Category Archives: writing

Improving Children’s Writing, Genre to Genre

One way to help children improve their writing is to write in different genres. I learned to write short stories in Junior High and High School. I learned how to write radio and television scripts as well as commercials in a technical school. I continued to learn how to write visually, including comics through taking courses, reading and writing.

When I started teaching Creative Writing as an artist in the classrooms in Canada, I used short story, and art through the creation of Story Cloths, stories drawn onto cloth in panels. One could argue that was the creation of my earliest comic panels.

It wasn’t until last year that I began teaching children how to write a play from their short story, or how to turn their comic into a play. Creating play and comic script templates for them really helped them have structure, but mostly it was through reading scripts and stories and then writing their own with my direction and feedback that helped them to learn how to write from one genre to another. Sharing their stories with their peers encouraged them to write more stories, whether it was to improve upon their writing because of the feedback they were getting, or because they and their friends were enjoying reading what they wrote so much.

Genre to genre writing is a process of self discovery for the writer, young or old. You learn about your story, about your characters. Writing in a different genres can give you a fresh perspective on your story. It can create momentum for the story to be completed, and it can be a lot of fun.

Three of my students collaborated on a series of stories around a character they invented called Epic Man. The character was funny and well-developed. They had an easier time drawing out the story in comic panels. I had to encourage them to transcribe the story into a play, and helped them with the process. They created a Reader’s Theater script out of it, and have continued to write sequels in their spare time.

Genre to Genre Story Challenge:

Whatever genre you normally write in, say short story, try a different genre. Perhaps writing a theater play script would be easy. Start with a short story and script it out in a play. There are plenty of examples of folktales turned into Reader’s Theater Plays. Here’s a link for ideas: http://www.aaronshep.com/rt/RTE.html. Lastly, take your theater script and draw four comic panels complete with word bubbles. Here is a link for free comic panel templates: https://www.printablepaper.net/category/comics.

And above all have fun!

Cheers!

Vlatka

Copyright © 2018, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

 

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How to Write Social Stories

dreamstonepage10There are many  helpful tips on the internet on “how to write social stories.” Most of the guidelines focus on stories that are meant to help children learn social cues and understand social situations.

I have been writing my own form of social stories (or what are called pedagogical stories in Waldorf Schools) for nearly 20 years now. I have written stories about many topics including bullying, teasing, racism, kindness, and recently, stealing. Writing and sharing these social stories with children has shown me that it is really important that the story is engaging.

When children are engrossed in a story, the lesson is more gently received. I might start writing with the theme in mind, like stealing. I think about the context of how it is playing out in the classroom or the household. I consider the children involved in the actual life situation, and I consider their interests and the dynamics of what is going on. I create a main character who has a similar challenge to one that the children in my life are facing, and I create a resolution. The setting I use is usually a village or a world I create that will engage the children’s imagination.

I ask questions about my main character like who are they? How old are they? What are their likes and dislikes? What are their dreams and wishes? What do they hate? What are they afraid of? Who are their friends? Who are their enemies? I ask other questions to, including what really matters to my main character? What do they want? What is their problem or challenge? Why? And how do they resolve it?

As I answer these questions, the story starts to unfold. Often, a magical alchemy happens where the story flows from beginning to end as though it has a life of its own. And it does!

Once the story is written, I share it with my students. We discuss what happened in the story and why. We talk about the subject in context of their lives and in context of the character’s lives. Usually, new awareness, and understanding surfaces.

This is one way I create and work with social stories that address emotional challenges in everyday living with children. When writing your own social stories for the children you care about, I suggest that you do a google search: “How to Write Social Stories,” or, “Social Story Writing Tips.” Here is a link that might be helpful: http://challengingbehavior.fmhi.usf.edu/explore/pbs_docs/social_story_tips.pdf

Copyright © 2017, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

Writing Social Stories About Stealing

dreamstoneWise mentors I know have used life situations as teaching moments. Recently, I brought a “dream” stone, a large tumbled quartz stone with yellowish iron veins and the word “dream” carved into it, to the after school where I work. My intention was to use it as a “story stone” encouraging the children to imagine and think about their “dreams” in context of story.

I set the stone aside on the pink drawers that contain all of the writing journals. I was aware of placing it there as one class left, and the other arrived. We had a lot of activities reading and writing plays, that I forgot about the stone. At the end of the class, as I was putting things away, I noticed that the stone was gone. I searched high and low, moving furniture, looking under tables, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I wondered if it was lost or if it had been taken without permission.

Later in the evening, I found myself still thinking about the missing “dream” stone, and wondered how I could use this as a teaching moment. I have written social stories professionally for classrooms in Canada and here in the United States, but I haven’t really written my own social theater play yet, so I decided to do so last night. The story flowed, and 11 play pages later it was written. My intention is to read it to the classes that were present when the “dream” stone went missing. While we discuss the story, we can also discuss the concepts of taking things without permission, and the consequences of how people feel when something is taken.

There are a lot of good articles on the internet on “How to Write Social Stories”. My method is different. The focus is more on the story, and the lesson is woven subtly through it.

My experience has shown me that when writing social stories it is important not to be too preachy or even obvious. The lesson can be woven into the story, but a strong main character still needs to move the plot forward. If you know your audience well, you will know what sort of story will draw them in, so that they are so involved in the story they don’t realize it is teaching something until it is over. That’s when you can discuss both reading comprehension questions, and questions about the particular social topic.

(More on how to write social stories in the next blog post.)

Copyright © 2017, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.