As a new school year begins, let's talk about writing. Most students groan when you even mention writing. Essays?? That's the worst! I wonder if we could take at least some of the scariness away with a few simple how-to tools.
As I have done more reading and research myself on writing and publishing, I've picked up a few really great ideas. I tried one of them on a homeschool class I was teaching a few years ago. Like most students, they hated the idea of having to write an essay; even the thought was daunting. So we wrote a sample essay together in class.
First we kicked around ideas for a topic. We weren't going for something deep or complicated or profound, just something simple and ordinary. The chosen topic? Q-tips. Q-tips?? Really? Even I thought that might be a bit difficult. What's there to say about Q-tips? This was definitely going to put my tool to the test!
We started out by writing the topic in the middle of the white board. Then we used the white board as our "dump paper." Anything anyone could think of about Q-tips was written randomly around the center topic in whatever order the ideas came at me. (For a single student, he/she would just use a blank piece of paper—I like to use an unlined sheet of paper turned sideways in landscape format. Write the topic in the center; then whatever ideas come to mind, write them in random order around the topic.)
Try doing a "dump page" with your children/students. It's one of the most valuable tools in writing. You can even practice just doing dump pages. Choose a different topic each day for the first week of school, and do a dump page for each topic. Discuss a variety of ideas with your student(s). Do you want to write about a person? Do you want to write about a vacation you enjoyed? A craft project you made? A book you read? A favorite food? Some wonderful idea you have? How to do something? A life experience? An attribute of God? Some topic you're studying in history or science? The list of ideas could go on and on. The sky's the limit.
"Dump pages" can be a lot of fun. They get the brain whirring, and all kinds of ideas begin to percolate! Next week, we'll take the next step and discuss how to take all those random written-down thoughts swirling around the topic and begin to organize them into an essay. This step-by-step process will take the HARD out of essay writing—at least most of it!