Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Interest-Led Learning: Our Unplan for Writing

Writing is a skill that one must have to be successful in life.  Period.  No exceptions.  But how we teach a child the skills to be a good writer is open for debate.  
I have given much thought to writing.  I have contemplated purchasing a curriculum but I know that I will not stick to the prescribed lessons and my children will become frustrated if they are not allowed to express their creativity.  I have been searching for something that interests them and gives them many opportunities to write across a variety of genres.
For us...that something is our Girl Scout Junior Badge Book!  I went through this book page by page searching for badges that met certain criteria:

  • pertain to an interest my girls already have
  • contain a rich writing experience
  • are challenging
I asked the girls to sit and thumb through those that interested them. Their desire to begin was so strong, they copied the pages they wanted to do and began.  For the Outdoor Creativity badge the girls must: write and publish a Haiku, press flowers and turn them into something like a bookmark or a journal, chose a famous artist/writer/musician who is inspired by nature and write a biography of them and share it in some way, participate in a night-watch and write about the experience, find two different spots in nature and express your feelings about each in a creative way.  
The goal for us is not about earning the patch.  The patch is secondary to learning more about what interests us.  But, the beauty is that through this one badge project, the girls will be writing across a multiple of genres (biographical writing, poetry, creative writing).
I have told the girls that however they choose to compile their work, we can make it beautiful.  They can make a video or a vlog.  They can bring their work to Staples and have it spiral bound into a book.  They can share it at their Girl Scout meetings.  They can email it to friends and family.  The possibilities are plentiful.
Through their writing, I advise them on topics as if we were using a traditional curriculum like:
  • sentence structure,
  • strong verbs
  • beautiful language
  • proper grammar
  • topic sentences
  • paragraph structure
  • run on sentences...
Their learning will be relevant to their needs day by day.  
    In addition to this, the girls will be blogging at their personal blogs:
    They will be encouraged to journal as often as they would like.  My goal is to get to a point where tv viewing is truly minimal.  When we cut out television, our evenings are usually spent upstairs with the dogs, snuggled in our beds, writing and reading.  When we watch tv, one of these two things is usually forsaken.  Now that we will be back on a schedule with requires getting up at 7:00am several days during the week (do you feel me shuddering), bedtime can no longer be a casual 10:00pm.  
    I will also encourage creative writing.  I love reading the girls stories.  The progression of the complexity in their storytelling proves to me that you do not need a formal curriculum to teach writing.  You just need a pen, paper, or a computer + the desire to express your thoughts and feelings + someone to guide you.  Hopefully this year we will build on our success with the art show and have several more occasions to share our work.  One idea I have is a wintertime story share with hot coco and a fireplace.....
    Lastly, I will be leading a class called Artist/Writer’s Workshop that will meet at my house every Monday for the five weeks in October.  I will use various art lessons that the children will work on in a sketchbook.  Each piece of art will be embellished with the children’s words.  I am very excited about this, as are my girls.  Having a group of 8 girls who are all friends and who range in age from 7 to 11, creating art and writing together should be a memorable experience!
    Writing.  I just love it.

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