Friday, April 3, 2009

The most important writing class: Storytelling

I've held the belief for a long time that the most important prerequisite to writing is storytelling. You might be able to be a good storyteller even if you cannot write well, but you will never be a good writer if you cannot tell a story. Writing is simply converting stories to paper form.

The convention of mechanics and grammar can be developed and taught. But writing should not be taught without regard to the story. I've been making a horrible mistake in John's education. I've gotten distracted by bits of curriculum and standardized recommendations about "best practices" and so on.

As a homeschooler, I have the honor and priveledge to adapt our curriculum and path as I see fit. I've been teaching John first to write sentences in isolation and have begun paragraph construction as the next step. All the while, though, we've totally abandoned the concept of the story.

A story has a beginning, middle and end. It is told by a quickly moving voice when there is high adventure and a slowly-moving voice to convey suspense. There are enough details to entice and entertain but it stops short of boring the listener. It is an organized flow of thoughts communicated from one person to another.

John's storytelling skills are not where they should be. And it's no wonder he struggles with writing. He's certainly been exposed to good stories through literature which has been read to him, but he has not fully exercised his storytelling muscles.

I've come to realize that he has trouble organizing his thoughts into a cohesive, logical unit. His stories are generally long, rambling, boring things without a plot. He focuses on one detail and tries repeatedly to "perfect" that point. I discovered today that I could drive a plot out of him with some well-timed questions. I asked the kinds of questions he'd naturally ask me and I was just as polite. I didn't wait for a pause. I just jumped in there and blurted it out like what he was telling me was the most interesting thing on the planet and I absolutely needed to know what was going to happen next or what something looked like or how it worked. At last, he had a story worth telling.

My hypothesis is that I can inspire/cajole John into becoming a great writer once he is turned into a great story teller.

1 comment:

Angela (HsvScrapGirl) said...

Just give him time. With you and Theo's storytelling ability, it is just a matter of time before he gets the hang of it!