I am currently creating a short guide (PDF or Word) that shows how you can use my book, Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg (ages 9 to 12) in 6 + 1 Traits of Writing lessons. The guide will be free for the teachers at any workshops I do at schools and if a teacher/home school parent buys a copy of my book. To give a little preview, I thought I would show an excerpt of each trait on the next few Wednesdays. So, here we go. . .
IDEA is one of the 6 + 1 traits of writing. It is important to start with a good idea when you write because it makes it easier for the words to flow and more interesting for the reader. Usually the first idea we come up with is not our best idea. We need to dig deeper to find a unique idea. You can do this with brainstorming, word webs, free writing, talking to a friend, or even research. For example with my book, I wanted to write about the Civil War for kids, but there are already a ton of books out there about the Civil War. SO, I had to dig deeper, and I did some research. Then, I decided to tell a story from the Confederate viewpoint, make the main character a citizen and a girl instead of a solider/drummer and a boy, and I set it during one specific battle that had extremely interesting elements, such as the citizens living in caves to protect themselves from the Yankees’ bombs.
In Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg, Anna, my 13-year-old main character, loves to write. She writes about events that happen in her daily life, poems, fiction stories, and letters. In one section toward the end of the book (page 134, chapter 21), Michael, Anna’s older brother, asks her to tell a story she has written. At first, she doesn’t want to because she doesn’t think it is a very good idea. Then when she does tell it, she realizes she never really ended the story. She started with the premise of a selfish orphan living with an elderly woman, who delivers food to his room. One day the food stops coming, and the orphan gets angry. He must leave his room to investigate.
Here’s where you can use the IDEA trait with your students and this premise. Give them 10 minutes to brainstorm an ending to Anna’s story. Give them a few questions to think about: What could have happened to the elderly lady? What did the orphan do next? Does the elderly lady necessarily have to be deceased? Could she be teaching the orphan a lesson? And so on.
After the 10-minute brainstorm session, have students discuss their ideas with a partner. Then have a class discussion, where you make a list of the different ideas.
When concluding the lesson, talk to students about a fiction story they have written and ask them to think about their ending. Are they satisfied with it? Could they use these techniques to come up with an alternate (and perhaps better!) ending? Work on these new endings during the next writing period.
For more information on FINDING MY PLACE and to read an excerpt, please go to this link: http://margodill.com/blog/finding-my-place/