As some of you know, our approach to homeschooling has always been a more casual, hands-on approach. Mom taught us how to read when we showed an interest. For one child, that was 5yrs old and another 10yrs old, but they both learned and they learned at their best because they were learning from their own interest and desire. We also aren't super particular about formally starting and stopping 'schooling', whether it's summer vacation or at graduation age, we never stop learning. The greatest thing Mom has 'taught' us is a desire to learn, and she taught that by her own interest, learning and continued personal knowledge development late in life. From that foundation, we are supported in learning things in any direction we choose.
So, I guess what I'm saying, is that when I call this a 'creative writing assignment' I really mean: a big family game that hailed optional participation, but because it's not something we have to do day after day, the kids were willing to give it a try and even called it fun afterwords. :-) This one had Mom to Johnny willing participating!
Okay, so here is my idea:
I labeled six categories/elements for a story. They were:
- Bad Guy/Gal,
- Time Period
We then each wrote on a slip of paper an entry for each category. The kids went pretty creative here... for Hero, we had such entries as: "a drunk cowboy," "a dog," "a magician," etc. For Heroine, we had: "a Country Singer," "a Grandma" etc. In Problem we had some bad storms, a toothache, a missing gem, etc. etc. So, as you can see, pretty random and already pretty creative...
Things got pretty ridiculous when we all picked one from each category of the elements we needed to include in our story. I admit, I was beginning to wonder if this was going to work at all. Some of the kids wanted to forfeit right then and there!
"Come on Mary! This is crazy! What am I supposed to do with a Princess in the Wild West??"
I couldn't really answer them, baffled as I was about my own Granny Heroine, Canine Hero, and hurricane problem...
But, within a few minutes the complaints melted away and the house grew very quiet as everybody started scribbling. The room was silent, but the creativity flowing through each mind was thick enough to be felt, just like how one can feel a cloud on a foggy overcast day...
After an hour or so, pens started to be laid down as the up-and-coming authors confidently put in their requests for a dessert. You see, the prize for the author that wove all the elements together in the most creative way was going to be the dessert of their choice, prepared in celebration. It wasn't for the longest or the best written story--in this house, creativity is celebrated firstly. :)
In the evening, we sat around as a family and took turns reading our stories aloud. I can honestly say that I was really, really impressed! I didn't know what to expect from the boys, for example, because like I said, this isn't something we do regularly. Their story telling abilities amazed me! They're all avid readers, but don't write all that often. I wish I could share all their stories...
Somehow, Stephen was given two problems; a missing gem and a toothache. He combined them with his Pirate bad guy and thus was born: Captain Toothache. Stephen's magician Hero discovered that Captain Toothache had replaced his rotting painful tooth with the missing gem of his search, and using his swift slight of hand, he managed to tie a string to the gem inside the pirate's mouth while the Captain lay sleeping.... You can imagine the rest. :)
Like I said, I wish I could share them all, and it was a tough choice, but I decided I am going to share Andrew's. Now, keep in mind that he's no 'grade schooler', so of course it's a better written story. That's not why I'm sharing it. I'm sharing it because he had some really crazy elements (see below), yet he worked some of his creative, funny, movie minded magic and wove them together quite beautifully...
Hero: "Drunk Cowboy with a big noise" (I think that was supposed to be nose...)
Heroine: "Beautiful Princess"
Bad Guy: get this, "Justin Bieber" (LOL! That was Stephen's input and it ended up being a perfect villain for Andrew because, as he said: 'he only hates cats more than JB' lol! (just in fun! ;) "Cat" was his entry for 'Bad Guy'. ;))
Problem: "Bad Guy Steals Princess"
Time Period: "1800's Wild West"
Place/Location: "Hawaiian Beach"
Okay, here we go with the bad Beib story... ;-)
The Story, By Andrew
"Get with it, Jill!"
"Oh Penelope, Justin Bieber is just a spoiled princess! He doesn't even write his own songs... horrible as they are.." Jill finished under her breath.
"You're a spoiled princess!" barked Penelope. "And a pill at that!"
Class was about to begin, and Mrs. Brewsky had that look in her eye that said, 'prepare to shut up in approximately 17 seconds or die a swift and unceremonious death!' The other mindless little girl-fan bieber drones had taken notice of the exchange between Penelope and Jill and were trying to get their brainwashed 2 cents in before the 17 seconds were up.
"Yeah, Jill! You're so 'out of it'!"
"Sorry, Jill! This isn't the wild west -- your cowboy hero died like 200 years ago!"
"Ah!" cut in Mrs. Brewsky, the sharpness of her voice bringing to mind a plate shattering on the floor. A whole stack of plates, perhaps. "Since we seem so interested in numbers today, let's open our math workbooks to page 78 where we left off."
That was Jill's cue. Her face fell with a quiet thud onto her desk as she fell fast asleep.
Jill found herself standing on the plain. A cactus stood next to her, and a tumbleweed... tumbled. She looked down at the dress she was wearing. "Wow! Look at this dress! I must be a princess or something..." She wondered what she was doing out in the middle of nowhere... Suddenly, a voice cut through the sandy breeze.
"I supposed you are wondering what you're doing out here in the middle of nowhere!"
Jill practically jumped out of her dress. The cactus was talking to her! No, someone was behind the cactus. It sounded like a girl about her age. "Why... y-yes!" Jill stammered. "I AM wondering why I'm here. Who are you?"
Jill gasped as a caped figure stepped out from behind the prickles.
Indeed, it was the tween pop star all right. He was decked out in the craziest costume Jill had ever seen him in, "And that's saying something!" she thought. He was sporting a black top hat, so tall that Jill had to stand on her tip toes to see the top of it. He had a jet-black curly mustache, and a single eyepiece on a gold chain.
"You do know that I hate you, right?" Jill asked bluntly. "Of course you hate me!" JB quickly responded. "I'm about to kill you."
"What?!" gasped Jill. "Why?!"
"Because your handsome prince has failed to pay the ransom, and so now you must die." Suddenly everything made sense to Jill; the dress, being all alone on the plain, the cactus. Okay, maybe not the cactus...
"Shouldn't we give the-my handsome prince more time?" demanded Jill.
"Sorry my dear, but I have a concert in two weeks and I must be on my way."
"Two weeks seems like a lot of time."
"Well, I have a slow horse."
"You're kidding! YOU have a slow horse?!! You have everything you want! In fact, why did you have to ransom me in the first place?? You've got plenty of money!!"
"Well," said Bieber snickering... "Actually, you don't have a handsome prince at all. The whole idea is to knock you off before you ruin all the work we went through to brainwash all of your little friends! It wasn't easy to create my army of tween JB drones, and no-one will threaten my work now--get the picture?!"
Jill did. In fact, now everything was even MORE clear; the dress, the being alone, the cactus... wait, now the dress didn't make sense.
"So, what's up with my dress if I don't have a handsome prince?"
"How am I supposed to know?" said Bieber baffled. "This is YOUR dream, not mine!"
"Oh, whatever. So, how do you plan to kill me? Sing me to death?? I'm pretty immune to you, thanks to my classmates. I could handle it for a half-hour, maybe even longer!!"
"Oh yeah?" retorted Bieber, an evil gleam behind his eyepiece. "How long can you take my rapping?!!"
Jill's palms began to sweat. Every time she had started to hear a JB rap, she had to flee the room or the most horrible symptoms would come over her. It seemed, she thought, that Bieber had read her mind, and an evil smile crept across his face. She feared her time had come.
He took a breath.
She held her breath.
Dum Dum Dum.
His eyes closed.
Her eyes closed. Tightly.
Then suddenly, Jill heard music. And it wasn't horrible music, either. In fact, it was pretty good. In fact, it sounded like it was a classic from the 60's. The thumping of the bass grew closer. Jill cracked her eyes open. Bieber was still standing there, but his confident expression was gone. Instead, he looked terrified.
Jill tried to find the source of the heavenly sound. She didn't have to look hard. There, in the not-so-distant horizon was a cowboy. He was riding a rather sorry-looking donkey, but the two of them were a perfect match, Jill observed. Scraggly clothes, worn boots and a torn hat. And a boom-box. "Wow!" thought Jill, "no MP3 player. This IS the wild west!" It was sitting behind the saddle proudly blasting "CCR" as the duo swaggered up to the beat of the song. Bieber was downright shaking by this point, and a bit of drool trickled out of the corner of his pretty little lips. The knight and his steed pulled up alongside Jill. The cowboy seemed a bit tipsy, but he touched his hat politely and addressed Jill. "Afternoon, Ma'am. Is this girl here giving you a hard time?"
Jill eyed Bieber as he convulsed uncontrollably. "What's the matter Bieb?" she asked him. "Can't handle the classics?"
With one final shake, Bieber's eyepiece fell out as he burst into a cloud of smoke and vanished.
Jill, the cowboy and the donkey just sat there alone for a little bit, as the boom box cranked out the music for all it was worth. Then, as the song faded out...
Jill looked up into those deep sun-worn eyes. The cowboy's, that is. Not the donkey's.
"You saved my life!"
"Does that make me the man of your dreams?"
"Buddy," Jill responded with a chuckle. "You have no idea."
And they rode off into the Hawaiian sunset. The End.
Hope some of you families will give this game a try! It was really fun!! I have a lot of similar ideas that I think would also be fun. Different element categories, such as: objects, magical powers, animals, etc. that would also have to be incorporated into a short story. Get creative and make up your own categories! You don't want to have too many in one game, however, as you want to leave enough room for some creative storytelling to take place surrounding the elements. Another idea for younger children would be to draw a picture involving all of the elements!
Don't be afraid to pull out a pen and join the kids in this game--don't forget that you're never too old to cultivate your own personal creativity! :)