Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Writing stories

Last week, my son and I sat down for a little heart-to-heart about writing.  He clearly was not interested in doing the Writing Strands workbook I'd purchased for him.  From my perspective, it looked like a relaxed, interesting program.  From his perspective, it was an encroachment on his time and how he wanted to spend it.  So, I shared with him my feeling that writing is important in our world as a way to share information and express thoughts with others and we should still do writing work every other week.  He needed to tell me what would work for him.  He promised to think about it.

Then, later that week, I pulled up the story I had written while we were in Nova Scotia.  I read it to both my children, and told them I was planning on writing others, as inspiration would allow.  They were silent through its reading and said they enjoyed it.  Then, my son expressed his wish to write stories for his stuffed animals.  Done - I was ecstatic with this idea!  We brought out several notebooks for him to pick from (one that he could add pictures to, and several that were different sizes.  He picked the size and colour, wrote the names of the animals he was writing for, and set it aside for writing week.

Writing week is here this week.  Yesterday he struggled with what to write and how to build it with only a blank page staring back at him.  So, we walked through the building blocks of a good story...who did he want the characters to be?  Where would the story take place?  What would the problem be?  What was the solution?  How would the characters find the solution?  Did we want to jot down the answers to the question now or just think about them and start writing?

He preferred to write the story on his own, without any more coaching from me.  He preferred to think of the questions, and then just jump in and write.  He asked me to read his story out loud, and then share with him any spelling corrections.

He's now written two stories for his animals, both of which he was happy to run up the stairs and share with his animals.

I had promised to share the stories I wrote as they became ready.  Here's the first one...that same one I wrote in Nova Scotia and read to the children last week for the first time.

The Foxes Play

Little Red Fox lived in a den that was carved out of a little hill, right where the forest and the meadow met, and it was a lovely place for a little fox to grow up.  For in the meadow, she could playfully chase butterflies or nap on the warm rocks, and she could always smell the fragrant flowers and chat with the bees that visited every day.  And in the forest, she could wander amongst the tall trees and conjure up imaginary fox heroes of long ago, or whisper secrets to the wind that rustled the leaves.  What she loved most about where she lived, though, was all of the games that she could play with her brothers and sisters.  They could play tag, or hide and seek, or capture the flag, or Marco Polo.  Little Red Fox liked hide and seek the best.

One early autumn morning, when the leaves were starting to change colour and falling gently to the forest floor, Little Red Fox and her brothers and sisters romped out of their den, ready to play.  Little Red Fox held her nose up to the warm sun, hoping to cast off the chill from the night.  Then she opened her eyes and exclaimed, “Look at all the leaves piled up in the nooks and crannies of the forest!  Look how the grasses are so golden in the sunshine!  This is the perfect day to play hide and seek!”

“Little Red Fox,” replied White Chest, who was the oldest of the little foxes.  “We played hide and seek yesterday.  It’s time for someone else to have a turn picking the game.”

“No fair,” Little Red Fox grumbled. 

“I know, let’s play Marco Polo!” exclaimed her brother, Black Paws.  All the foxes, except Little Red Fox, cheered for Marco Polo.

“But we played Marco Polo yesterday too!  And Marco Polo will disturb the bees.  Let’s play hide and seek,” implored Little Red Fox.  But it was too late.  Black Paws had his eyes closed and was already shouting out to the other little foxes and they were shouting back to him.

“No fair, no fun, Marco Polo is dumb!  No fair, no fun, Marco Polo is dumb!” Little Red Fox chanted as she danced around Black Paws. 

“Stop it, Little Red Fox.  I can’t hear the others.  If you don’t want to play, do something else.  I’m sure we’ll play hide and seek later,” said Black Paws, frowning. 

But Little Red Fox didn’t stop.  She kept on chanting in her loudest voice, “No fair, no fun, Marco Polo is dumb!”  She ran tight circles around Black Paws as she continued to shout, “No fair, no fun, Marco Polo is dumb!”  Black Paws tried to get away from her so he could hear the others, but he couldn’t see where he was going.  He trotted right in Little Red Fox’s path and she ran right into him!  He fell down a gentle slope, tumbling head over heels.  When he finally came to a stop, he sat up and tears spilled from his eyes.

“Oh, I hurt all over,” he moaned.

All the little foxes stopped playing.  They quickly ran down the hill to where Black Paws was.  “Where does it hurt most,” they said, and they gave him little fox kisses all over – on his head, on his paws, on his ears.  Once they kissed his tears away, the little foxes slowly climbed the hill to take Black Paws into the den.  They silently walked past Little Red Fox, who was at the top of the hill watching in horror.   

“Oh no!” thought Little Red Fox.  “What will Mama say?”  Little Red Fox didn’t mean for Black Paws to get hurt - it was an accident!  But they hadn’t listened to her, and they hadn’t played her game.  It was their fault that Black Paws got hurt, not hers!

Once they were at the den and Black Paws was safely inside, White Chest returned to the top of the hill where Little Red Fox was sitting miserably.  “How did you feel when we didn’t play hide and seek?” she asked softly.

“Mad,” grumbled Little Red Fox.

“Why?” asked White Chest.

“Because it is my favorite game and I really, really wanted to play it,” replied Little Red Fox.

“We all have a favorite game we like to play, and we would get mad too if we always had to play the same game and never our favorite one.  That’s why we need to take turns deciding what game to play.  And besides, there’s still a lot of time for playing all sorts of games.  What other things do you like to do?”  White Chest asked quietly.

Little Red Fox cocked her head and paused to think.  “I like chasing the butterflies and chatting with the bees.  I like chasing the squirrels and weaving between the trees of the forest.” 

White Chest smiled.  “Those things sound nice.  Do you think that if there’s a game you don’t want to play with us, you could do one of those things until you feel ready to play with the rest of us?”

Little Red Fox looked at the ground.  She knew White Chest was right.  “I can try,” she said quietly.  She raised her head and looked towards the opening of the den.  She saw her brothers and sisters, including Black Paws, watching her and White Chest.  She sighed.  Then she slowly walked to the den to apologize to Black Paws.  For she truly didn’t want him to get hurt, and she forgot about the feelings of the others and sharing turns.

Later that afternoon, after a lovely rabbit lunch, all the little foxes again scampered out of the den.  They playfully tumbled in the meadow when White Chest shouted, “Let’s play tag!”  

“Yay!” all the other foxes, except Little Red Fox, cheered.  She wanted to play hide and seek so badly! 

“Could we play tag and then hide and seek?” she asked meekly.

“I think so,” said White Chest.

Little Red Fox brightened.  And she had so much fun playing tag that she almost forgot how much she had wanted to play hide and seek.  Finally, the little foxes collapsed in the meadow in a tired, giggly heap.  When they caught their breath, White Chest sat up and suggested they play hide and seek, and that Little Red Fox could be “it”.  The other foxes cheered and then quickly scampered into the forest while Little Red Fox covered her eyes and counted to ten, very slowly. 

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