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Saturday, October 29, 2011


Using An Elementary School Story-Telling Tool For Your Own Writing

When my daughter, Jaimie, started Grade One, she struggled in many areas. In addition to her sensory issues, she also dealt with praxis issues (which means she wasn't able to learn or follow tasks that had too many steps); she would often get 'stuck' on a specific way of doing a task and not understand how to branch out or learn it in a new way; and she struggled with verbal instruction. You can imagine how frustrating learning could be for her when she had all of these hurdles in her way.

With the help of an awesome occupational therapist (OT) and an amazing bunch of teachers, we learned tools best-suited to Jaimie's needs that have helped her bloom and grow. One of these tools was a 'Word Flower', which not only helped Jaimie with learning words and writing but also helped me with my writing! And I thought it would be something that could help all of you too.

This is is a tool that taps into visual learning, gets you branching out beyond your regular line of thinking and really gets those thinking juices flowing. I'm sure many of you have heard of different ways of doing this but I loved the concept Jaimie's teacher used.

See the flowers above? Think of an everyday word you use frequently (eg: sad) and write it in the middle. Then think of five other ways to say that word. For example, Jaimie came up with glum, sorrowful, down-in-the-dumps, unhappy and downcast for her Word Flower for 'sad'. It sounds pretty basic but, you know what? As a writer, I've found this tool useful and I write the words I come up with for my own personal thesaurus I keep beside my computer. And as an editor, it gives me a way to help an author using a specific word way too much to branch out.

Another great writing strategy is creating 'Word Choice Lists'. Jaimie's teacher created a table with headings like 'Speech Words', 'Movements' and 'Loud Sounds' with tons of words listed under each. Or, you could create a table where you have two headings 'How It's Said' and 'Words to Substitute'. Write subheadings under the 'How It's Said' column such as, 'In a happy way', 'In a sad way', 'In a tired way', etc. then list different action words you'd use to show 'sad' or 'tired' beside the subheadings.

Jaimie's teacher got the kids to create a folder where they'd glue their Word Flowers onto as well as keep their other tables I suggested above. This is the place they'd keep their journals and other writing booklets so they had easy access to their writing tools when they struggled with writing assignments. These strategies helped Jaimie's writing so much. And on top of that, it also helped her learn to expand her way of thinking and looking at how to complete an assignment.

Today, she's doing so well on her own that she doesn't even need to use her writing tools as often, which is awesome because I've claimed her folder! Who says we can't learn from kids?

Feel free to share your own writing tools and strategies. Branch out beyond the usual Thesaurus or Dictionary and get those writing juices bubbling.

Happy writing, everyone.

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Blogger Patricia Anne McGoldrick said...

I like this visual approach Chynna!
So agree with usefulness for writing, too.
Think that is why mind mapping really appeals to me--the visual, even colour!
Thanks for sharing the ideas.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Chynna said...

Hi Patricia! Glad you liked these ideas. I'm very visual too and found these so helpful. I learned about mind-mapping in psychology, ironically enough. But I loved how Jaimie's teachers borrowed the concept and made it kid-friendly. =D

Thanks for your comment! 'See' you again soon, I hope!


5:08 PM  
Blogger Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

Oh my gosh - this is such a great tool! I will definitely use it, because it creates a visual for me that is so much better than just making a list - which is what I do now. Thanks to you and Jamie for a great idea (p.s. My main character in The Christmas Village is named Jamie, not quite the same, but almost!)

8:23 AM  
Blogger Robyn Chausse said...

Hey, cool idea!
Thanks for sharing, Chynna.
I like the idea of keeping all of this in a folder too.

9:49 AM  

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