Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fishing in Lava - creative writing



I did a post last week about our lack of attention towards creative writing activities. Here is the link to the post that was mainly about free fishing printables for creative writing.

My goal is currently at least one story that Toad dictates to me and one he writes himself each month. His handwriting skills are pretty bad and he finds the act of writing frustrating so I can't push that too much without a lot of conflict. 

I gave him the writing prompt of combining fishing and lava for his story. We're wrapping up our study of volcanoes this week and next week we'll move into the continent of Australia/Oceania and start reading Call it Courage. Those are some themes included in those upcoming subjects so I was trying to build in a pre-project.   Being the staid, boring adult I was expecting something along the lines of someone who fishes in Hawaii but he got much more creative. 

This was his first draft: 

I fish in lava. I catch rocks. Sometimes I catch lots of rocks. Sometimes I don't catch very many rocks. I catch different kinds of rocks. Sometimes I catch basalt and sometimes I catch pumice. The most floatable rocks I put in water. Sometimes I make things with the rocks I catch. I melt different kinds of rocks together and make stripes. I make stripes to decorate my house. I fish at the biggest volcanoes. Sometimes I fish at the most active volcanoes. Sometimes I make plates out of the rocks that I catch. Sometimes I make rakes and cups out of the rocks I catch. Sometimes I make handles out of the rocks I catch. 

On one of the listserves I subscribe to, someone recommended a PBS creative writing story guide issued in conjunction with their annual writing contest. I thought this curriculum would meet our needs nicely at this time.  Obviously, I liked that it was free since this is not a huge focus of ours, but I also liked that it covered all the basics in child friendly language (freeing me from having to effectively paraphrase), was illustrated with kids art, and emphasized being creative first and then editing what you've got.

Once I got his story all written down, we talked about what a paragraph is, editing for clarity and word choices.  I used colored pencils to mark up the story I transcribed and he got it right away.

This is an approximate copy of what I showed him about the flow of his story.  I just circled his work with colored pencils.

I fish in lava. I catch rocks. Sometimes I catch lots of rocks. Sometimes I don't catch very many rocks. I catch different kinds of rocks. Sometimes I catch basalt and sometimes I catch pumice. The most floatable rocks I put in water. Sometimes I make things with the rocks I catch. I melt different kinds of rocks together and make stripes. I make stripes to decorate my house. I fish at the biggest volcanoes. Sometimes I fish at the most active volcanoes. Sometimes I make plates out of the rocks that I catch. Sometimes I make rakes and cups out of the rocks I catch. Sometimes I make handles out of the rocks I catch.

I explained the elements of his story using the concepts of subject, setting and plot and showed him how the purple sentences were about him as the subject and where he was.  The green sentences were action and the blue would make a great conclusion since it summarized the point of his actions in the story.  As soon as he saw the color blocks he got it right off and liked how it sounded rewritten to this which includes two sentences he added:

     I fish in lava. I catch rocks. I fish at the biggest volcanoes. Sometimes I fish at the most active volcanoes. Sometimes I catch lots of rocks. Sometimes I don't catch very many rocks. I catch different kinds of rocks. Sometimes I catch basalt and sometimes I catch pumice. The most floatable rocks I put in water.   
     Sometimes I make things with the rocks I catch.  Sometimes I make plates out of the rocks that I catch. Sometimes I make rakes and cups out of the rocks I catch. Sometimes I make handles out of the rocks I catch.   I melt different kinds of rocks together and make stripes. I make stripes to decorate my house.My house is made out volcanic rocks.  My house is made out of the hardest rocks.

Now he liked the structure and I was really pleased by his quick editing.  Being the teacher I wanted to draw his attention to his word choices so I marked it up with one color to draw attention to his word choices.

      I fish in lava. I catch rocks. I fish at the biggest volcanoes. Sometimes I fish at the most active volcanoes. Sometimes I catch lots of rocks. Sometimes I don't catch very many rocks. I catch different kinds of rocks. Sometimes I catch basalt and sometimes I catch pumice. The most floatable rocks I put in water.   
     Sometimes I make things with the rocks I catch.  Sometimes I make plates out of the rocks that I catch. Sometimes I make rakes and cups out of the rocks I catch. Sometimes I make handles out of the rocks I catch.   I melt different kinds of rocks together and make stripes. I make stripes to decorate my house.  My house is made out of volcanic rocks.  My house is made out of the hardest rocks.

Obviously he likes the word sometimes.  I mentioned how many times it was in there and we talked about some synonyms.  He chose to keep all of the sometimes'.  I gave him the word buoyant because I didn't think he knew it.  He chose to keep most floatable.  We talked about how rakes as an object didn't really go with all the other cookware and he agreed and chose to drop it.  He did see the repetitiveness in his last two sentences and so this was his final draft.  At his point I should stress I'm in no way trying to squelch his creativity so these are all gentle suggestions.  If he says no, it's his choice since it's his story. 

     I fish in lava. I catch rocks. I fish at the biggest volcanoes. Sometimes I fish at the most active volcanoes. Sometimes I catch lots of rocks. Sometimes I don't catch very many rocks. I catch different kinds of rocks. Sometimes I catch basalt and sometimes I catch pumice. The most floatable rocks I put in water.   
     Sometimes I make things with the rocks I catch.  Sometimes I make plates out of the rocks that I catch. Sometimes I make rakes and cups out of the rocks I catch. Sometimes I make handles out of the rocks I catch.   I melt different kinds of rocks together and make stripes. I make stripes to decorate my house.  My house is made out of the hardest volcanic rocks. 

I don't know why it never occurred to me to use the color to help him organize his thoughts but it worked great.  I wrote his final version into an accordion book.  In the past, we've made the accordion books as a project.  This year I knew I wanted to focus more on what was going in the book so I bought book kits from the art supply.  He illustrated his sentences.  The covers were from free art time last week and were repurposed for this since they were volcano colors.

I consider the project a resounding success.  He enjoyed it, learned something, and worked diligently for a long span of time.



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7 comments:

Carissa Rasmussen said...

wow. that's great to spend so much time and explanation about why and where there are holes in his writing logic. awesome

toady mama said...

Thanks Carissa!

Carrie said...

What great ideas!! It will get him far with his writing. Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!

Hey Mommy, Chocolate Milk said...

Loving this. Will tag so I can remember when my little guy gets a little older! New follower from NOBH. hope you will follow back.
Be blessed,
Julie @ Hey Mommy, Chocolate Milk
www.heymommychocolatemilk.blogspot.com

toady mama said...

Julie, Thanks I did that!

Heidi said...

Even in colored type the visual break down is striking, especially the use of sometimes! I love this idea and think it might help my son as well. Thanks for sharing with us over at NOBH!

toady mama said...

I think the excessive sometimes goes with a lot of kids stories. Kids love repetition and a lot of the read aloud stories we still read have lots of repetition. I think it sounds better to them than to us. Hope this idea works for you too!

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