1. Give each student each three slips of paper. On the first they have to write a person/character. On the second they have to write a setting. On the third they have to write a conflict. I had a basket for each (characters, setting, conflict), and they tossed them all in. Then they had to draw one slip of paper out of each basket . . . and they had five minutes to write a story about their character, conflict, and setting. I told them they had to 1) Open with dialogue in paragraph #1, 2) Describe the action in paragraph #2, and 3) then they could describe the setting in paragraph #3. After that they could continue with the story as they saw fit. They then read the stories out loud, and they were HILARIOUS! I still remember one was about a nun who had to bail from a plane that was crashing in Paris.
2. To teach dialogue I used plays (such as mixed-up fairy tales). Here are some free ones: http://freeschoolplays.com/. We assigned parts, and we read sections of them out loud. Then I had them write the dialogue of the same characters in a different situation. For example, what if Baby Bear in the three bears showed up at the first day of school and his seat mate was Goldilocks?
3. We colored books. I photocopied the first pages of a novel—such as Kingdom’s Dawn by Chuck Black—and gave everyone a copy and crayons. Red for action. Green for dialogue. Yellow for internal thoughts. Orange for description. Pink for emotion. This really helped them see how novels are not just narrative (this happened, then that happened, etc.). Sometimes I had them write their own story following the same “color pattern.” The results were impressive. Sometimes we colored the openings to two different novels and then compared the authors’ writing style.
4. We used Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method and “plotted” a novel. http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/snowflake.php
5. We assigned people to bring short stories or parts of their book to class every week. They had a limit of 1,000 words, and they had to make enough photocopies for everyone in class. We passed around the story and gave eight to ten minutes for them to read the story. Then everyone had to go around and share three things they liked and one thing they didn’t like. I was the last to comment after everyone was done, and I did the same (but I usually gave two or three suggestions about ways they could improve their story). I was amazed how insightful the students were. The majority of the time they discovered all the “issues” by the time it got to me
6. I had a collection of objects—steel wool, sponge, a plant, coins, etc.—that they could handle, and they had to write descriptions of them. Then they had to use that same description and describe something else—for example the description for steel wool became the description for a night’s armor.
P.S. Don’t forget to enter this homeschool-planning software giveaway and this book set giveaway from Tracie Peterson! Also, be sure to enter your photos into the photo assignment before 3 p.m. EDT today!
You can pre-order my newest novel, The Memory Jar, for only $4.99 here!