Your have homework for a creative writing assignment and drawing a blank? No inspiration?
This is a common problem with many writers, even professional ones. Willing and able to write a great story – just need that first spark of an idea to get going and, instead, spend half the night banging your head against the wall desperately seeking an inspiration to start.
Well, it doesn’t have to be that hard. Here’s 5 ideas to help get writing a terrific story started!
Plan for this type of homework assignment (which I guarantee is coming ) by creating an inspiration box. Cut out random photos, interesting story ideas from the newspaper or magazines and photos from trips or even a day in the park.
You can even include a particularly pretty rock, shell or something else you find in the world. A shell could easily become the home of sad and lonely snail one day. A rock can become something that has seen the world change since it began and only wants someone to listen to it.
You never know what might inspire writing a great story.
Throw it all in a box that is only opened when inspiration is needed. You can either search for what strikes your fancy at the moment or randomly pull out a few items from the box and decide you will create a story from whatever you happen to grab. Sometimes simply by creating a challenge, you can get your creative juices flowing.
There are plenty of internet websites that offer inspirational ideas for story writing. Be careful that you don’t let the information on the Internet do your job for you. The point of the assignment is that it is your story, not someone else’s. Don’t plagiarize! You are looking for inspiration only. Make it your own story.
Click here for an example of such a website.
Think about your favorite family stories. Maybe a great story that Grandpa always tells, but, instead of writing it about your family, exchange the characters for a family of frogs or fairies. Once you have the core idea, you can twist it around to become anything you want.
Try to remember a story that truly amazed you.
Feel free to change anything you want about the story – it is your story, after all. If you don’t like Grandpa’s ending, change it!
Remember, the story is just to get you started.
Look around you. With the right mindset, almost anything can be an inspiration for a story. Maybe it’s a couple of toys that have a secret life when you are not looking or maybe it’s just a pair of sneakers that give whoever wears them superpowers!
A story is made up of a combination of the right inspiration + your imagination. With enough creativity, you can make a story out of almost anything! Squint your eyes a little and look around. There is going to be something around you that you had never really noticed before that will suddenly pop out as a great story idea.
Don’t forget to let you imagination go wild – a simple window can become a portal to another dimension, a bed can become a boat down a raging river and a pencil can magically create drawings that come alive.
THE STORYTELLING BOX
Of course, I can’t resist adding my own Storytelling Box to the list. Inspiring stories is exactly its purpose.
Not only do you receive 100 original story ideas that you can make your own, but you also have 200 Word Prompts and Illustrations to help create stories.
Just as with your own Inspiration Box, you can randomly or selectively pull cards to inspire a story.
I recently led a story circle at Pretend City. What was interesting was how the little girls in the circle used the box in a way that I hadn’t even considered. They reviewed all the illustrations and chose a series that satisfied a story-line they had in mind. They then laid our the cards in order and told the story. It was brilliant!
Experiment and find the inspirational method that works best for you. Creativity is like any other muscle in your body. It gets stronger, the more you use it.
This blog is the third part of my four-part series about how to apply the way people learn to helping your child study. The four ways are Visual (Part 1), Auditory (Part 2), Reader/Writer (this blog) and Kinesthetic (Part 4 to come).
Aside from taking the quiz, you can pretty easily determine if your child learns best by reading and writing the text and notes.
Does your child:
- enjoy reading
- prefer to read by themselves or read to others
- take lots of notes in class
- work best in quiet areas
- prefer to study by themselves to avoid distraction
If the answer to these questions is yes, then you have a Reader/Writer learner! This is the traditional student who excels at reading textbooks and studying. You will need to be the least creative with this type of learner as compared to the others (but I do have a creative suggestion at the end.)
Reading/writing is the traditional method of study. Probably the least disruptive to the household routine, also.
As long as you can provide a quiet place for the reader/writer, you have most of the support process handled, but there are other suggestions you may want to consider.
This type of learner will retain the information best if they re-write the material on flash cards or notes. Have them write the material in their own words, not just copy them from the text.
By going through this process, they will retain the material better and longer.
Don’t buy pre-made flash cards. The trick here is that the student actually write the material themselves. By writing it, they are memorizing at the same time.
Encourage your child to take good notes at school. Then, as part of their study process, have them re-write the notes at home. This will reinforce their understanding of the subject material as they re-write the notes in a new way.
It is critical that they re-write the notes in their own words rather than the teachers words. This is how the reader/writer learns best!
Even if your child feels they have already written down the notes during class, have them re-write the notes at home and watch their grades improve. Their comprehension and retention will improve dramatically.
Make sure this student gets all the handouts the teacher offers and not to lose them. They learn well from handouts.
USE BULLET POINTS
Reader/Writer Learners learn well when they condense information into small, easily understood bits. Bullet point lists are the easiest way to put down a lot of information in one easy-to-read format.
The good news is pretty much every subject lends itself to bullet points.
TURN DIAGRAMS AND CHARTS INTO BULLET POINTS.
Completely opposite from Visual Learners, some Reader/Writer Learners don’t learn very well using diagrams and charts. They either don’t know how to interpret them, they wouldn’t know how to re-create them, or they simply don’t process information in that way.
A Read & Write Learner should write as many subheadings and notes to every diagram or chart that they need to understand.
This helps Reader/Writer Learners in several ways. First, it puts the information into words (which they, themselves have written down). Secondly, they will be more likely to remember their own definitions and explanations of what the diagram contained then what the textbook had written. And finally, during an exam they will be able to explain a chart or recall the important parts of a diagram that they would otherwise struggle to remember.
If this type of learner is struggling with a particular subject, sometimes it may be due to a fear they have of the subject. They may be afraid that they will never learn it or that they will fail…or both.
A trick you may try is to distract them from the actual material. This trick could be applied to all types of learners, actually.
The trick is to combine studying with a fun activity or funny way of writing down the material.
For example, let’s say your child is challenged by math the most. Instead of writing out problems as usual, have them write the problem as big as they can on a white board. Then write it as tiny as they can. Or have them use pick-up sticks to work out a simple math problem.
Whatever might distract them from their fear – make it fun and creative. They may end up learning the material and get over their fear just by making it fun. Use colored paper, special scissors – anything that’s fun and they may enjoy.
i know we traditionally think of studying and homework as a serious time, but what’s the harm in making it fun if they are actually learning?
I wish my Mom and Dad had thought of that!
Part 2 of this series discusses the 2nd way your child may learn best – Auditory.
Auditory learners like to recite out loud and prefer hearing the information rather than reading it. They learn from listening, either from themselves or others.
Remember, though, to explain to your child that everyone learns differently and at a different pace. There is no right or wrong way to learn. It’s just different.
If, after taking the quiz, you have determined that your child is primarily an auditory learner, consider two changes:
- Change the way your child studies and does homework per the suggestions below.
- Point out that they might want to change how they pay attention during school.
An auditory learner needs to pay attention during lectures. Not allow themselves to be distracted thinking “they will read the material later.” Listening to the teacher will be the BEST time for them to learn so they shouldn’t miss that opportunity each day.
If they find a subject particularly challenging, they might consider recording the teacher on an app on their phone or some other device. This way they may re-listen to the lecture as often as they wish.
Have them ask permission first so the teacher doesn’t think they are playing a game on their phone, for example.
The challenge with studying and homework will be to find ways that compliments this learning style. Here are some ideas.
STUDYING AND HOMEWORK
An auditory learner learns best by explaining the material out loud to others. Remember the old adage, “The best way to learn is to teach.”
Depending on the age of the child this might mean “teaching” a parent or older sibling ( a very patient older sibling). For a younger child, have them sit at the dining room table and “teach” you what they are trying to learn – possibly a nightly ritual while you are making dinner.
Remember, it’s not so much that you learn what they are teaching as for them to be expressing the material verbally and hearing it themselves. In other words, keep on chopping the vegetables and nod in all the right places.
STUDY GROUP OPTION
WHERE IS EVERYBODY?
For an older child, a study group might be the right solution. Study groups are all about verbal communication and sharing with each other. I suggest you monitor the group, at first, and confirm that your child has an equal voice. Also, of course, that the group is made up of students close in ability and motivation. If a group is too difficult to coordinate, then possibly only one other student might help.
Remember that recorder app mentioned above? Well, this can be used at home, too. Allow your child to record their own voice and play it back. Not only might this be fun, but it could also aid in their learning. This might be particularly helpful when learning a language.
I could have used this idea in Sr. Roche’s class back in High School. He scared the beejeebers out of me and practicing with a recorder would have helped.
HEAR THEMSELVES THINK
Auditory learners need to, literally, hear themselves think. If there is too much going on in the kitchen, have them find a quiet place to study where they can recite their notes or homework out loud. If there are word problems, for example, have them read the questions and answers out loud.
Word association is a great way for auditory learners to study and remember information. Mnemonic devices, such as songs or rhymes, are great to pair with facts they are supposed to memorize. Their brain will automatically recall the song and the information it represents.
You might consider setting a conference meeting with your child’s teacher and explaining how your child learns best. The teacher may have more suggestions. They also may be able to adapt, best they can, to your child’s needs in the classroom. At the very least, making the teacher aware of how your child learns can only help.
Consider buying a lot of funny hats for your child. Try the .99 cents store. While they are studying, for example History, they can don a hat for each historical character and use a matching funny voice. Not only are you adding a whimsical fun element to the arduous task of studying, but you are encouraging the verbalization that your child needs, anyway.
One possible challenge with the auditory learner is they may tend to want a constant audience, which can be difficult if not impossible to accomplish every day. Don’t allow this to become a habit. From the very start, alternate the above suggestions so the child becomes used to studying alone, also.
If scientists and psychologists have agreed that people learn differently, then why haven’t we adopted this understanding as it applies to homework?
Changing how our children learn in the classroom setting isn’t going to change anytime soon. We do, however, have more control at home when performing homework where much of the learning occurs, anyway.
Why not adapt the way our children study at home to match the type of learner they are? By doing this, we will reduce the stress level they are experiencing as well as improving their chances of actually retaining the material.
So, let’s first review the four basic ways people learn. One of the most popular models is called VARK.
- Visual – likes charts and graphs. Basically, learns best from images.
- Auditory – likes to recite out loud and prefers hearing the information rather than reading.
- Reading/Writing – best learning from reading on their own, taking their own notes.
- Kinesthetic – hands on, experimental. Likes to figure things out by doing. Doesn’t have patience to sit still long enough to learn.
First, though, explain to them that everyone learns differently and at a different pace. There is no right or wrong way to learn. It’s just different. Explain the 4 ways and what they each mean.
DETERMINE WHAT TYPE LEARNER YOUR CHILD IS
The next step is to help your child determine what type of learner they are. Try having them take this quiz.
After they have taken the quiz, the fun starts. How to apply the preferred method of learning to such subjects as Math, History, English, etc?
Please note that most people don’t fit 100% into a single method. What may work for one student may not for another. Don’t force the issue – allow flexibility.
Here are some suggestions, but whatever method you decide on, have your child participate in creating it. Make them part of the solution and they will more easily adopt the change and help make it a success.
These suggestions are only to open your imagination as to the possibilities. To “think outside the box” as it were.
- If your child is a Visual Learner, then they may have trouble when the teacher is teaching by just speaking to them. They will probably do most of their actual learning at home while doing homework where they can see the material. When they are old enough, they can start taking notes in class – that will help them.
- A Visual Learner is similar to a Reading/Writing Learner in many ways, except that a Visual Learner is also helped by visual aids, such as charts and graphs. For example, If they are studying history, have them make a timeline with all the pertinent information on the chart.
- Allow them to draw images that match the information, for example a ship next to the year 1492 when Columbus discovered America. Writing this information down and seeing visually will help them remember the material.
- Also, they just have some fun while learning! Nothing wrong with that.
- Teach your child how to make an outline. An outline is a nice tool because is simplifies and organizes the material into digestible bites of information.
- Another approach might be to turn an outline into a chart. For example, imagine a pie chart where each slice of the pie is the main topic in the outline and within the pie are the sub-categories. Each slice might be a different color to make it visually interesting.
- Flowchart – a visual learner might retain the information by putting it into a flowchart showing the logical progression of ideas. You might have them write down notes on index cards and then laying them out in a flowchart on the living room floor into a giant diagram!
- Multi-colored highlighters are a great tool for the Visual Learner. Not only is it fun to highlight all the different colors but it also will help create an association between the color and the topic. For example, write down math problems on index cards and highlight all addition problems as blue, all multiplication problems as green, etc.. This is a fun extra step and will help them visually divide up the problems. They may even be motivated to add a few problems on their own “just to keep the colors even”.
They can mix it up and keep it interesting. Learning becomes part of a fun adventure!
Visual learners need a quiet environment to learn best.
My daughter used to hate mushrooms. Really disliked them. The rule of the house, though, was that it was okay to not like a food, but you had to try it at least once, before deciding, and then you had to try it annually. One year, probably after trying mushrooms once a year for 10 years, my daughter nibbled on a mushroom and she liked it! She’s been eating mushrooms ever since.
What’s my point? People, especially young people, do change in their likes and dislikes. Just because at age 10,your son may learn best from auditory learning, that may not be true at age 13. So, be flexible. Have your child take the quiz occasionally.
Of course, if they are doing very well in school and comfortable in their learning habits, you may not want to rock the apple cart.