Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Few Resources: Books on Teaching Writing

In my pipe dreams, I will publish a book filled with fabulous tips on working with kids on their writing. In the meantime, here's a short list of fabulous tip-filled books:

Games for Writing; Playful Ways to Help Your Child Learn to Write by Peggy Kaye
A great way to coax kids into writing. Kaye has games to help kids with all kinds of issues, from handwriting (small motor skills/writing games) to fluency, grammar, style, and mental blocks. She includes step-by-step instructions, models, and possible variations, and indicates an appropriate grade range (K-3), although we all know what is appropriate can vary from kid to kid. But she knows this, too. Some of these can be stretched into longer, more substantial projects, if you are willing to think and plan a little.

Unjournaling by Dawn DiPrince and Cheryl Miller Thurston
Just a long list of prompts that are deliberately “NOT personal, NOT introspective, NOT boring.” Great for kids who are private and aren't necessarily ready to use writing as a conduit for deep thinking and sharing. For example:

“Use all five vowels (a,e,i,o,u) at least once in a sentence about gravy.”
“What if the shape round did not exist, except as the shape of the earth, sun, and moon? Looking at just your immediate world, how would your life be different?” You'd probably have to start by deciding whether round includes circular, or if it's just spherical, I guess.
A lot of the prompts lead to narratives, so if you have an avowed anti-story person, this may not be the best choice—but there are 200 to choose from, and hey, maybe you might get a story out of one of them. For slightly older kids—upper elementary through high school—unless you've got an eager writer.

But How Do You Teach Writing? A Simple Guide for All Teachers by Barry Lane
Lane is funny and personable (well, his voice is) and has lots of ideas around the philosophy of teaching writing, about what writing is, and what purpose it serves. He understands that not all writers use The Writing Process in the same way (brainstorm, mind map, outline, draft, revise, draft, revise, edit, publish), that not all writers write the same way. Lots of ideas for “projects” and longer pieces as well as shorter one-time exercises and games. It is really geared for classroom teachers—Lane makes great use of a community of students—but I think it can work well for homeschoolers, too.

Crunchtime by Gretchen S. Bernabei, Jayne Hover, and Cynthia Candler
According to the long subtitle, this is a book about how to “help students blow the roof off writing tests—and become better writers in the process”. “Blow the roof off writing tests” turned me off initially, but it turns out that “become better writers” is really the point of the book. It would actually be helpful for college app essays, too. Basically, it's about how to write a reflective personal narrative. Many kids don't know how to construct an effective narrative or how to connect an event in their own lives to something bigger, and this book offers hands-on (make a flip book!) activities to help kids become better storytellers. There are activities that focus on keen observation, on using show-not-tell language, on identifying and examining beliefs and separating them (or connecting them) with experiences. Probably best for older kids who have some sense of their own values and beliefs.

Don't Forget to Write by 826 National
Dave Eggers has this cool project where he has opened storefronts in big cities where people run writing workshops for kids. They also sell cool stuff (I love the flagship pirate store at 826 Valencia in SF). This book is a compilation of 50 fun, hands-on lessons from the project, complete with reproducible masters, charts that show what lessons are good for what age groups and what skills. Cookbooks, spy notebooks, how to write riddles, fort building, magic, life-size board games. These lessons were designed for groups but could be adapted for individual homeschoolers. Or get a group together! There's a book for ages 5-12, and one for 6-18, and one for 11 and up.

Books on Revision and Response
Get their own section but not individual reviews, at least not yet. Just know that I like them all and so do a lot of other people.
After The End: Teaching and Learning Creative Revision by Barry Lane
How's it Going? A Practical Guide to Conferring with Student Writers by Carl Anderson
Teaching One-to-One: The Writing Conference by Muriel Harris

Any others? Let me know!

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