Writing Workshop

The past few days have been quite busy. We celebrated my toddler’s 2nd birthday. What a wonderful thing to celebrate. Of course a two year old doesn’t exactly grasp the idea of ‘birthday’, but he did enjoy the Happy Birthday song we sang throughout the day, and he enjoyed the pirogies we had for dinner (they seem to be his favorite…he ate SIX all by himself!). He also seemed to enjoy blowing out his candles (this was evident in that he smiled happily and kept asking to do it again!). We had cupcakes (since he spits when he blows out a candle) and berries on the side (still keeping with the Lenten fast rather than a sugary icing and ice cream). This was obviously a good choice since he didn’t give a hoot about the cupcake and kept begging for more berries! Even with all this excitement, I was actually looking forward to today’s writing lesson all weekend.

Today I began a new approach to writing with my 13 year old son. It has been altogether clear that he has not enjoyed the writing lessons we have had thus far this year. He is quite adamant that he does not like writing. I don’t believe him. I think he does. He enjoys the creative process of writing. But he does not like grammar or using capitals and periods or thinking about sentence or paragraph structure.

He enjoys writing in the journal he received from my sister for his birthday. She came up with a variety of writing topics and wrote them on bits of paper and placed them in a jar. Each night he picks one and writes. He looks forward to this and has made this part of his bedtime routine….completely set apart from anything school related. I love to see this excitement in him about writing. (Maybe it reminds me of myself) I would love to see what he is writing, but I have allowed him to keep it private. But I want to instill that same excitement into at least some of his writing assignments for school.

So today I deleted his last assignment from our lessons ( an 800 word essay about Saint Alexander Nevsky for an essay contest of which required research, note taking, and heavy paraphrasing of sometimes difficult material - in other words - boring for him) and began writing workshop instead. We started with two exercises today.

The first exercise was simply free writing. We each took 5 minutes to simply write whatever came to mind. The rules are simple. You can’t put your pencil down. You must write continuously for 5 minutes. It can be anything. And if you can’t think of something to write….well, then that’s what you write. (I can’t think of what to write. I can’t think of what to write.) It can be the same thing over and over again until you think of something better. This is an exercise I did in my 6th grade inclusion classroom many years ago when I taught in the public schools. The kids always loved this exercise once we did it a few times and they got the hang of the fact it wasn’t to be graded, it didn’t need to be perfect, they didn’t have to share it, and they could really write whatever they wanted Most times kids ended up wanting to share what they wrote. My son did today. We both shared. We laughed over the fact that we both wrote about the annoying sound the dog was making while licking her paws. (It’s a large dog; therefore, a large annoying sound!)

The second exercise was the Description Paragraph. We did this a few years ago and he loved it then. Why did I stop? Whatever the case, we started again today. We picked a topic from a list in the book The Writer’s Workbook by Caroline Sharp . We will soon develop our own list as some of the topics are certainly not what a 13 year old boy wants to describe (kissing!). Today’s topic was A Cup of Coffee. We set the timer for five minutes and simply wrote a descriptive paragraph of a cup of coffee. Just 5 minutes, so while we needed to at least stay on topic, there are no high expectations of an award winning paragraph. The goal is simply, over time, to become better at being descriptive in our writing.

He again wanted to share. ( A good sign, right?) And we enjoyed listening to one another’s work and making comments about the things we liked the most.

Here’s my paragraph:

A cup of coffee is a warming way to start the day. The mug is colorful and large enough to hold the amount to satisfy a sleepy person’s need for the hot liquid inside. The coffee exudes a tempting smell that wakens the taste buds. The brown hot liquid begs for sugar and milk. Once an adequate amount is added, the coffee is a creamy brown and a sweet taste to behold. Drinking a cup of coffee relaxes the mind and awakens it at the same time, preparing the mind to withstand the coming day.


I don’t think it’s too bad since I haven’t truly done any creative writing in a couple years now.

All in all I think we had a good time. We ended the writing lesson there for today. It was a success. He even wanted to share what we wrote with his sister at lunchtime. I hope I can keep the enthusiasm going!