew that they had to have something done—and there was no nagging from me (does this sound amazing??). Further, they wanted their piece to be pretty good—after all, this would be read aloud to the whole group!
  • Writing Club meant that my kids would actually try out my ideas. If I’d just given my kids any of the Writing Club Assignments I developed for the group, just as ‘individual ideas’ that they should do for me—well, I know they would have turned up their individual noses and had every excuse in the book why it was probably a very ‘dumb’ or boring idea, and they just couldn’t do it. And my kids weren’t sassy or overly negative kids, either—but somehow it was just always very different to know that this was the official assignment, that everyone else would also be working on it, and so they would also. Maybe it was peer pressure in a positive way-- or just the power of the situation. The assignment was a matter of fact, not something to be argued with or negotiated. I even took to not always telling my kids what the assignment would be, until I passed it out at the actual meeting-- otherwise at least one of my kids would tend to say, "Ooh, Mom, I don't think anyone will like that one..." They did every assignment given, and always got energized by them. No whining or complaining or weaseling out of things. These ideas stretched them to try new things or different approaches, and they felt part of what everyone else was doing, too. Any my assignments were always quite open-ended, allowing lots of latitude while still giving direction and a starting place. 

DSC03556.JPG

These are some of my Writing Club kids from a couple of years ago (I'm in the middle in the back row, with the glasses)-- and each of them really grew as a young writer after being with the group-- we've even had several kids in this photo win various writing contests (more on that in a future post

 

 So, I want to spread Writing Club ideas, with the hope that more of you will start such a group—and I don’t want you to feel that you need to re-invent the wheel while you’re at it. There are great ideas that have worked well with homeschool groups—even with groups with a very wide age span, as with my group. I be sharing here every other week one of my own many Writing Club Assignments—and gradually add more ideas from other homeschool writing groups. Use these assignments in any way that you wish—copy and print them out to use next week with your own group, tweak or edit or change in any way to help them be a better ‘fit’ for the kids you work with, or just use them to get your own unique ideas going.

I’ll also be sharing each time about ways that I’ve organized my group—and ways that other groups have worked things, too. Each group will grow and develop in unique ways, but we can all still learn from one another, too.

For starts, here’s a typical ‘First Writing Club Meeting of the Year’ assignment, where I know we’ll have some new kids participating, and I want kids to get to know one another pretty quickly. Another goal is that I want all the kids to be able to have some fun with this first piece of writing for the year—humor really helps dispel nervousness for the beginning writer! I wanted to dispel the idea that writing had to be overly serious or only focused on topics such as 'ye olde boring book report' or 'explain the water cycle'.... 

WRITING CLUB ASSIGNMENT:

TELL ABOUT YOUR DAY-TO-DAY LIFE BY WRITING ABOUT *YOU*, but from the point of view of ‘someone’ else

We recently received an email from our daughter Molly, who now lives in Kiryat Bialik, a suburb ofHaifa, Israel—Molly and her husband  regularly send out nice newsy ‘Update’ messages, and this one came from Molly’s email address, so I was expecting that SHE had written it. Here’s how it opened—see if you can guess who REALLY wrote this email!

Life in Kiryat Bialik has gone through many changes since we last wrote to you. Until recently, I would spend most of the day taking beauty naps on the floor or admiring the local wildlife out through the window; I consider myself quite the armchair ornithologist. I must admit that I longed to be able to make friends with the neighbors or cavort through the fresh, juicy grass outside, but life inside our apartment was tolerable, especially after I commissioned those two individuals whom I permit to share my home to construct a secret passageway through the wall between two rooms in our apartment so that I no longer need to traverse between rooms like a commoner. I further must say that I was rather distressed by the arrival of my former servants from America, and I did feel the need to protect myself under the fold-out bed for several days until I had fully ascertained that the cat-sized babbling creature who was constantly grasping at me was not, in fact, feline. I did appreciate the feathery birdlike dangly thing and the confounding, bright-red point of light that the American servants brought with them, and at times I found their presence rather useful as they slipped me food from the table or stroked my-- if I do say so myself-- remarkably shiny and well-maintained luxurious fur coat.

Did you guess that this was *written by* our daughter’s CAT??? The ‘former servants from America’ were visiting relatives with their BABY who had just stayed for  several weeks in Israel. Molly sent out a second email the next day with the ‘translation’ on what some of the long email really meant, just in case some folks were a bit confused !

Now, back to our Writing Club Assignment for this month…. I want you to ‘introduce’ yourself to everyone in the group through an ‘email’ written by SOMETHING in your home that gets to observe you a lot… could be a pet, as Molly did here, or could be a spider making a web in the corner of your room, or even your favorite chair, your computer screen or keyboard, your digital camera or cell phone, your glasses, your favorite cap or shirt or shoes, or whatever seems like a fun idea to you. What would this creature (or thing!) have to say about your personality, your interests, your activities, your place in your family, your daily decisions? Imagine who the *audience* for this pretend ‘email’ is…. is it written to fellow creatures? family far away? to us at Writing Club?? Have fun with this one—and we look forward to ‘meeting’ you via the eyes of something in your home!


Comment by Wanda, 1/28/2010:

Thank you Susan! A Writing Club is a great idea. My daughter (5th grade) loves to write. She would love to be in a club like this. Maybe I will need to start one.


Comment by Amy, 1/29/2010:

My kids have participated in this club for the past 3 years.  I have to admit that improving their writing skills wasn't my original intention for joining.  I just wanted to connect with some other homeschoolers, as it was our first year of traditional homeschooling after years of cyber schooling.  Well, let's just say it was not what I expected.  After listening to the pieces being read, I was impressed, captivated, and a little inferior about my own kids' writing abilities.  The kids there were such polished writers and so young!  My kids enjoyed it, and they were accepted with open arms, so we returned the following month.  My kids were still very much Dick and Jane writers, but no one made them feel badly about their pieces.  Even the upper classmen took an interest.  I had never seen teenagers that were so genuinely thoughtful and caring towards younger children.  Yes, they do exist!  :)

Anyway, I can't pinpoint exactly when it happened, but I think from just listening to these incredibly talented young authors, my kids' writings seemed to drastically change.  They are so descriptive now, sometimes a little too descriptive.  It has really stretched their abilities beyond anything that I could have taught them.  They love to write now.  My oldest daughter aspires to be an author someday.  I can't say that any of this would have happened if it wasn't for a little group of kids meeting for a writer's club in a little farm house in Kittanning.   So, join one or start one if you haven't already!  It really can set your homeschooling on the pathway to success. 


Links

  • AP Online Classes
  • Blog RSS
  • Enter Store
  • Evaluators
  • High School Conference
  • Homeschool Law Guide (pdf)
  • Online Classes
  • Magazine Archive
  • PA Dept of Education
  • PA Support Groups
  • PHAA Diploma Guide (pdf)
  • PHAA Diploma Program
  • Volleyball
  • Who We Are

    Categories:
    AP Online Classes
    College Preparation
    Community Service
    Contests and Scholarships
    Co-op Learning
    Curriculum Reviews
    Evaluations & Portfolios
    Getting Organized
    High School Conference
    Math by Kids
    Museums and PA Resources
    PA Cyber Charter Schools
    PHAA Diploma Program
    PreK - 6th grade
    Special Needs
    Sports and Fitness
    Test Taking
    Writing Club Ideas

    Other