Words to Write
The final type of writing with which I challenge my students, and it often is a challenge, is exploratory writing. This type of writing starts with words that your kids already like and deepens and expands upon them. The list can be simple. You can have your children keep a running list of descriptive words that she likes. It may be the way the words sound that is appealing. It may be the spelling or the meaning of the word. For me, I love the word “onomatopoeia." First, I just love the way the word bounces around in my mouth as it comes out. Secondly, I like the meaning of the word. If you do not know, onomatopoeia are words that sound like the sounds they represent. They are words like bang and bark. I love this word, and so I wrote it on a page in my journal.
On that page, I have also written "cellar doors" (because many have said this is the most beautiful sounding phrase in English) and "moxie" (which means courage or pluck) because it sounds like the word itself has attitude. When I go back and read all the words on that page, I sometimes find inspiration from the vocabulary. Your child can find inspiration in her favorite words as well. Encourage her to start a list of words she likes and go back often and read them. She will be learning new vocabulary while she stores up inspiration for future pieces of writing.
Your children can also use creative language from their favorite authors as inspiration. In One Year to a Writing Life by Susan M. Tiberghien, one of the first exercises challenges potential writers to start with words of a favorite author. To challenge your child to do this exercise, have her take a descriptive phrase she likes from a favorite author and write it at the top of the page. For example, she might like how Beverly Cleary writes, “Ramona studied her crayons, chose a pinky-red one because it seemed the happiest color, and printed one more item on her Christmas list" in Ramona and Her Father Have your child start her writing session with those words and write. From the Cleary quote, your child might say, “Pinky-red colors are happy, but I still like green. Green colors are cool and wet and strong. But blue is good, too. I like the blue up in the sky. It feels like happiness and the coming of summer…" You can ask your child to write for a specific length of time such as five minutes or let her write until she has nothing left to say. When she generates her own creative language from those of a favorite author, your child uses the author’s words as a stepping-stone to increase her own.