We’ve been writing a lot of stories lately in our writer’s workshop. We’ve been focusing on using interesting, unfamiliar characters and describing them well so our readers can picture them. I’m going to take you through each of the steps in the writing process so you can see what it looks like, 9 year-old boy style.
We typically begin by sketching our character and then surrounding the picture with adjectives that describe him or her. Tyler keeps an entire sketchbook of unlikely superheroes, and he used one of them for his story – Fish Boy.
After Tyler’s character sketch was complete Tyler wrote his rough draft in his writer’s notebook. He even looked back at a few other stories he had written in the past. His villain, Mr. Shark, was actually taken from another draft he once wrote about a shark who wanted to become king of the sea.
The next day he read it to me. I asked him all kinds of questions, which he then used to revise and add to his story.
What did Fish Boy think about being part fish?
Tell me more about the fight between fish boy and Mr. Shark.
What did the other sharks do when Fish Boy killed Mr. Shark?
Next, we edited it for spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. He showed me his dialog and we reviewed quotation marks because we’ve been practicing those lately.
Sometimes we publish our stories by making them into illustrated booklets to add to our classroom library, but today Tyler wanted to publish his here, on Layers of Learning. Here is 9 year old Tyler’s final draft:
Once there was a boy – Fish Boy. He didn’t look like you or I. He had sharkish fins and could breathe both in and out of the water. His feet were close together, almost like a fin. He also had two extra fins on his feet to help him go twice as fast. He was super skinny and could zoom through the water like a rocket! But fish boy wasn’t always this way. This is his story in his own words.
I began life as a normal baby boy. When I was five years old I was bit by a fish the size of a frog in Lake Fish Bite. I never knew why the lake was called that until the day that changed my life, the day I got bit by the fish. I completely changed in an instant! I grew fins and soon discovered that I could breathe under water. I had become part boy and part fish. At first I wasn’t sure about my transformation into part fish and part boy, but as I swam and played in the water, I began to love it. “Now I have gills and fins for my hands and I can be underwater as long as I want. I can also be out of the water as long as I want too!” I said.
But life wasn’t always the way I thought it would be. One day I went out and Mr. Shark and his shark army were there, trying to kill all the fish in Lake Fish Bite. Mr. Shark wanted to be king of the lake. “Right now I am trying to defeat Mr. Shark and his shark army,” I thought aloud to myself, “If I don’t, every fish will get eaten and all the scuba divers won’t have any more fish to see.”
Mr. Shark started his attack. He started swapping me back and forth, attacking with his sharp teeth, and hitting me with his head. A head bump from a shark really hurts! I swam in circles and got him all dizzy! I charged at him! I bit him! Mr. Shark died and all of his sharks were so afraid they swam away.
This was the end of my first mission as Fish Boy, protector of Lake Fish Bite.
It’s easy to see what he’s doing well on (clear beginning, middle, end; vivid descriptions; tidy handwriting; spelling is improving). It’s also very easy to see what I’d like to focus on in future writer’s workshops. In future lessons we’ll talk about incorporating the description throughout the story and not just focusing on our main character’s description. We’ll also discuss making the dialog more meaningful by having someone to converse with. Tyler also had a few issues with his narrative mode in his early draft (first person/third person). I made a mental note to have a mini-lesson on that soon.
That’s the beauty of the writing process. . . bit by bit kids develop as thoughtful writers. We can take things in stride, celebrate what’s well done, and find areas to grow.