Since our studio doesn’t give homeschool music classes through the summer, I joined a new co-op to keep my son busy these last three months. I’ve always wanted to teach a creative writing class, and the co-op members graciously allowed me to give it a whirl. I tried to create activities that would work across all age groups, and I left it to the parents to decide how much actual writing their children would be doing. (For instance, I only made my second-grader write three sentences per assignment, but some of the older children wrote much more.) Anyway, I think this lesson plan would work for any age, or any size group. Let me know how it goes if you try any of the activities. I know that we had a blast, but I would love your feedback as well!
The first activity of the day should always be easy and short – an icebreaker to get their minds to switch into writing mode without putting a lot of pressure on them.
Take a bunch of random pictures (internet, magazines, photos) to class. Try to vary the content type. Have the class members each choose a picture that appeals to them or kindles an idea in their minds.
After choosing a picture, have them write a few sentences based on something that it suggests to them.
To keep the pressure low, I remind them that we won’t be reading this assignment out loud. I only ever read assigned homework aloud, never anything they’ve written on the spot, unless they volunteer. And I never announce the authors unless they want to take credit for their work.
Instruct the students to write as it comes into their heads, even if they think it is poorly worded. They can always edit later; the hard part for most people is getting words on paper. When they are finished writing, they can reread it with a particular focus on one editing issue at a time. For instance, read through the piece once checking for punctuation errors, then reread again with a focus on spelling errors, etc. Having a process helps keep them from sitting and staring at their papers, wondering where to start (in both the writing and editing stages).
Take a bunch of random objects from around your house to class. The reason they should use objects (or artifacts) to jump-start their writing is to give them ideas that they wouldn’t come up with on their own.
As a class, talk about some of the ideas that are triggered by pictures and objects. Write them on the chalkboard.
You can also get ideas from memories that are triggered by scents, feelings that you associate with certain types of music, etc. (I also took in some spices, candles, and colognes for this class.)
As a class, talk about some of the memories that are triggered by certain scents or feelings that are associated with music.
If you have time, have the class write for a few minutes, basing their stories on an object that they choose.
Homework Assignment #1
Choose an object, picture, scent, or any combination, and write a story based on your ideas. For this assignment, individual students can choose whatever they want and write about whatever they want. They may choose from what you brought to class or from their own homes.
Homework Assignment #2
As a class, choose one more topic to write about. For this assignment, all students will write a story based on the same object, picture, etc. The purpose of this exercise is to see how diverse the stories can be even while triggered by the same thing. For instance, the class may choose an ink pen or a picture of the Amazon. Everyone writes something that includes the element in their piece. Read aloud next week, and experience the variety!
Choose more than one element on which to base a story. If the above assignment included both the ink pen and the picture of the Amazon, the students would have to be more creative in their creation of the story. The more dissimilar the elements, the more creative they will have to be.
Have each student bring an object to class from their own rooms. In class, they can switch objects with each other and write a few sentences based on someone else’s belonging. This would be a great follow-up activity for your next class.
If you would prefer to download Lesson 1 as a Word file, here it is: Multi Sensory Creative Writing Lesson 1
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Amy, this seems like something good for grown-ups, too! How often would a story greatly improve with additions such as you’ve mentioned? Thanks for all this hard work. I know the children in your group will forever remember this time with thansgiving.
Thanks, Katharine! We did have an awful lot of fun doing this lesson. I had a homeschool mom in the class as well, and although she didn’t write anything, she was very active in our class discussions and brainstorming sessions! It really encouraged me because it was the first time I had taught a lesson such as this.
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