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Fun writing projects for accelerated 1st grader?

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I've posted about this before, but I thought this time I'd try the accelerated board :-). 

My daughter is going to turn 7 in the summer, and I'm wondering what writing projects to do with her. She's pretty advanced, so what I'd really like is projects that allow us to continue working on writing sentences, including some basic grammar and punctuation. 

As some back story: he was in public kindergarten last year, and her teacher was extremely reluctant to help with spelling or letter formation, so her printing got much worse last year. I kind of expected to have to work on legibility and spelling this year to remediate (she could write legibly BEFORE kindergarten, so I knew she was able.) 

Well... we went through Handwriting Without Tears fairly quickly and her printing is now almost perfect. She's been reading since 3.5 and is an excellent visual speller. As a result, we've been working on sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation in a fairly unstructured way (currently, she knows that periods end sentences, that commas are in a lot of places where you pause when talking, and she know when to capitalize.) 

We did a few projects this year: we made an animal alphabet book early in the year after finishing HWOT, she then did some "cat research" (got cat books out of the library and wrote down things she learned about cats), and most recently we've made some stories using Story Cubes and are about to turn them into Mad Libs. We've also written numerous letters (thank you letters and a variety of other random notes.) 

The problem is... I keep being rather stumped about what projects to do with her. Given her level of writing, we obviously need to be working on writing in full sentences and possibly even paragraphs, since the legibility and spelling are so solid. However, she's still a little kid, and she can't really put together sophisticated stories or arguments yet. I've suggested copywork and dictation a few times, and we tried dictation, but she's really averse to it, and given how easy a time she has with this stuff, I don't want to push her to do things she dislikes. I've suggested a journal, but she had to do one in kindergarten and is therefore averse to the idea.

Any ideas? Thanks!!  

 

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It made sense to me at that stage to add writing in with other subject areas. Enjoyed a book you just read? Write a few sentences about what happened. Learned something cool about science or history? Write a sentence or two, or draw a comic and make sure the speech bubbles include complete sentences. Realized you're pretty good at making sandwiches? Write down the steps you take so someone else could make one just like you do. Had a blast at an activity last Saturday? Write a letter to a cousin telling her about it. And don't call it a journal - just loose-leaf paper is fine. 

Along the lines of your cat book--we made a tri-fold board (like for a science fair) about the planets when DD#1 was that age, where she drew a picture and wrote 1-2 sentences for each planet. We did display boards about Tchaikovsky and about Tanzania as well. We (both girls and I) also did research on a local-interest topic and were going to self-publish a book when we finished and donate copies to the library, but then something happened to delay our plans and then interest fizzled. Still, it was a cool learning experience in many ways, even though we didn't see it through to the end.

If she's interested in writing stories, let her. It doesn't have to be sophisticated. Depending on her writing stamina (my girls have been opposites on that), it might be good to go back and forth between her writing a sentence and her dictating a sentence for you to write.

Is any of that helpful?

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I prompted my kid to do some scrapbooking, including small written descriptions for each page. She liked that better than a journal, and I was surprised at the level of LA skill it actually takes to boil down an event or experience into a single page or a two-page spread. Plus, it appealed to her artsy self.

I found the questions in the Suppose the Wolf Were an Octopus series to be great for quick writing prompts. Many of them worked really well to learning to write basic paragraphs. (And I returned to the series when we started tackling essays this year.)

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At age 5 and 6, I liked to assign copywork. I asked my child to pick 2 sentences from his favorite book and copy them down. And then, I asked him to compose one sentence on his own copying the style (and words, if needed) in the copywork - he has a sense of humor and would always choose funny sentences to copy and sometimes I would ask him to illustrate that sentence, which was quick work because he was only up to drawing stick figures at that age.

I also started a blog for him to write about his field trips and what he learnt and what he saw. He took his own pictures and wrote about them sporadically until he was age 9 at which point, I set him up for NaNoWriMo and he dropped his blog altogether.

We did tons of road trips at that age and I gave him a journal and he sat in the back of the car sketching lighthouses, beaches, sea lions etc and wrote a paragraph on anything that caught his interest.

Edited by mathnerd
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Thanks, everyone!! A lot of good ideas. I like the idea of making a tri-fold about some topic, that might motivate her. 

She's been resistant to writing things about what we've been doing... on the other hand, we've been visiting her grandparents, and her grandparents have a backyard, and this backyard is full of bunnies, and as a result, she's been happily watching the bunnies, then writing about them. So we should probably incorporate more activities like that. 

On April 24, 2019 at 11:19 PM, Jackie said:

I prompted my kid to do some scrapbooking, including small written descriptions for each page. She liked that better than a journal, and I was surprised at the level of LA skill it actually takes to boil down an event or experience into a single page or a two-page spread. Plus, it appealed to her artsy self.

I found the questions in the Suppose the Wolf Were an Octopus series to be great for quick writing prompts. Many of them worked really well to learning to write basic paragraphs. (And I returned to the series when we started tackling essays this year.)

 

Cool ideas, and both things I haven't thought about them! How does scrapbooking work? I've never done it. 

I will look up that book: it sounds intriguing from the title! 

@mathnerd: I've tried asking her to do copywork, and she's been really reluctant. I could probably insist, and I will if we run out of things she's vaguely interested in, but in the meantime I'd rather not force her. 

Edited by square_25
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There's a simple game that my friends and I played in college that you could adapt, provided you have at least one more literate person who can play, too. (I'm looking forward to when my second learns to write well enough that we can play this as a home-school game.) Each person writes a sentence, and it's best to have a lot of interesting detail in the sentence. Then you pass your sentence to the person next to you. That person draws a picture based on the sentence. Now everyone passes these pictures to the next person, and that person must write a sentence based on the picture. You continue doing this around the circle until everyone receives back the thread of sentences and pictures they started. I played this with English Language Learners, and then I'd assign them a vocabulary word or two or grammatical structure to incorporate into the original sentence.

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We used a number of these ideas. I also found dd did not have the endurance to write as quickly or as long as the stories she wanted to tell. Rather than limiting her creativity, I let her tell her stories into a recording device then I wrote them down for her and she could draw pictures (writing a sentence or two about the picture). She also learned quickly how to type so she could transcribe her own stories.

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11 hours ago, square_25 said:

Cool ideas, and both things I haven't thought about them! How does scrapbooking work? I've never done it. 

I will look up that book: it sounds intriguing from the title! 

 

Keeping in mind that I’m not a scrapbooker (the same artsy appeal of it for my daughter keeps me away from it), the basic idea starts with buying a scrapbook, scrapbook paper, and various decorations like stickers from an art supply store like Michaels. Each event/topic gets its own page or a two-page spread. Each page can contain any combination of photos, hand drawn pictures, titles, written descriptions, whatever... the idea is that it can be very open to creative input. My kid has never had much interest in keeping a regular journal, but she loves this. When she started it, she had a few recent things she wanted to include, so she made five or six pages in the first couple weeks. Since then, it’s an occasional project when she has new stuff to include - her season with Destination Imagination, a trip to Harry Potter World, a collection of hiking pictures.

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When my younger one was in first grade, I made him make schematic diagrams of concepts with cloud like diagrams. I would get it printed and he would have a lot of fun writing food, yellow, sweet etc. in the blanks arising out of the big cloud that had a picture of a banana. This is a lot of fun and also sets the context for exploring ideas around a particular subject that the child wants to write about. 

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My ds labeled all his photos for his science fair project on mushrooms, and wrote up some very brief descriptions.  He made an awesome poster. 

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At that age, I did the following with my then-reluctant writer:

- penpals. Snail-mail, old-fashioned penpals. 

- tandem stories. We'd take turns adding to a story.

- we played Balderdash (and still do)

- we played the game that @xahm mentioned upthread

- 3-minute writing with prompts. We had a sand-timer and a whole lot of laminated images. We'd randomly turn one over and then have to write for the 3 minutes. It could be a story or a description or a poem or even just that you can't think of anything to write about. But you have to write for the 3 minutes. We did this every day for quite a long time and truly it was great. It didn't take long before my daughter was asking for more time.

- After a while I extended the 3-minute writing to include cards for genre. For example, the image card we flipped might be of a vine-covered fence. The genre card we flipped might say 'This is a book cover. Write the blurb.'  or 'This is an album cover. Write the names of the first 5 songs'. or 'This is the image on a billboard. Design the billboard and explain what it is advertising.' etc etc

- I joined in with whatever writing she was doing (except the penpals)

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If it's an endurance issue she might like making up, or copying from a chart, hieroglyphs, codes, symbols, or schematic type drawings to write paragraphs or stories. This is what my DS7 does a lot. If it's something for schoolwork and I want him to practice composing paragraphs then I will scribe for him. He can reluctantly do it somewhat independently in normal words using graphic organizers or a simple first, then, last organization 

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You might check out these books, each of which you can find used for under $5. They have a lot of fun ideas for young writers:

Games for Writing

The Write Start

Playful Learning

Don't Forget to Write (written for use with groups of writers, but has a lot of ideas to use at home too)

Even though both of my kids were capable much earlier, I don't teach formal writing until late elementary (paragraphs) and middle school (essays). They have spent their early years producing lots of text in various forms and developing their own voices as writers without much formal instruction (though we do spend time with handwriting, conventions, and grammar). My goal has been for them to become fluent in getting words out of their heads and onto paper and arranging them in ways that make sense before we turn to the highly structured academic forms.

Edited by Florimell
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