Writing Without Fear of the Red Pen

The Fear of the Red Pen

Writing is a joy for some, but a terror to others.

What makes one person enjoy the process while others are terrified by it?

Some would-be authors find themselves constrained by the how-to’s, structural rules and regulations bought upon by well-meaning teachers who choose to use the red pen more than they ought.

It’s not that the red pen isn’t necessary, it’s just that grammar and punctuation isn’t all that writing is.

Put the fear of the red pen away and enjoy the writing process.
Put the fear of the red pen away and enjoy the writing process.

Writing is the thought, the intent, the emotion, the mental anguish, the imagination unleashed.

When used too early, the red pen is perceived as an attack against the soul.

It is what is feared, that somehow one is incapable of expressing themselves properly. The red pen is sometimes received as an acknowledgement of the fear of failure that resides within ourselves.

So, put aside the red pen until later.

Expressions should be allowed in the first stages of the writing process.

Plotting, outlining, summarizing, etc., these terms can be scary to someone who just wants the freedom to write.

So, in the beginning stages why not just write.

Let your thoughts flow.

Allow yourself to make mistakes, but get your expressions out. You might find some great ideas in those lines you have penned or typed.

Next take those ideas and expound on them.

Visualize your characters, know their hardships and fears, know them intimately.

Surround those characters with settings that magnify their problems or at least don’t interfere with the progression of the story.

Make the setting fit the story line.

Accidents on curvy mountain roads, falls from rocky cliffs, heart attacks on hiking trails, broken hearts in movie theaters, loneliness at the school dance…

Insert lively characters that fit the setting.

We expect cowboys in Texas or Australia, businessmen in suits on Wall Street, bankers in Switzerland, skiers in Colorado or the Alps, fishermen off Nova Scotia. We know and are familiar with housewives in suburbia, school teachers in rural areas, and farmers on the Midwestern plains.

Writing, authoring, scribbling, or whatever you may call it, is just expressing your imagination on paper.

Let your imagination run wild. Sci-fi, fantasy, romance.  You can pretend to be anywhere at any time.

Today, yesterday, or tomorrow…There is no limitation to time on the written pages of your mind.

Share your thoughts, share your dreams, share your fears. Hide behind your pseudonym, your pen name, your ghost writer, or whoever.

Your words become forces that confront the reality of existence.

Keep the story moving forward.

You are an author. Your words may not be written down in a best-selling novel, but they are your words in action. Just be sure your words do not kill your onward progression to what lies ahead. Make them positive words that encourage, instill, and infuse joy, excitement, and contentment.

Make your words lively to the reader. Keep them searching for the next word on the next trail of pages. The red pen can come later.


Do you find yourself fearing the red pen?

Don’t be afraid to have your writing critiqued. Share it with several people who will honestly respond to what you have written. Consider their comments.

Remember that you are the author. You can choose to accept or reject their recommendations. But if you are wise, you will learn from the critiquing experience and your writing will improve.

Proofreading for grammar and punctuation is in the last stages of the writing process. That’s when you can appreciate the red pen.

What are your fears in the writing process?
What is keeping you from becoming the next best-selling author?

Create a Magazine – Make It a Family Affair

Enrich your homeschool by creating a magazine that reflects your family’s interests.

Learn about writing, editing, and publishing.

Children have different talents and gifts. Why not utilize those talents and gifts by making a family magazine?
This may seem like an overwhelming task, but it needn’t be. Just follow a few basic steps and your magazine will become a pleasurable accomplishment.

Discuss the different parts of a magazine.

Take some time letting your children leaf through various magazines taking notice of what they find interesting. (If you do not have access to interesting magazines through family and friends, then plan a trip to your local library. A large selection is available for viewing and for checkout. It would be advantageous to have your first lessons completed there.)

Then continue by pointing out pages with specific purposes. Included in these should be the copyright page, contents pages, editorial pages, features pages, product pages, etc. Any discussion should also include the type of and purpose for advertising articles and advertising posts.

Children will probably notice that some magazines appeal to a wide variety of readers (mass magazines) and some appeal only to a select few (class magazines).

Discuss the job descriptions of those who are responsible for each step in the process of development.

From editors, illustrators, reporters, printers, to photographers, the list of people who do the work of producing a magazine is varied.

Responsibilities involve layout, design, news departments, sports departments, editorials, photos, images, production, marketing, etc. It truly takes a team to produce a successful magazine.

Discuss the idea of producing a family magazine.

Discuss the idea of producing your own magazine. This could be a family magazine or group magazine. Get the children excited about producing their own work.

If you feel your family is too small to do this, engage the assistance of other homeschooling families or your local homeschool support group.

Let Your Magazine Reflect Your Family's Interests
Let Your Magazine Reflect Your Family’s Interests

Enjoy the process.

Don’t let the process bog down your family. If you decide to just do a few pages within a single week or if you make it a year long process by collecting material accomplished during the year, the important thing is to give children the knowledge of and opportunity in developing their individual gifts and talents. Make it an adventure they will remember as they continue their educational goals.

Set guidelines and give job descriptions.

Some children love to write stories, but others love to tell them. Some like to draw or doodle while others have fun painting or crafting.

Some like to tell riddles and read comic strips, while others would rather grab the camera and catch family members in fun.

Some children like the outdoors (so what critters are in the area?) and others like hanging out with Mom in the kitchen (so what’s their favorite recipe?).

Some like to play sports (so how do you play that game?) while others seem to know all the sports statistics (batting averages, anyone?).

Some are great at playing musical instruments, but others like to listen to the radio, know all the top hits, and can tell you where their favorite artists will be next week.

Utilize those individual characteristics to make a magazine that will reflect the children’s talents, interests, and gifts and not just your own.

Yes, specific guidelines and deadlines should be set, but let the children do the work as much as possible.

Make the Publishing Process a Learning Experience
Items to Consider in Publishing Your Family Magazine

Let each child do what they find interesting.

Some will enjoy writing about their topics of interests. Some will hate writing altogether, but may love doing the illustrations or creating graphs for a sibling’s articles.

As much as possible, let each child do what they find interesting. This may take some insight on your part.

And when it comes to publishing the material, everyone will probably want to know how to use the copy machine. Even if you must do this at a local printer, ask the manager if your children can watch the process.

Enjoy creating your magazine and just think about all the areas of publishing to which your family has been exposed.

And if you decide to let the children ‘sell’ the magazine to family and friends, you may discover that you have a successful entrepreneur under your wings.

 

Visual Charts in the Classroom: Two Important Reasons

Visual Charts Help with Presentation of New Material

 Story webs and other types of charts make difficult tasks easier for students.

Story webs and other graphic charts make difficult tasks easier.

Two Important Reasons

Use of visual charts will greatly assist you as you present new material or review concepts already presented to children in your classroom.

Using a visual chart such as the one pictured above can help children in two very important ways.

First, visual charts break major tasks into manageable parts.

Children can become overwhelmed when given new and unfamiliar assignments, especially if they are writing assignments:

  • Paragraphs
  • Essays
  • Book reports
  • Research papers
  • Stories

These and other tasks can be simplified by utilizing charts, spider webs, timelines, Venn diagrams, and other visuals.

The chart shown above is an example of a story web. The chart could be used to teach in other subject areas. However, for our purposes we will use the information on the story web to see how a difficult writing assignment can become quite simple when the task is broken into manageable parts.

Notice that the chart displays the topic as the main part or central focus point of the visual. The topic is what the paragraph, report, or story is about.

TIP:   The graphic could be utilized to focus only on the subject matter, i.e. trees, until the subject matter is sufficiently narrowed down into a suitable topic that is manageable for the child, i.e. oak trees.

The smaller circles on the above chart show the parts that would be used to relate a story.

A simplified way for young children to write a story is to focus on the separate parts individually. Also, when writing a research report, it is beneficial for older students to focus on individual parts also.

The topic has been broken into five parts. As a teacher you may reduce these parts to four, leaving out the ‘why’. You may also wish to insert more parts. Adjust the chart according to the material and children’s ability.

Children should use one sheet of paper or notecard for each part. If you are teaching very young children, focus on teaching one part per day.

Ask questions that will help children ‘brainstorm’ about their character or event. The following are just a few sample questions. Adjust the questions according to the topic.

  • Who is this character, a person, an animal, an object, an event? What are they like? Describe them for me.
  • Where does this person live? Where did this event or series of events take place?
  • What is the character doing? What happened that is making the character happy or sad? What event or action is taking place?
  • When did this happen? How old are the people involved? Did this happen in the past? Is it happening right now? What major world or local events are happening around the main character or other characters in the story that may be influencing them?
  • Why did the characters act the way they did? Why did the car crash? Why did the building fall down? Why was the main character sad or happy or puzzled? Why did they have to go to town, to war, to the West?

TIP:   After these parts have been completed, have the children cut and paste the parts together onto a fresh sheet of paper.

The parts may have to be adjusted as the children put their individual parts together into story form. That will come as they learn to edit their new achievement.

Expect this part of the process to yield a very rough draft. However, it will help the children begin to write their stories on fresh paper using the information they have accumulated greatly reducing their frustration.

Second, visual charts help children stay focused on the task at hand.  

The graphic nature of charts draws children’s attention to the most important aspects of the writing process. It also allows children to know what parts of the process have been accomplished and what has not.

Whether using a spider web to show relationships or timelines to show a sequence of events, visuals are great assistants when it comes to presenting new material.

Copyright 2016 by Peggy Clark

What types of visuals do you use in your classroom?
How have these visuals helped you with your presentations?
Can you relate a teaching experience using visuals that may help others in their teaching endeavors? If so, please share in the comment box at bottom of page.
Peggy Clark is the author of So, What's the Latest News? Messages from a Prisoner in Rome published by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan. More of her writing can be found at http://sowhatsthelatestnews.info.