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Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Best Story - Eileen Spinelli & Anne Wilsdorf

This book follows a little girl who wants to win a writing contest so she can go on a roller coaster with her favourite author.  The problem is, she doesn't have a great idea for a winning story.  Welcome to the issue for many authors, young and old!

When you announce to students that they are going to write a story, half of them are filled with dread while a small percentage is ecstatic.  This is for the dreadful authors.

I am in the camp of educators that think students need to read and write on their own everyday.  Kids who write will become better writers.  I can't tell you what smart educator told me that or what research journal it comes from, that's just what I believe.  However a very smart friend once told me that Ernest Hemingway would sit for days and not write a thing.  He kept it up (good for him!) and came up with some pretty amazing works of literature.  What if your sporadic 'creative writing time' falls on a day when a student has writers block?? Just let them write everyday.  Trust me. You can figure out how to fit in report writing sometime in the year - easy peasy.

If students are writing something of their own everyday, do we let the Hemingways sit and wallow in their writers block?  No!  They have to always be writing something.  The same smart friend would model writers workshop for me and insist that writing had to be happening.  For example, kids would be told to visualize their fridges at home and had to make a list of all the food in the fridge.  Perhaps an idea would come from that list.  Or maybe not.  Next day they would be told to write all the names of the people they knew.  Maybe a student would decide to write a story about one of these people.  These ideas are for the kids with writer's block.  You will always have kids who are feverishly writing the entire time.  You are not concerned those students.  Leave them alone.

Having students write something everyday on their own is so much better than just throwing a creative writing piece at them a couple times a year.  The ability to write is a muscle and it needs to be exercised.  Of course you need to explicitly teach the writing traits that are grade appropriate, but that can be done in conjunction with these open writing periods.

That was a wild tangent, but The Best Story can be read for kids to determine the main idea.  I use the main idea to support my open writing periods as well! The main idea is that kids have to write about what they know.  Wasn't this Gilbert's plea to Anne Shirley when she was trying to write a deeply romantic novel? ~desperate plug for Anne of Green Gables~  You can't write a funny story if you're just not funny.  You can't write a love story if you've never been in love.  You could write a story about how much you love your family.  Or maybe how your parents met or when you met your baby brother.

If you write about what you know, your audience is more likely to be engaged.

The Best Story - A good book for teaching writing.  Make Allow your students to write everyday. Please.

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