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Getting More Mileage From Writing Assignments

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By Kim Kautzer

Writing Assignments

Writing a composition doesn't necessarily mean starting from scratch. As your children practice writing different kinds of paragraphs, stories, articles, and short reports, you can help them expand their skills by tweaking a piece of writing they completed in the past. What a great way to get more mileage out of a writing assignment!

Sometimes you can have your child repurpose an existing writing project. Other times, you can use a prior lesson as a springboard to writing something completely new.

Let me share six tips for taking a former piece of writing to a whole new level.

1. Write a Restaurant Review

Once your student has had experience describing a food, suggest that he write a restaurant review in which he vividly describes an assortment of foods, from appetizers to dessert. Consider actually visiting a restaurant and having him take "brainstorming" notes about appearance, textures, aromas, and flavors as he samples various dishes.

2. Change the Tense

Give your child a copy of a story she wrote in the past and ask her to rewrite it, changing the story's tense. If it was written in past tense, have her write it in present, and vice versa. If the paragraph was written long ago, you may also want to have her increase the length, add more sentence variations, or expand description.

3. Design a Travel Brochure

If your child has already written paragraphs that describe a place, she can expand on this skill by designing a travel brochure about a city, country, geographical region, favorite vacation spot, or famous landmark she would like to visit. Include text and pictures. "Read, Write, Think" offers a virtual brochure design template that might make this project even more fun, especially for your computer-loving children.

4. Write Autobiographically

Have you already taught your kids to write a short biography? Add a new dimension to this activity by having them do one of the following:

  • Write an autobiography of a famous individual as if they were that historic person (autobiographies are written in the first person).
  • Write one or more journal or diary entries written from the point of view of a famous individual.
  • Assume the role of a historical figure and write a letter to a contemporary.

Any of these exercises should be expanded in length and be historically accurate, perhaps fitting in with a current topic of study.

5. Choose a Different Point of View

Have your child choose a fable, fairy tale, or folktale (either an original story or one she's written herself) and rewrite it from the point of view of a different character in the story. Alternatively, she can rewrite a third-person story in first person or vice versa. Check out World of Tales to find a great collection of short stories.

6. Create a Period Newspaper

Once you've taught your student to write a basic news article, why not require him to write an entire newspaper about a historical era? ("Read, Write, Think" also offers a newspaper template you can use.)

Your child can include local, national, and international news stories, advertisements, comic strips, entertainment, doctor's columns, literary news, sports, travel, vital statistics (births, deaths, marriages, crimes), editorials/ opinions/letters to the editor, etc. Some research will be required to ensure historical accuracy.

Because of the scope of this undertaking, spread the writing over a longer period of time. This can also be a group effort, with all your children contributing to one newspaper. A newspaper is multidimensional, making it a great way to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a particular period of time you're studying.

Most of these exercises lend themselves well to writing across the curriculum. Encourage your children to take their writing to new directions by playing with some of these creative ideas!

Kim Kautzer, veteran homeschooler, loves to help parents feel more confident about teaching and evaluating writing. She is the co-author of WriteShop. Kim and her husband Jim live in Southern California. Kim can be reached for comments or questions at Kim@WriteShop.com

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