WRITING RECESS

Next week I get to start a series of Writing Workshops with a group of fourth graders at Maplewood Elementary in Edmonds. The kids are giving up their lunch recesses to take part. I hope they end up writing like they play out on the playground – with fun and abandon.writex2677

This week, I am gathering ideas for writing games, exercises and prompts. Here are some possibilities:

1. ROUND ROBIN WRITING. This emphasizes the basic form of any story: beginning, middle, end. Using a prompt, (I think I’ll go with “I used to live in a palace…”), kids have six minutes to write a beginning to a story. Then we trade papers and take six more minutes to write middles that fit the beginnings received. Then shift again and on to endings. We finish up by reading our creations, an important part of all writing shenanigans.

2. PICTURE THIS. I have a pile of photos that evoke story. Each kid can choose one as a starting place and see where the story goes. writex4679

3 and 4. COULD WE LIVE HERE? Two sessions. First session, as a group we will create a setting, voting as necessary to narrow things down. Then we’ll brainstorm a list of characters who might live in this place.

In the second session, each kid chooses one of these characters to write into a story in that place.  This is a suggestion from Cassie Cross who teaches at Bellevue College. I wonder if it will work as well with fourth graders as college students?

writex16765. MAPMAKING. Each student maps a place that is special to him or her – neighborhood, house, room, school playground, backyard, grandma’s house – and labels it with stories that happened there, or could happen there.

6. YEAR BY YEAR.  I will ask the kids to think of their childhoods year by year and write a memorable event for each year, noting that memories juicy with emotion hold the most story. Then we’ll choose memories as story jumping-off places. I am curious to see what these ten-year olds remember about their childhoods.

writex3678

7. BEGIN WITH MUSIC. Five-minute timed writings to music. For instance, I’ll play a Bach cello concerto for five minutes and the kids can write the story that is suggested. Then I’ll play a penny whistle jig and they’ll start a new story. I remember using this exercise with the wonderful Lillie Rainwater’s fourth/fifth graders at Hawthorne Elementary in Seattle. Ms. Rainwater advised the kids to think of leaping into a story like jumping into double Dutch twirling ropes. Catch the rhythm of the music, she told them, and jump in with words.

That takes us back to the playground. And recess!

Thanks to Paul Borchert, librarian at Maplewood, for helping this Writing Workshop idea come to fruition. And thanks to any of our BATT Blog readers who add to this list of writing prompts, games and exercises in the comments.

Note: photos to illustrate this post are from those I will use for exercise two.

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2 responses to “WRITING RECESS

  1. laurakvasnosky

    Hi Laura,
    Thank you so much for sharing your writing exercise ideas! I wanted to leave a comment but I can’t seem to recall my login information. I loved your ideas and wanted to share one of my favorites with you. I thought you might like this one because it involved writing and drawing. I got this exercise from Jill Corcoran, way back before she became an agent, when she was “just” a writer. I tried this exercise with a group of adult writers (sooo much fun watching their expressions as I passed out the crayons), and they loved it. Talk about taking someone back to their childhood and reconnecting to their creative selves.

    I’m attaching the exercise in a document. Maybe you can use it in your upcoming gig, or just tuck it away for the future. Either way, enjoy!
    Hugs,
    Terry

    Jill Corcoran’s Art-Music-Poetry-Jam Workshop
    Suggested grades: 2 – 5
    Time required: 1 hour
    Supplies needed: Boom box with selected music, 11” x 17” white paper, crayons, pencils, Post-it notes, scotch tape
    1. Briefly discuss the power of art, music and poetry to evoke emotion.
    2. Pass out 11” x 17” piece of white paper and crayons to each student.
    3. Have students listen to music for several minutes and then draw whatever the music makes them feel. (I play about 4-5 minutes of music)
    4. Pass out a pad of Post-it notes and a pencil to each student and have them form a line to walk around the room and look at each picture.
    5. At each picture, the students write the first word that comes to their minds on the sticky paper. They leave that word with the picture. Instruct the students not to write words like “cool” or “fun,” but to write nouns, verbs or strong adjectives.
    6. The students then return to their pictures to find 20+ words written by their fellow students.
    7. With their words and pictures in front of them, and the music playing once again, students create a poem from the words they have been given. (Once their poems are finished, have each student tape their Post-it-notes poem to the back of their picture. Otherwise the notes tend fall off.)
    8. Ask the students to read their poems aloud. At the end of the hour, each student has created a poem that reflects the music they encountered, the art this music evoked from them and the words their art evoked in others.

  2. So much fun and abandon! The children will enjoy writing and won’t want to stop, Laura. Thank you for the inspiring motivators and prompts. I’ve often used the PICTURE THIS one for varied and amusing results. I’ll be looking forward to hearing back from the forfeited recess class to find out what they came up with. I’ll definitely try the commented music-drawing-post-it suggestion when there is a larger space allotment available. I working with first graders on Wednesdays and they are illustrating and writing their own 8 page stories, with watercolor covers!

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