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Keeping an Idea Book
Encouraging Young Writers
By Mary Emma Allen
Youngsters often are intimidated by the idea of writing, whether it’s a story, poem, book report, non-fiction article. However, there are a number of ways to take away some of the dread of writing:
Let them know they don’t have to be perfect on the first draft. Let them know that professional writers write and rewrite and find the most important step is to get their thoughts down before losing them. Also, get children into the habit of keeping an idea book where they jot down thoughts for and about writing. Their writing in this doesn’t have to be perfect, just a few words so they don’t “lose” their ideas. This may be a title or a few words describing an idea for a story, poem, article. It might be the beginning or the end of a story. Their idea book doesn’t have to be as extensive as a journal and will take on different formats depending on their age.
Idea Book Formats
A NOTEBOOK – This can be somewhat like the journal they write in each day (many teachers have youngsters write in a journal every morning or sometime throughout the day), but they do not need to write so much in the idea book. This notebook might take the form of a steno pad or a notebook with an attractive cover so it’s easily recognizable.
SMALL SPIRAL NOTEBOOK– Many writers carry a small spiral notebook with them to jot down ideas whenever something comes to mind or they see or hear something. This is handy because it’s small enough to fit into a pocket, a purse, a backpack.
NOTE CARDS or 3×5 cards – If a writer uses these, there’s a chance they’ll get lost unless you set up a filing system. However, you only need to carry around a few cards and not a whole pack or notebook. Then if they get lost, you’ll only be out those few ideas, not everything–as with a notebook. Some writers like to use a note card for each thought or idea and then file them according to category.
COLORED CARDS – You also could use different colored cards for various topics. Using a different card for each idea makes it easier to locate an idea when you’re ready to write. Or you can shuffle the cards around and see about combining several ideas to make a story.
MAKING YOUR OWN IDEA BOOKLET– You may decide to have young writers make an idea booklet which they can use in school to jot down their ideas. They can illustrate it with a decorative cover. Then each day, they can transfer ideas from their cards or spiral notebook which they carry around with them. The larger idea booklet would remain at school for writing class.
TAPE RECORDER – Some writers like to keep a tape recorder handy so they can record their ideas when they don’t have a notebook available. This probably would be used more by older children/young adults. But it’s a method writers may use in conjunction with a notebook or note cards.
Getting the Idea Process Started
For best results, you…the teacher, homeschooling parent, parent…need to keep your own idea book, card file, recorder. Your working at this project along with the young writers usually encourages them.
Give young writers the idea that this process can be fun…coming up with ideas and then turning them into stories. By jotting down a few words, a sentence, then a paragraph, writing can be less intimidating for the writers-in-training.
Go through the process of idea taking with the youngsters, perhaps with a brain-storming session in class. Working in pairs could be the next step toward getting ideas for their notebook and sharpening their powers of observation. From a few words, they can progress to complete sentences, then paragraphs.
Before they know it, they’re on the way to writing a story or article.
For more information about Mary Emma and her writing visit her web site: http://maryemmallen.blogspot.com