After teaching young writers for 18 years, I’ve found that getting a kid started is the biggest hurdle to writing success. If you can get them going, you are more than halfway there!
Ever since I started using Lists to help my kids brainstorm topics for future writing pieces, I’ve used the Fast Five routine right after. I learned the strategy in one of my grad classes, but it’s definitely been around for a long time helping people with writer’s block!
The YouTube video that is linked in step 2 can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkTS5-eZ_38
A few things:
Our goal is 5 minutes per round, but in the beginning, I might start with two or three minutes depending on their stamina.
We always do this with pencil and paper. I’m sure that some kids might do better typing, but I find they are much more successful doing it by hand.
I’m adamant about the kids keeping their pencils moving. That means they can write “I have nothing else to say. I have nothing else to say. I have nothing else to say…” until they can think of something. I assure you, they will figure it out! The first time we do this, I may have a kid or two that wants to push my buttons, and so they take me up on this, but the behavior rarely continues, especially after they see how much their peers are writing.
I absolutely model this first, starting with putting a * next to five of my ideas. This year, I modeled with “clowns” from my List of Things I Cannot Stand:
I hate clowns. Like hate hate. Super big huge hate. I’ve hated them ever since I watched the movie IT when I was seven with my cousin. I wasn’t supposed to watch it. My parents would never have let me. But, my cousin was only eight at the time and she wasn’t going to stop me. I wish I’d listened to my parents because that movie really messed me up. Not only do I hate clowns, but I hate all horror movies/books. I am a giant chicken. Scary monsters, puppets, dolls, people with makeup all over their faces, or costumes – no way! Not for me!! It’s why I hate Halloween. My fear is so bad that I won’t even go near the characters in Disney because I am never sure what is lurking underneath those costumes. I haven’t been to Disney in a long time. My husband and I went down with friends before we got married… that was the last time I was there. My kids are dying to go of course. They are probably about the right ages now to go and really have fun and remember the trip. I wonder where the best place is to stay for a family of six? I wonder how much it would cost to fly us all down there? I guess we could always drive? Make an adventure out of getting there? That could be fun…
A few more things…
Once kids are done with each round, I have them count the number of words they wrote. We talk about the differences in how our brains work. For example, some kids write more each round because they need a little “warm up.” Some kids write less because they exert so much energy in the first round. Some are consistent with each round. We talk about how this is true for lots of things and it’s good to know how your brain works so you can use your strengths to your advantage.
After all five rounds are finished, I have kids go back and reread what they wrote. I ask them to put a * next to any place where they felt like they could have more to say. I tell kids that these places might be a good starting point for their next writing piece. We also discuss things that surprised them while writing. For example, maybe they started excited about a topic, but then found they didn’t have much to say about it after a few lines, or maybe a topic that they had no intention of writing about generated a lot of writing! We talk about how sometimes we never know what will inspire us until we get started.
Lastly, this is absolutely not graded. This is strictly about building stamina and working to match hand speed with head speed. In my classroom, I only grade about 30% of the writing kids do. The rest, just like our Fast Fives, is just practice.
Wow! I wound up having a LOT to say on this topic!
Thanks for making it to the end! Have you ever tried stream of consciousness writing with your kids? I’d love to hear about it!! Share below, or come find me on Facebook or IG.