Where to begin? I have so many ideas rolling around in my brain. It’s a bit messy up there in that caffeine-fueled space where I do all my thinking, let me tell you. I want to tell you about stories and the myriad of ways they fit into my life.
So the best way to start is just to start. Here’s a story I’d like to tell. Let me set a scene for you:
A small church classroom. A group of homeschoolers, ages 9-11 is gathered in front of you on the small area rug near the chalkboard. They are sprawled on the floor, bodies in various stages of sitting/lying/crawling-into-the-bookcase. Shoes are cast off, and everyone is at ease.
So, what to do? What to teach? As I got to know this particular group of homeschoolers, I learned they had one thing in common: they were all huge fans of fantasy novels. Magic. Wizards. Trolls. Dragons. Knights. This was the world where they lived in all their spare moments.
This was the genesis of my class Wizard Language Arts. I’m teaching it for the second time this year to ages 10-14, and I want to share it with you. If you have kids (at home or in a co-op) who love fantasy, why not structure your language arts time around this fabulous genre?
1. Pick a book. Or two.
This was our October book choice. I liked it because the world created was not just magic and fantasy, but had a basis in science and history. It’s a departure from your typical wizard-medieval-castle-knights-dragon fantasy story. Plus my daughter loved it, so I always take recommendations from her seriously.
2. Pillage and borrow from the Internet.
My big secret to success is the fact that there are so many great lesson ideas out there already, I hardly ever have to come up with one of my own. I assigned this book to be read at home over the month of October, and we turned our attention to writing during our in-class time. In September the kids had worked on creating their own magical world, complete with 3-D displays of their world which they presented in class. In October, I spent my time getting kids excited about writing their own novel. Yes! We decided to get involved in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I used the wonderful materials provided by the folks at NaNoWriMo to give my kids practice:
- Developing Interesting Characters
- Developing a Conflict
- Planning a Plot
- Getting Ready to Write Your Novel
Of course all the kids chose to write a fantasy novel of some sort. So, during October, the kids read The Apothecary and prepared to write their novels during the month of November.
3. Every book talk is better with snacks.
At the beginning of November, we devoted our co-op class to book discussion on The Apothecary. My approach to book talk is pretty simple: questions, snacks, and souvenirs. I prepared a book-themed snack (in The Apothecary, birds feature prominently, so I made these). I found some discussion questions to get the chatter going, though I am always willing to let the kids talk about whatever they’re exited about/disgusted by in the book. They often have strong opinions. So much so, in fact, that for my first Wizard class, I had to pull this out on occasion:
This was the “talking hat.” If you weren’t holding the talking hat, you had to try your best to hold your ideas in for a few seconds until it was your turn to hold on to the hat. Honestly, I only resorted to this tactic because the kids were all so excited to share their ideas that class discussion became a game of who could shout the loudest. Ha.
Finally, I think it’s fun to do a science experiment, craft, or other hands-on activity that goes with our book theme. I’m probably one of the least crafty people I know, so I turned to my friend Mr. Inter Net to find a simple craft. The kids loved it. We made apothecary jars with these supplies:
The labels came from Etsy; everything else came from Michael’s. Glue a favorite label to a label tag, fill the jar with something delicious and chemical-looking, and tie the label on to the jar with cool string. Voilà! It was candy to go, basically, but the kids loved making them, so I was happy to sugar them up and send them on their merry way. 😉
4. Rinse and repeat.
This is the model we follow month to month. For December, we read this one:
and during book talk, we used branches to make our own fancy tree houses/Yggdrasils (Norse mythology, anyone?). I got the hubby to drill holes into wood so we could glue branches into a base. Add glue guns, small sticks, pipe cleaners, and string, and you’re good to go.
For in-class writing activities, I pull heavily from the Brave Writer methodology. We do freewrites, we play with words, we practice using all our senses to enhance descriptions, and we include improv games to enhance our storytelling abilities.
Wizard Language Arts is one way I share stories I love with kids. How do you expose your kids to the wonderful tales that make up who you are today?