I have so many great memories of our homeschool co-op writing class when my kids were little.
Allison and I had a co-op together for all the years of elementary school. She taught most of the history and science, we did some beginning Latin together with our dad (retired professor from the University of Delaware, Dr. Gerald R. Culley – thank God for homeschool-supportive grandparents!), and I taught writing and art.
One of our favorite activities with the kids then was writing progressive stories. If your younger students are looking for some fun to weave into the writing process, this can be a great way to provide it.
A progressive story requires two people, but if you have more (younger siblings, or a co-op, or even just a friend or two who have come to visit) it’s even more fun.
– Sit around the table so everyone can write easily. Give each child a pencil or pen.
– On a piece of notebook paper, write a story starter. It can be totally boring; mom does not have to put much creative effort into this lesson plan!
“Once there was a girl who lived in a small house.”
– Pass the paper to the child on your right. He or she now writes the next sentence in the story.
– Continue passing the paper around the table, and have each child add a new sentence to the story. When you decide they’ve had enough (we had them go on for AGES sometimes when the kids got giggling and on a roll!), write a closing sentence.
– Then serve a snack or make everyone a mug of hot chocolate and read the story dramatically and with great feeling….all to the roars of approval from your author-audience!
This simple activity serves several purposes.
1. It is fun. For many students, writing feels like a chore. This activity does NOT feel like a chore!
2. It encourages creativity in students who are very reluctant to try creative writing. There is only pressure to write ONE sentence each time the paper comes to each child. They will soon see that even a simple sentence can bring a twist to the story, or introduce a crisis for the characters to face.
3. It requires the writers to think logically about the structure of a story. They will automatically be trying to build on what has come before on the paper.
4. It requires flexibility. The kids who have a preconceived notion of where the story “should” end up will have to adjust their idea as others add sentences in between their own.
5. It can be tailored to lots of other learning taking place in your homeschool, both writing skills and other subjects like science or social studies.
Here are some examples of ways to tailor your progressive story activity to specific goals you have for your kids’ learning:
* Choose a starter that has to do with a subject you have been studying in science. If you have been learning about birds, your starter could be, “The egg suddenly cracked; something was moving inside!”
* If you child is just learning about complete sentences vs. sentence fragments, you can gently correct a fragment as the story moves from one child to the next. The opportunity for peer correction by other kids (as long as mom moderates to make sure it is offered respectfully and kindly) can be a powerful tool.
* As your children get older, encourage them to follow a classic plot diagram where the characters are introduced, the challenge is presented, the action rises, there is a clear moment of climax, and there is a denouement where some degree of resolution is achieved.
* Vocabulary can be easily practiced and encouraged to grow in a progressive story. The paper comes to mom each time it makes it around the table, and you can use that opportunity to throw in a word you want to see practiced.
Allison and I have found that our kids STILL (the youngest is 14 and the oldest of the old co-op crew is 22 now) will reminisce with lines they remember from some of their old progressive stories. We will be gathered for a holiday dinner and hear one of them blurt out a random sentence, only to hear another one call out the following sentence before they all dissolve into gales of laughter.
Your turn: Have you had fun with progressive stories in your homeschool?
The books we read with our elementary-aged homeschoolers can open the door for SO MUCH learning! Just released this week — and only half-price $1.99 — is our first literature study guide for elementary and young middle-school students. It brings the Newberry Medal winner Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan to life with ideas for learning about the animals and plants native to two areas of the U.S. as you enjoy the story. Click here to download the study guide for Sarah, Plain and Tall!