Summer writing challenge update

So, we’re a couple of weeks in to the summer holidays and 10 days of that were spent camping. We haven’t managed the writing challenge every day, but I think we’ve managed it about 2/3rds of the time (I’m not counting) which is pretty good going and they’re still interested in it (albeit a little too focused on “prizes” for my liking). I’m starting to learn what works best for us.  For instance, they both want lots of help/attention all the time and the slightest thing can distract them (which I knew in theory but not the full extent of, I cannot actually count on being able to do anything myself whilst they’re writing). Also, if I’m really specific it doesn’t help, e.g. if I ask  them to write at least 5 sentences, they write exactly 5 sentences and if I specify a subject for each sentence I get really stilted sentences.

I’m trying to train them that the space under the instructions they can use to make notes, so if they’re stuck I have a chat with them and then write down some phrases that came up in conversation there, and maybe draw a picture with them, so they have something to refer back to.

I keep reminding myself not to critique spelling, punctuation, grammar, ideas, the point is not what they write, but to write, and to learn to write more easily, to chip away at the idea that writing is always hard and boring. School spends quite enough time working on those skills, this is supposed to be different. So it amuses me that my daughter starts each challenge by writing her “WALT” (we are learning to), just like at school, e.g. “WALT write a packing list”, but I let her do it that way without comment as that’s what’s comfortable for her.  I guess ultimately I want them to loose the idea that there’s a “right” way to write (although school will tell them otherwise) as I think that idea, that there is a right way, sets them up to think they’re failing and gets them stuck.

The books are starting to fill up and I think it will be really good for them to look back on all they’ve achieved over the summer. We have shown things to interested adults to and they’re proud of things they’ve done. I was pleased that the free story that they wrote, whilst taking more time (two sittings each), was the best bit of writing (in my opinion anyway). It was nice that they could take time, and go back to it later, even though that wasn’t the plan (writing on a camp site with other kids around playing is hard!), without having to move on through the curriculum and get to the next piece of work. I’d like to do more of the free story stuff, so today I bought some story cubes to see how they help. I’m hoping to tread the fine line between the instructions being too specific (and stilted) and too free (so they don’t know where to start).  I’ve printed off a couple of challenges for tomorrow and Sunday (when we might be camping).

Today’s Challenge: Discover story cubes

Before you start:

  • Go out of the front door, run to one end of the street (top or bottom, you choose) and then walk back.
  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Leave a space for a title on the next page
  • Underneath the space draw three boxes in a line
  • Without looking, take a die from the story cube box, roll it and draw the picture in the first box.
  • Then take another cube without looking, roll it and draw the picture in the second box.
  • Finally, take another cube without looking, roll it and draw the picture in the last box.

Then write down a story, as long as you like (at least one sentence) that links your three images. Then write a title above.

When you’ve finished:

Today’s Challenge: Story cube characters

Before you start:

  • Crouch down as small as you can and start to hum quietly, gradually uncurl and stand up as tall as you go, making your humming go louder as you grow bigger, then slowly go back again with your humming getting quieter as you get smaller.
  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Draw three boxes on the next page as before.
  • Take three dice without looking and roll them, then draw the images in any order you want in your boxes.

Use the images to think of a character/person/heroine/villain and write down a description of them.

When you’ve finished:

I’ve no idea where the physical activity ideas came from, I’m just making them up as  I go along. I’m trying lots of different things so hopefully they can work out what works for them (and I can feed back to the teacher if we find a good tactic). I’ve already trained them to glue the instructions in, they don’t need telling that now.

So, so far, it’s a bit early to say, but I think it’s going well. Phew.


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