Writer's Clubs Combine Fun with Learning
- Monday, May 09, 2005
A few years ago, I was having a great deal of difficulty getting my children to write. Pulling my hair, begging and pleading seemed to have little or no effect, so I went for the big guns: peer pressure. If I could somehow make writing into a social activity, would the kids go for it? The answer is Yes, in a big way.
My solution was to create a writing club. Dubbed The Red Ink Writing Club by my clever husband, we now needed some structure and most importantly, some other participants. My idea was simple. Invite other homeschool kids to my house once a month and have them share their writing with each other. I made up a flyer and passed it around at one of our homeschool meetings. It was an instant success. I had about 15 kids and their parents show up for each meeting. My children wrote eagerly and other parents indicated that it had made their lives easier as well.
Here's the structure that I found worked well for me:
• Everyone was invited, but an adult needed to accompany them.
• Everyone was asked to be on time as a courtesy to others. (This may not seem like a big deal, but it's incredibly distracting to children to have others coming in during a presentation. Nobody needs that kind of pressure.)
• Each child was to bring a piece of work assigned by me and one free choice piece (this could be something from their regular schoolwork, a poem, or anything they chose to write).
• Each person was to read their own work aloud to the group. I made exceptions for shy children, allowing a parent or sibling to read for them. I found that they soon desired to present their own work. This also improved the children's read-aloud and presentation skills.
• The "audience" was expected to be on their very best behavior. I made it very clear that there were to be only positive comments, and no laughing except when they knew the work was meant to be funny. I pointed out that their turn to read was coming and that we were going to treat others as we expected to be treated.
People who couldn't follow that rule would be asked not to come again. Writing puts your heart and soul onto paper, and then puts it out there for everyone to see. I wanted a positive experience here, not a critique session. While critique has its place in improving writing, my goal was to get my children to enjoy writing and to look forward to it.
I discovered that their writing naturally improved as they listened to others and inwardly critiqued their own work. Several parents reported that they saw marked improvement in their children's writing, and it was visible to the rest of us as well. The children sucked up the cheering and applause for their work like little happy sponges.
• The third Thursday of the month worked well for me, so we met the same time and day each month of the school year (taking summers off). I highly recommend keeping the same time and day no matter how often you meet, making exceptions for holidays, of course.
• Each year I handed out a flyer with all the information and writing assignments on it. Anyone could join at any time, and no commitment was necessary, except for mine. I did discover that all my participants turned out to be in kindergarten through 6th grade (my kids were, too, so this worked out fine.) A senior high writing club would work just as well if younger children met separately.
• No meeting was to last more than an hour, and it never did. We started on time, quickly reviewed the rules and got right into our readings. This worked very well.
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