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Copyright 2006 Julie Shepherd Knapp
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Copyright 2006 Julie Shepherd Knapp.  All rights reserved.
about the book
The Homeschool Diner's Guide to
Homeschooling by Subject
Language Arts for Homeschoolers

Narrative Activities to Jump-start Your Child's
Storytelling and Writing Skills (Advanced Level)

by Julie Shepherd knapp, copyright 2006, 2008

These activities and games (listed from easier to harder) are designed
for reluctant writers and kids who hate to write.  They provide exercise for
narrative skills and present several ways to ease into low-key writing
activities.  Try to set aside one day a week (or even one day a month) to
do an activity.  Present them as fun activities, rather than assignments.

You may want to ask if there are any other parents with reluctant writers
in your homeschool group who would be interested in forming a club for
the children to meet once a month to share or display their projects. :-)  

Advanced Narrative Games and Activities
Themed Posters or Place Mats
How-To Manuals
3-sentence reports
10 Cool Facts
Write-Fix Topics
Tracy's Lists of Ten
If You're Trying to Teach Kids to Write...

Themed Posters or Place Mats
Help your child with online research on a favorite topic.  Find interesting
facts to copy and print out on plain paper.  Cut the facts out and
assemble them on construction paper or poster board.  Make a pleasing
display -- maybe add photos or clip art, or decorate in some other way --
and glue them down.  Use these for decorative place mats (you can have
them laminated, if you want) or as posters.  Note that your child isn't
doing any real writing here -- just arranging someone else's sentences...
unless you can find a way to sneak some in, such as finding a fact that is
too long, and having your child help break it into two facts, or say it in
fewer words.

If you suspect that your child will balk at such a project, maybe take the
approach that this is YOUR project... but you really need some help from
him or her (since they are very familiar with the topic ;-)  Proceed thru the
project and allow them to help where ever they're willing.  Maybe they will
participate even more on the next one.  

Have your child help you make a how-to manual for a simple task.  The
manual can be designed to help a younger sibling, a friend, a
grandparent... anyone who will be receptive (and properly impressed. ;-)
Using several pieces of blank paper, ask your child to relate to you the
steps required to accomplish the task.  You will write one step on each
page (that way, additional steps can be added, if your child decides
something is missing).  Each page can be illustrated or decorated, if your
child is willing.  Staple the pages or sew together with string.  

Some examples might include:

How to make a peanut butter sandwich
How to forward an e-mail (this may be helpful for an older relative ;-)
How to find and play a YouTube video
How to build a Lego spaceship (maybe use digital photos?)
How to find an extra life in a video game
How to feed my cat
How to make an origami figure (again, digital photos would help)
How to blow a bubble with gum
How to do a "Happy Dance"

It may be easiest to have your child do the activity and talk about it while
doing it.  Give them prompts, if needed, such as, "which hand are you
using"? or "What do you do after that?"  When finished, have your child
follow the directions given and see if it really works :-)

The Grand Finale -- 3-Sentence Reports
(call them reports, projects, posters, or fact sheets -- whatever
will be most acceptable to your child ;-)
When you feel that your child may be ready to actually write (or
keyboard) something... try this project.  Together, you and your child
choose a topic -- something your child is very familiar with, or something
you have just studied.  Find a photo or clip-art that can be used to
illustrate the topic.  Mount the picture on a blank piece of paper.  Ask
your child to describe or talk about the topic.  Based on this discussion,
have the child write (or dictate to you) three sentences that will be placed
(as a caption) at the bottom of the picture.  Give hints of what could be
included, such as “where would you find these?” or “Is this the smallest
dinosaur?” or “When did she live?”  Or, "Do you know any interesting
facts about this?"

Examples of 3-sentence reports:
Trees are alive.  They are the biggest plants on earth.  They need water
and sun.

Charizard is a Fire Pokemon.  Charizard’s special ability is Blaze.  Its egg
type is monster/dragon.    

Rosa Parks was tired.  She wouldn’t give up her seat and move to the
back of the bus.  She's a hero for showing everybody how unfair that was.

Don’t comment on spelling, grammar, or content at this point.  Just
putting words on paper is the first goal.  If your child struggles with three
sentences, start with one.  There may still be a lot of frustration (or even
tears) at the thought of writing even one sentence.  If so, be supportive
and sympathetic... maybe even do the project yourself, with your child's
help, or while he or she watches.  But do continue with the project --
because even if he or she is only watching you come up with sentences,
it will be helpful.  Some children need to observe for quite a while before
they feel comfortable participating.  When thinking of one sentence has
finally become easier, move on to two, then three.  

Hang up these finished projects for display... so your child can see her
successes.  Try to make this a regular feature -- maybe once a week (or
once a month, if it is still very stressful).

When the writing begins to come more easily, you can add some basic  
guidelines, such as: The first sentence should tell what the object (or
subject) is... the second sentence should tell why it is important (or why
you like it)... and the third sentence should be an interesting fact about
the object.

Hopefully, the time will eventually come when your child thinks of one
more thing that they want to say… and, much to their surprise, they will
have written four sentences, even though you only asked for three.  
When this happens, give your child a big hug, and know that you’re on
the right track. ;-)  

10 Cool Facts
When your child is no longer stressed out by the 3-sentence reports (or
if he or she just needs a change of pace) try making straight lists of facts
about a topic.  Ten is a handy number, but start with just a couple if it
better suits your child.  These can be plain old interesting facts gathered
from the Internet (copied and pasted) or from current studies or even
existing knowledge.  For some kids, making the lists funny is an added
incentive to think of or search for the facts... Some example lists might be:

5 Ways to Become a Fairy Princess
5 Cool Things About Swords
10 Icky Foods Mom Cooks
10 Facts About India
5 Ways to Be a Good Friend
5 Cute Things My Cat Does
10 Facts About Lasers
5 Things about Leonardo da Vinci  
5 Things I Know About Dinosaurs
10 Gross Facts About Roman History

Have your child write or keyboard the List (or you can take dictation) and
display the lists for enjoyment.  Maybe e-mail them to receptive relatives
who will praise the efforts :-)  Don't worry about content, spelling, or
grammar for a while -- getting ideas on paper is the main point.     

Writing-Fix: Right-Brained Writing Topics , PIZZAZ !... , and
Tracie's Lists of Ten -- Three websites with wonderful writing prompts
and writing project ideas.  Give some of these a try once your child is
more comfortable with writing or keyboarding.  If these writing ideas still
are too overwhelming for your child, offer to write or keyboard while your
child dictates to you -- so that your child is free to come up with ideas,
without being hampered by the physical act of writing.  If you take
dictation, have your child read over what you wrote and see if they want
to make any changes.  (You can even make mistakes on purpose, as
you're writing, to give your child a chance to edit and make changes for
the better ;-)  

If You're Trying to Teach Kids How to Write, You'Ve Gotta Have
This Book by Marjorie Frank -- A classic book (with a very long title ;-)
full of hints and ideas for turning writing exercises into an everyday
routine.  Aimed at classroom teachers, but very adaptable to
homeschooling.  Again, offer to dictate for your child, or team up with him
or her on any projects that seem overwhelming.

If your kids are enjoying words now -- you might want to take a
look at options in the Homeschool Diner
Vocabulary section

Or go back to the main page for:
Help for Kids Who Hate to Write: Word Retrieval and Narrative
(back to)
writing resources
(back to)
(back to)
visual-spatial learners
(back to)
special needs
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you CAN make words mean so many
different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty,
"which is to be master -- that's all."
-Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) [Through the Looking Glass]