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Keep a Clipping File
Encouraging Young Writers
By Mary Emma Allen
I keep a clipping file for my own writing and suggest that teachers do this to use in the classroom. Also encourage older student writers to keep their own files. When I teach writing in schools, I often pull out my clipping folder for youngsters to use.
You should change characters’ names, setting, and details that might identify the person in the news story. But use the clipping for ideas, as a springboard for a story.
Ask yourself “What if?” something else happened, the character was a girl instead of boy (and vice versa), the ending was different, there was a different setting. Also when a clipping doesn’t give many details about the incident, create your own story about why something happened and the ending.
Examples From My Clipping File
The following are clippings I’ve used with youngsters to stimulate their writing. You may want to use these same examples to start your file.
BLACKIE COMES HOME – Blackie, a family dog, disappeared. He was tied outside when everyone left for work and school. When they returned home, Blackie was gone. His collar and chain were there, but Blackie was nowhere to be seen. Two years later, he suddenly appeared, when everyone thought he was dead.
- Where had Blackie been?
- Tell from the dog’s viewpoint.
- Tell from the children’s viewpoint.
THE MOOSE IS LOOSE – A moose wandered down the main street of town during the night causing damage. In the morning they found him lying down inside a shoe shop where he had barged through a plate glass window and created a mess.
- Why had the moose come to town?
- How did they get him from the store?
- What happened to him then?
SAVING A BROTHER – Tommy and his little brother were playing in the back yard. Joey wandered down to the lake and walked on the ice. He fell through. Tommy rescued him and was given the Governor’s Award for heroism.
- How did Tommy rescue Joey?
- Were there other children around?
- Were any pets around?
- Tell story from Tommy’s viewpoint?
- Tell story from Joey’s viewpoint?
DAVID FINDS HIS WAY – David, his family, and some friends were hiking on Rattlesnake Mountain. Six-year old David and his dog wandered off the trail and weren’t with the group when everyone reached the top of the mountain. A search was initiated for David. The local fire department and rescue unit were called out. They searched all night and didn’t find the young boy.
David’s family often discussed survival techniques. David recalled some of these, so he walked downhill, found a brook, and made his way until he came to a road.
- What made David wander off?
- Did his dog chase a chipmunk and David followed him?
- Did David go chasing an animal himself?
- Tell from a first person point of view.
- Tell from third person.
Sometimes youngsters mention that they were lost. Can they tell their story? One boy said his mother got lost when she was a little girl. Could he tell her story? Of course.
Look for more examples, either clippings from newspapers and magazines. Or jot down stories you hear on television or radio. These real, often unusual, adventures may stimulate your young writers to write fiction stories, poetry, non-fiction newspaper stories, and plays.
For more information about Mary Emma and her writing visit her web site: http://maryemmallen.blogspot.com