Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How to Teach Writing

make magic happen

I love teaching writing, partly because I still believe in magic and good writing is magical- it takes you places, teaches you things and expands your life in ways little else does. Plus, it's a blast to be part of someone elses creative process.     Teaching writing pushes me to write better, it keeps me reading and researching newer, better, faster ways of writing, creating, reading. Not only is writing is a creative endeavor, it is an exercise in logic and a powerful tool. Watching kids minds "get it," write better, think better, express themselves better is a total rush.
I  had a question from a fellow homeschooler recently about how to teach writing and here's my not so brief reply:

. . . . . . . ~© The Writer's Den ©~ . . . . . . .: Notable Quotables ...
Get Literary- Read to your kids- out loud, daily. We started reading out loud to our kids 25 years ago when our oldest was an infant: a book of poems by Tolkien, golden books, the Bible, fairy tales, nursery rhymes and fables. Read quality. There is enough of it out there that you don't have to settle for mediocre twaddle. Poems, riddles, rhymes are not twaddle, they are full of tropes. It's an important difference.
-einstein print
Reading out loud together is a huge part of our family culture and we share words and stories and shared universes daily.  We also read books that are at their grade level, above their grade level and books they've loved since early childhood. Children's books are not, by definition, dumb. Sometimes the most profound literature is the most simple.

Get Poetic- Memorize poetry at an early age. We started with IEW's Language Acquisition Through Poetry Memorization. Andrew Pudewa writes a great apologetic for poetry memorization in the intro to the book, along with including a Charlotte Mason like review chart. One of the homeschooling (or just educate your child well) must haves imho. We've expanded from there and the kids are currently memorizing poems for the Poetry Outloud  Competition as well as Horatius at the Bridge for the Churchill Challenge. (find out more about Horatius here).
Poetry includes learning about tropes (any literary or rhetorical device, as metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and irony, that consists in the use of words in other than their literal sense).

Write Poetry- we've enjoyed using Matt Whitling's Grammar of Poetry for a clear, concise understanding of the forms of formal poetry. Great for use from 5th grade and up. Not only will your kids learn the forms, rhyme and rythem of poetry from this study but they will get great trope practice ; ).

Get literate -teach reading- use a good phonics based program- AlphaPhonics lover here, all the way, baby, in conjunction with Explode the Code. I'm not an advocate of better late than early. Think of all those delicious books you would miss out on by waiting however many years? Teach your kids to read between the ages of 4-6 and encourage them to read. Summer reading hours around here add up to 1-2 hours a day. If my kids aren't reading- daily, they don't use the computer. Words first, then pixels.
Write more.
Get Wordy- Expand your Vocabulary. Use big words when you talk to your kids; they'll learn by context and they'll ask for info when they want it. They'll understand that language usage is rich. They'll try out new words themselves. They'll make humorous mistakes (I always think of the scene in Star Trek IV movie when Spock keeps trying to emulate Kirk's usage of colorful metaphor!).

Get cosmopolitan- Study a foreign language. Vocabulary and grammar usage will increase with the study of a second language.
Double Negatives
Get Nerdy- Study Grammar. You can write well without understanding grammar but it's a sad fact of nature that you will write better if you do understand grammar.

i before e...grammar rules are from the dark side. And spelling.
Get Real -Turn off the T.V. and other electronic devices. There is nothing inherently bad in electronic devices as long as they are managed. If your kids interact only with electronics, and are not required to talk, in complete sentences with manners, with real, warm blooded humans- interactively, not just rotely, they will struggle with communication because they are being acclimated to interact with machines, not people, who are far more complex. Imago Dei, right?!

Pinned Image
Get Funny- Make humor a part of your daily life; riddles, puns, jokes, comic routines, humorous lines and scenes from books and movies- we recite and laugh at them daily in our home. Recently my 2 youngest have been on a Charlie Brown kick- they have read every book, watched every T.V. special and have internalized scores of funny lines and profound Charlie Brown truths. Comic books are great because they distill to the essence profound truth, wisdom and humor- think about it- 1-3 stills and the joke has to be set up and delivered. Not only that, but comics and humor are rife with literary tropes- they have to be because of the economy required. Great stuff, that.

Figurative Language Chart
Get Dramatic- I've written here and here about our on-going love affair with theater. Learning to perform is a great way to internalize the writing of terrific literary works (i.e. one of the reasons I LOVE Shakespeare Camp is because my kids own the play by the end of the week). To perform well one must understand the vocabulary, intent of the author, meaning of the entire play. We've done historical plays, plays based on poetry, humorous plays and Shakespeare plays. They have all helped our kids internalize what makes a piece good, mediocre or just plain bad, they have driven our kids to the original work being performed, they have expanded our vocabulary and rhetorical repertoire

Get Writing- most importantly, get writing. Writer's write. It's just that simple. Good writer's write a LOT.

(all pins from my Pinterest boards- check them out ; )!

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Amy Maze said...

Another great post! My 4 year old has taken off with reading this year. He is starting to actually read things on his own...without me asking him to...which delights me! We have also started memorizing poetry this year. I didn't know how he would like it, but he really loves it! He has two poems down (along with many Bible verses) which I am very happy with! Thanks for this encouragement today!

Anne Birdsong said...

This is wonderful, and I wholeheartedly agree with you! We always read to our kids when they were younger. In fact, my standard baby gift is a stack of books, b/c I can't stress enough how important it is.

Thanks for linking this up with the TALU!

Unknown said...

Thanks for posting this. I pinned it. I homeschool and will take any advice I can get. My grammar is atrocious. Definitely something for me to work on - best way to learn is when I have to teach my kids. Ha! TALU