Help Reluctant Writers

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Help Reluctant Writers

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  • To Help Reluctant Writers

    Succeed!

    To HelpReluctant Writers

    Succeed!

    Awesome ActivitiesAwesome Activities

    By Perdita Finn

    S C H O L A S T I C

    BPROFESSIONAL OOKSNew York Toronto London Auckland Sydney

    Mexico City New Delhi Hong Kong

    Awesome Activities to Help Reluctant Writers Succeed Perdita Funn, Scholastic Teaching Resources

  • Scholastic Inc. grants teachers permission to photocopy the designated reproducible pages from this book for classroom use. No other part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any

    form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher. For information regarding permission, write to Scholastic Inc., 555 Broadway, New York, NY 10012.

    Cover design by Jaime Lucero Interior design by Sydney Wright

    ISBN 0-439-04389-1

    Copyright 2000 by Perdita Finn

    D e d i c a t i o n

    Eddie, Sherenie, Paul, Germaine, Anna and the rest of you.Your struggles and persistence taught me so much about writing. Thank you. This book is for you, even though you are no longer reluctant writers.

    A c k n o w l e d g e m e n t s

    I have been lucky in the writing teachers I have had: Lucy Calkins,Marge Boyle, and Dorothy Barnhouse of the Teachers College WritingProject, Natalie Goldberg, whos Writing Down the Bones, is such a great

    invitation to reluctant writers, and Clark Strand, my husband, whotaught me what it means to have a daily writing practice

    and has supported me in so many, many ways.

    Awesome Activities to Help Reluctant Writers Succeed Perdita Funn, Scholastic Teaching Resources

  • 3Table of ContentsIntroduction: The Blank PageWhat KeepsStudents from Writing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

    Chapter 1: The Writers NotebookEncouraging Fluency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7

    Blabber (or, Dont Think, Just Write!) . . .8Entry Points . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10Stop Making Sense . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11Wondering . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12Undercover Agents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14Assessing a Writers Notebook . . . . . . . .15

    Chapter 2: An Advertising CampaignThePower of Persuasive Language . . . . . . . . .18

    Developing a Product . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19Persuasions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20Identifying a Target Audience . . . . . . . . . .21Warming Up with Wordplay . . . . . . . . . .22Brevity Is the Soul of Wit . . . . . . . . . . . .24The Campaign: A Collaborative Writing Project . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25

    Chapter 3: Building ConfidenceWritingand Illustrating Picture Books . . . . . . . . .28

    Picture Book Immersion . . . . . . . . . . . . .29Prewriting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30Getting to Know Your Audience . . . . . . .30Mixing Up the Ingredients of a Story . . .32Animals Everywhere . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33Finding the Music of Words . . . . . . . . . . .34Make-believe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .35

    Storyboards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36Making a Book . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37

    Chapter 4: Thrills, Chills, and OutlinesPlotting a Mystery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40

    The Expert Witness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .41What If? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .42Miss Scarlet and Colonel Mustard:Collecting Colorful Characters . . . . . . . .44The Formula: Creating A Blueprint for a Mystery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .45Hidden in Plain Sight: Using Details and Descriptions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .47One Dark and Stormy NightA Mystery Reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .49

    Chapter 5: SportswritingThe Voice of Authority . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .51

    The Sportswriters Beat . . . . . . . . . . . . . .52Describing an EventYou Where There! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .53Active Language . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .55Fact vs. Opinion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .56The Magic Moment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .57The Interview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .58The Lead . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .60The Four WsA Journalists Concerns . . . . . . . . . . . . . .61The Sports Section . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .62

    A Last Word About ReluctancePersistence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .64

    Awesome Activities to Help Reluctant Writers Succeed Perdita Funn, Scholastic Teaching Resources

  • 4A blank sheet of paper can be very scary. What am I going to write about? we ask.

    How am I going to say it? Who cares? There isnt a writer I know who doesnt sit down

    each day with a certain amount of resistance. I used to think that real writers couldnt wait

    to start scribbling out their novels, never procrastinated, never had to trick themselves into

    getting started. But the more I learned about other writers and about my own writing, the

    more I realized that reluctance is a natural part of the writing process.

    Most writers manage to push through their initial hesitations. They have little rituals

    that help them get started on their daily worka walk, a cup of tea, a little reading. The

    French novelist Colette used to pick all the fleas off her cat before opening her journal each

    day, and Toni Morrison has said that she begins by giving herself permission to write badly.

    She knows that whats most difficult is not writing well but just beginning to write at all.

    We need some experience with the writing process, however, before we can trust

    ittrust that one sentence will lead to another, trust that we dont have to know where

    were headed when we begin, trust that, yes, finally, we can create something that other peo-

    ple will enjoy reading. When we finally adopt a daily writing practice, the very ordinariness

    of it will carry us through most of our writing anxieties. But many students, unfortunately,

    never make it beyond their initial reluctance; they have no positive experiences with the

    writing process, so when faced with a blank sheet of paper, they are paralyzed.

    The Blank PageWhat Keeps Students

    from Writ ing

    The Blank PageIn t roduc t ion

    Awesome Activities to Help Reluctant Writers Succeed Perdita Funn, Scholastic Teaching Resources

  • 5Some reluctant writers lack basic skills: Theyve never read much, they still have lots

    of trouble with simple spelling and punctuation, and they have limited vocabularies.

    Frequently, they are terrified to begin because they dont want to reveal how inadequate

    their writing is. Their only experience of writing is of failure. These students need lots of

    confidence building. They need to become familiar with the writing process through genres

    that are accessible to them, to learn to say simple things well, and to feel some success with

    their ability to use words. Once they are more comfortable with writing and writing every

    day, their skills will begin to improve.

    Others seem to be capable enough but will nevertheless only scribble a few words in

    their notebooks or fail to turn in writing assignments. Frequently, these students are anxious

    about the amount of self-revelation that writing can demand. When asked to write about

    what they know best, their concern is that they will have to write about who they are, and

    for many different reasonscultural, psychological, personalthey dont want to. Its true

    that the writing-workshop classroom, with its emphasis on poetry, memoir, and personal

    essays, has been liberating for many students, but it can actually be inhibiting to others.

    In order to find their voice, these more-inhibited students need instead to work with

    genres that allow them some protective distance. Ultimately, as they feel more comfortable,

    they may even begin to experiment with a wider range of forms.The activities in this book

    are focused around genres that are both easily accessible to students and demand less-per-

    sonal exploration.

    The activities in Chapter 1, The Writers Notebook, are designed to encourage stu-

    dents writing fluency and help them over the stumbling blocks of getting started, finding

    things to write about, and letting thoughts and ideas flow. In Chapter 2, a study of advertis-

    ing allows students to examine the persuasive language with which they are most familiar

    and, as they create their own successful ad campaign, learn the different ways they can

    play with words. In Chapter 3, a study of picture books will allow even the least-skilled stu-

    dents to become quickly familiar with many different authors and styles of writing and to

    create an actual book that friends and siblings can delight in. When they write mysteries

    (Chapter 4), they can, in the midst of sequencing and hiding clues, engage in traditional

    outlining activities in an untraditional way. Finally, with sports journalism (Chapter 5), stu-

    dents can build on their often already extensive knowledge of teams and players as they

    produce a classroom magazine. Each section breaks the writing project into easy-to-do

    Awesome Activities to Help Reluctant Writers Succeed Perdita Funn, Scholastic Teaching Resources

  • 6activities that wont intimidate studentsbringing students to the writing process in small,

    manageable steps.

    In deciding w