[Today’s post “Boys Writing Club ~ A Great Idea for Your Homeschool” was written by guest contributor Michelle Habrych.]
What do you do with a son who doesn’t like to write? You make it as fun as possible with a Boys Writing Club!
How I Started Our Boys Writing Club
Over a decade ago, a friend of mine started what she called Boys Writing Club. It was meant for elementary-aged homeschool boys who hated writing, but the ideas that follow will work for teen boys as well! The group was permitted to use the meeting room at the library once a week. The teacher, a homeschool mom named Rita, said she tried to include activities that would get the boys past their dislike of writing. Here are some of the things she did to get their creative writing juices flowing, along with some ideas of my own.
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Mad Libs are always a hit with kids because of the silliness that ensues when filling them in. Great for reinforcing parts of speech, Mad Libs also encourage creativity in word choice. I have used them in my classes too, and I usually try to get the students to think beyond the things they see in the room around them (their go-to answers). In a room full of boys, I can only imagine the “gross” answers they would give for Mad Libs. Allow them to be boys and be appropriately disgusting.
The Mad Libs website offers a few free printable ones, but it also offers an extensive listing of the books available for purchase. Please note: The website includes “adult” Mad Libs books and is not recommended for viewing by children. If you would prefer to avoid that yourself, you can find Mad Libs listed on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, and other book sites. Glow Word Books offers short, online-only fill-ins similar to Mad Libs, as does Red Kid. Word Blanks offers categories to help you find appropriate fill-ins for your group.
Another Game to Use in Your Boys Writing Club
Another game to try to get your students thinking creatively in your Boys Writing Club while working on sentence structure involves envelopes. On the outside of each envelope, write the part of speech for the words inside. Put inside strips of paper or index cards with a single word written on each one. The kids can take a random word from the appropriate envelopes to form a silly sentence. A variation on this would be to write single words on cards/strips and place all the ones that could possibly compose a sentence into an envelope; the students then take out the words and form their own silly sentence using only the words in that envelope.
Stories can be fun to tell, especially when you don’t know where it’s going to go. Have each boy take a piece of paper and write the first two sentences of a story. The paper is then passed to the right and two more sentences are written by another boy. This pattern is repeated as long as you wish to get a complete story. Another way this has been accomplished is by a writing chain email. This allows students to write a little longer since there are no immediate time constraints. The kids each write a page of a story beginning and then email it to the teacher or to the assigned next storyteller, who then adds his part and so on. We did this with part of a homeschool group one year, and the kids loved it.
Many boys love comic strips. Offer them blank ones and have them fill in the dialogue. This is a fun way to get them writing as well. My kids had a workbook of them called BOOST Word Play: Write Your Own Crazy Comics by Chuck Whelon , but there are many free printables online such as this one. There are plenty available for purchase on Teachers Pay Teachers as well.
Pick a Topic He’s Already Interested In
If your boy is not sure what he wants to write about, pick a topic he’s already interested in and let him run with it. My son was very interested in Lego when he was younger and into his teenage years. One year for his end-of-the-year project at our homeschool group, he chose to research Lego and write about it, including a creative story about the building block characters he enjoyed.
There used to be an app for the storytelling, but it appears it’s no longer available. Do not be deterred by that! Brainstorm some of his favorite things about Lego and that will get him started. Have him write a Mad Lib using only Lego words. Read books from Lego and continue the story. You could do this with any topic he enjoys. One year I centered an entire writing class around the Percy Jackson books and mythology lore. (A blog post about this is coming soon.)
The What-If Question Genie
One fun idea-prompting site I discovered is “The What-If Question Genie.” Click on the genie and he generates another prompt. Ones I saw today included “What if you solved the riddle of a mechanical bird?”, “What if an old man risked danger for a map?”, and “What if a scientist worked for treasure?” Another is Kid Tales, which offers many detailed cartoons to inspire a story.
Make a journal for your reluctant writer. One year for my kids and their cousins, I wrote up 365 writing and drawing prompts. For each kid, I printed out the prompts, cut them into paper strips, and put them in a little bucket. I gave it to them with a blank journal and a glue stick. The idea was that they could pull out a prompt and complete it in any order they chose. I’m happy to share a PDF of my journal writing and drawing prompts with you.
Download the “Year in Your Life 365 writing and drawing prompts” here:
Write a Newspaper
Let the boys indulge their curiosity and make a newspaper! They could write articles about all of their favorite things. Here is my blog post “Why You Should do a Homeschool Newspaper with your Students” about how to put one together.
Enter a Writing Contest
One final idea I have to share is to get them excited about writing by having them enter a contest. The more competitive kids will love this. There are so many writing contests available through a simple internet search. In my state of Illinois, there is a Letters About Literature contest which I recommend. I used it a couple of years ago with my junior high and high school students. Other states may host their own version of this contest. The idea is for the students to learn about writing by picking a book that has meant something to them. The website includes a teacher’s guide and offers ideas to help your students accomplish this. The contest in Illinois is for grades 4-12.
Conclusion About Your Boys Writing Club
But wait– what about grammar? Shouldn’t I worry about spelling? If you have kids who don’t like to write, remember that the point is to get them writing and then work on the mechanics as needed. The other skills can be learned as you go.
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Bio about the Contributor: Michelle Habrych started homeschooling her two kids in 2006, and now continues to teach at her homeschool co-op after both have graduated. She enjoys teaching writing and hopes to inspire her students to write well.