Teaching Strategies

These three sessions modules made by me are targeted on answering bigger questions. Since they range from 1.5-2 hours/session, I would recommend splitting up exercises or modifying the time length in order to fit your own goals.

Overview Content: Session 1

Name: Introduction to the art of story-writing

Enduring Understanding: Children will learn the basic elements to compose a story and express their thoughts in a new way. They will learn to work with each other by designing mini “story prompts” for each other.

Big Question: What is writing?

Total Time: 1.5-2 hrs

 
Icebreaker:

Roses, Buds and Thorns (5-10 min)

·      We gather into a large circle and introduce ourselves

·      When we introduce ourselves, we have to say a “Rose” or what we liked about the day, a “Thorn” or something negative about the day and a “Bud” or something we look forward to that day

·      This small activity would tap into everyone’s feelings and this would create a more honest space where everyone is comfortable speaking their minds (and hopefully “writing their minds” too!)

 
Basic Story

Elements

(15-20 min)

·      First, get all the children to list what they think are the basic elements to a “good story”

·      The basic elements are a beginning, middle, end, plot line, setting, one or more characters, climax, dialogue, adjectives, “five senses”, conflict, mood/atmosphere and to get as creative as you want!

·      After the kids list their elements, we will discuss what they think are the basic elements to a “good story” and why they chose those elements

·      Then, I’ll briefly describe what I think makes a “good story” and distribute a handout of all of my elements in detail so they have a rough guideline

·      However, while these elements are there to guide the children, I will remind them that they should not feel pressured to use all of these elements (they should simply try to incorporate one or more)!

 
“Mini Story Prompts”

(45-60 min)

·      Bring colored paper and hand out a small piece to each child where they will write a “story prompt”(I will give examples if needed)

·      Then, shuffle all the story prompts and get children to randomly pick out a single prompt from the lot

·      Ask everyone to write a short story(about a page) on their assigned topic and to use at least one of the “basic story elements” in their story

·      While the children are writing their stories, I will go around and help get their juices flowing by offering ideas if needed!

·      If someone finishes early, I would offer them a book, to doodle or the option to work on another story!

·      Make sure everyone has a complete story at the end of the 45-60 min period!

 
“Mini Workshop”

(15-20 min)

·      Hand out brightly colored highlighters to all the children and ask them to swap their pieces with a partner

·      I would give them about 10 min to read the story and highlight one part they liked and one part they did not like about their partner’s story

·      Then, I would ask everyone to offer their partner feedback about what changes could be made to the part of the story they didn’t like

·      Then, I would ask everyone to highlight(in a different color) what parts of their own stories they liked/didn’t like and why

·      We would then share how certain elements strengthen our stories and how certain elements weaken our stories

 
Homework! ·      Everyone would turn in their stories(edited) by next class so I could post the final versions on a blog!

·      Write a 10 word story that has to include a vivid description(remind the children that the words should be powerful and therefore, they should choose carefully!)

·      The 10 word story should connect to the “impact” of writing that we will discuss the following module!

 
Overview Content: Session 2

Name: The power of words- how writing can make a difference

Enduring Understanding: Children will learn how to choose the right language and vocabulary in order to explore how different styles of writing have more power than others. They will discuss the homework from last class and read short stories to see what kind of writing has the most impact. Then, we will go outside and they will use less than 50 words to describe the world around them.

Big Question: What impact does writing have?

Time: 1.5-2hrs

Game: Writer’s Block!

(10-15 min)

·      This game is designed to promote quick thinking and to expose kids to new words

·      First, we will get into a circle, where one person will start the “story” by saying the first word that comes to them. The next person has to say a word that fits in with the flow of the story. But, if the person does not say a word that makes sense within five seconds, they are said to have “writer’s block” and they are “blocked” out of that round. We will continue the rounds until there are one/two people left who become the “winners” of the round!

·      This quick game will give the children a small insight into the word of story-telling and teach them how collaboration can often improve the quality of a story.

Activity: Who is it for?

(15-20 min)

·      This activity is designed to teach children about different audiences and how what you write should be based on what/who you are writing for. This would clearly outline the difference between academic writing and creative writing as well.

·      First, I would hand out a short scene to the class (eg: two people talking on the phone) and I would request everyone to familiarize themselves with the topic. I would break everyone up into small random groups afterwards (3-4 kids/group)

·      Then, I would hand out slips of colorful paper to the entire class with different audiences marked on them (eg: Principal, my father, my best friend etc.). Then, they would perform the scene based on the audience they have in their small groups.

·      We would play a small guessing game where everyone guesses each group’s audience!

·      Then, we would have a discussion on the different kinds of audiences and how who/what you are writing for affects what you are writing!

Homework Discussion!

(25-30 min)

·      First, everyone would pull out what their 10 word short stories they completed for last week’s homework.

·      Everyone would read their stories aloud and listen to each other’s stories (and hopefully, try to take notes on what they liked/didn’t like about their peers’ stories)

·      We would talk about what words made certain stories more powerful than others

·      Then, I would pull up a few of my favorite 10 word (or less!) stories: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn”; “Strangers. Friends. Best friends. Lovers. Strangers.” and “Finding you was like coming home.”

·      We would discuss what makes the stories I chose so powerful and why they are so popular

·      Then, we would discuss what kinds of devices we can use to make a story powerful: adjectives, metaphors, similes, patterns, repetitiveness (for emphasis), and full stops/commas

·      This would help the children to understand how fewer words can often hold a bigger impact than others (But, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t write longer pieces! It simply encourages them to try to experiment with writing shorter ones for the time being so they can get used to writing concisely, which they will use for the longer pieces!)

Challenge: Do it in 50 or less!

(40-45 min)

·      We will also need to go outside for this activity to stimulate our imaginations and be able to write descriptions! The more inspiration there is around, the easier it is to write a description!

·      I will set a challenge for all the kids: write a 50 word(or less) story or description based on anything you see around you. It does not have to have all the “devices” we discussed earlier, but they should try to include at least one and see what impact that creates.

·      This challenge may seem easy to begin with, but if someone finishes, I would request them to continue writing for at least 30 minutes and then edit so that they only use the words they deem necessary to express their thoughts.

·      I would hand out colorful pens for this activity to brighten things up and hand out multiple sheets of paper to each child so they can erase and add on as much as they need to

·      I would remind them that reviewing their words is key to this “challenge”

·      After everyone finishes, I would collect the stories, edit them myself and post them on the blog

Activity: Word Banks

(15-20 min)

·      I would hand out a simple tin can with a slit on the top(similar to a piggy bank) and have art supplies like colored paper, glitter, colored pens and stickers for everyone to decorate their “word banks” with. I would also provide dictionaries to all the children in the class as theirs to keep!

·      We would spend the time decorating the “banks” as a fun activity to end the class with

·      The “word banks” are a place for the children to store the new words and vocabulary they use in. Whenever they see a word that is unfamiliar or a word they are unsure of, they would write down the word on a small sheet of paper (I would provide these) and stick it into the bank. They would try to find meanings for these words in a dictionary or somewhere similar, or ask me for meanings the next class.

·      The children are expected to review these words often, and become familiar with new vocabulary that they can use in their future stories and writing!

Homework! ·      Add 10 new words to your word bank (look up random words in the dictionary, and find ones they don’t know)

·      Come to the next class with a list of people you aspire to be like

 

Overview Content: Session 3

Name: Fitting into new shoes

Enduring Understanding: Children will learn how to write through different perspectives by becoming different characters. Using acting as a starting point, they will eventually experiment with writing through different perceptions. They will attempt to get into the shoes of one person they aspire to be, as well as two other randomly assigned characters. They will also learn how to incorporate the new vocabulary learnt in these short stories.

Big Question: How do I become someone else?

Time: 1.5-2 hrs

Game: Apples to Apples

(20-25 min)

·      I will bring the game “Apples to Apples” with me

·      The basic rules of the game are that everyone receives a set amount of cards and then, I pull out a random card. Each person has to pick out a card from what they have and make up a story that connects the card they have picked to the random card I pulled out.

·      Then, we would all vote on who has the best story for each card. I would reinforce the ideas from the first and second modules and talk about what elements make these stories good. Then, we would also talk about the idea of “perspectives” by talking about what perspective each story was told from. The winner of the round is whoever has the most votes, and the winner of the game is whoever wins the most stories at the end.

·      I see the game as a “warm up” to telling stories because the kids are forced to be creative by connecting two completely unrelated words or topics. This promotes thinking out of the box and coming up with fresh ideas. For today, it would help us with our perspective activity as the game would encourage the kids to put themselves in someone else’s place in order to connect the unrelated words.

Living the Dream (or not…?)

(45-60 min)

·      Everyone would start off by pulling out the list for homework from last time

·      We would go around the room and talk about the people we chose, and why we chose these particular people (what makes them special, why they attract us, what qualities they have)

·      Then, everyone would pick one person from their list to write about. They would act out the person and everyone else would guess who they were acting out!

·      First, we would do some background research on each person (newspapers, magazines, can use my phone if needed). We would pinpoint three different factors about each person: background, lifestyle and habits. After they have some basic background on each person, they can tweak the lifestyle and habits to whatever version of the person they would like to portray through their writing

·      Since there is no fixed version of the person they need to create, they should all feel free to change as many elements about the person they need to

·      But, I would request them to keep the key background aspects the same because that would be their diving point into the person’s life

·      I would show my own example on a famous celebrity and show how I incorporated real-life aspects of the person into a story that is primarily fiction in order to make it seem believable

·      The stories should each be about a page, and they should finish them by the end of the hour

·      This activity would enforce the idea of perspective and getting into someone else’s shoes, and also incorporate the idea of mixing reality with fiction to see what it creates.

Discussion!

(10-15 min)

·      We would all discuss what strategies each of us used in order to create a character that is worlds away from ourselves

·      I would introduce the key elements of creating characters: descriptive factors, keeping things constant and making it realistic by using emotions/moods

·      I would connect all the essays and I would edit them before uploading them to the blog   (unless someone would like to individually edit their own essay)

·      They would work on combining all their strategies to come up with what they think are the key strategies of creating characters, before I reveal it. I would do this to promote independence and self-sufficiency, as well as collaboration amongst themselves.

Word Banks Pt 2

(20-25 min)

·      We would all pull out the 10 words we came up with last time for our “word banks”

·      We would go around the room and go over all the words from each person. If someone does not know the definition of a word said by another person, I would request them to jot it down for their own bank! (I would have the colored pens again!)

·      Once everyone says all their words, we would discuss how certain words have an impact on the character we are trying to create and how different characters would use different language to communicate.

·      Then, we would but in our favorite “communication words” into the “word banks” for further use in our reading

·      These “communication words” are simply just words we think would be powerful in our writing (no rules for this one!)

·      We would discuss the words we all came up with, and also add everyone else’s words into our “banks”

·      If we finish up early, everyone can decorate their banks a little more if needed

Challenge: Spelling Bee!

(10-15 min)

·      To finish the day up, I would play a quick game with everyone to test out their spellings and to brush up on the spelling of hard words

·      Everyone would get a relatively hard word to spell, and whoever spells their word right advances to the next round, and so on.

·      Finally, we would be left with a winner or the “Spelling Bee” who would win a chocolate bar(or some similar small prize)

·      I would encourage everyone to look over hard spellings to improve grammatical errors and generally, decrease errors in their writing

Homework! ·      Prepare a short story you would read out loud next class(can be about anything!)

·      Add 10 new words to Word Bank again(look up in dictionary) and you have to use at least 3 of those words in the short story you write for homework