Parent Corner

Parent Corner: Magical Doorways

Build your improvisation muscles

Often, I start a writer’s workshop with the question, “Who has found themselves staring at a blank page, not sure what to write?” In nearly every classroom, at every age level, hands spring into the air. The way to avoid the blank page problem is to practice improvisation. Improv is all about creating something out of thin air.

Here’s a playful activity that will help you (and your young writers) build your improvisation muscles.

Parent Corner: Magical Doorways

Activity: Magical Doorways
Where to Play: Anywhere
Materials Needed: None
How to Play:
  1. While you’re out and about, stop for a moment and take a look around.
  2. Each player should choose something in eyesight that could be a magical doorway. Many objects might be a doorway: a clock, a music box, a painting, or even an abandoned shoe.
  3. As you continue on your way, each player should share a few details about the magical doorway he or she has chosen. How do you go through? What is immediately on the other side? What kinds of adventures can you have in the world on the other side? How do you return home?

Parent Corner: Supporting Your Young Writer

Family Activity: The Surprise Me Story Swap

Paying particular attention to how another writer puts together a series of words is an excellent way to develop a love for language. As readers, when we lose ourselves in the plot of a story, we definitely learn on one level. If, later, we return to beloved books and pay attention to the writer’s craft, we can learn how writers worked their magic. At Society of Young Inklings, we group the skills of identifying a writer’s craft and applying those strategies to our own work in a mental room we call the “Library.”

Here’s a playful activity that will help you (and your young writers) pay closer attention to the words a writer has chosen.

Activity: The Surprise Me Story Swap
Where to Play: Anywhere
Materials Needed: A book (ideally fiction)
How to Play:
  1. Flip to a random page in the book.
  2. Choose a medium-sized sentence and read it aloud.
  3. The next player uses the sentence as a starting point for a story, and adds a sentence of his or her own.
  4. Pass the story around your small group, each player adding a sentence to the story as you go. See if you can build the story to a climax and then come up with a resolution.
  5. As a fun extra challenge, try a new sentence and see if you can take the new story in an entirely fresh direction. Consider swapping genres, settings, your cast of characters or anything else that will push you into new territory.

Parent Corner: Supporting Your Young Writer

Family Activity: A Trio of Tales

Noticing the interesting things that happen in our lives is a skill, and one that requires practice. That’s why, at Society of Young Inklings, we talk about visiting our mental Attic to practice the art of collecting story material from our lives. If we’re in the practice of collecting story ideas everywhere we go, we are well-prepared to write or tell our stories. 

Parents ask us all the time: How can I support my young writer? Here’s a quick activity that you can do while waiting in traffic, grocery shopping, or having a picnic.  

Activity: A Trio of Tales 
Where to Play: Anywhere 
Materials Needed: None 
How to Play:
  1. Start with the following: “A time I …”
  2. Finish the sentence with one of these prompts (or create your own).
    • invented something
    • belly-laughed
    • felt proud
    • saw an animal in the wild
    • gave an interesting gift
    • challenged myself
  3. Each player should come up with three examples to fit the prompt.
  4. Tell your tales out loud. Swap stories back and forth. In this way, the stories will give each player fresh ideas, and also will keep the energy and excitement high.
While you may be tempted to only come up with one “best” story, brainstorming three is a powerful idea-generation tool. With “best” off the table, ideas will more freely flow. If time is short, I’d suggest coming up with three examples and then choosing the best of the three to tell aloud.