Writing can be a tricky process for students. That’s why I like to use a systematic approach to writing with my students by using the “Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then” writing process. This writing process activity is great to help students develop a story that has a beginning, middle, and an end. In addition, it will help students plan and review their work as well as give them an opportunity to illustrate their work!
Starting Your Writing Process Activity
To begin any story, you have to have a protagonist or a main character. For this example, I’m going to choose a girl named Lisa who is a new student at the school. This is your “Somebody” in the writing process activity. You can let students freely choose who their somebody is. However, if they are spending too much time brainstorming, you can provide them with some character options. To make it more challenging, you can also have them randomly draw a character that correlates with the time of year. For example, in the Fall, you might have a ghost, vampire, or a turkey as a possible character.
What Does Your Character Want?
Whenever you are developing a character, you need to think about what they want. I like to relate this back to students by referring to them as characters. When you wake up in the morning and go to the kitchen, what do you want? Many of them will say breakfast. For this example, Lisa is a new student who wants a friend.
Creating the Problem in the Writing Process Activity
All good stories have a problem. That’s why this writing process activity has the “but” part of the story. In the real-life example, you might say to students, you want a bowl of cereal, but your milk has gone sour. In the story about Lisa, what problem could she have? Well, I think she has found everyone already seems to have a friend. See the image above for how I taught this with the white board.
Solving the Problem
Once a problem has been created, it’s important to solve the problem. Afterall, books and stories are supposed to teach us something that we could then apply to our lives. What could you do if the milk is sour? You could use water, but that might make your cereal too soggy. Maybe you could try to put something like yogurt in your cereal, but that would be too clumpy. I know, you could try something different like a piece of toast. This way you still have breakfast! What can Lisa do? Well, I think she’s going to ask a dog and then a cat to be her friend. Finally, I think she’s going to see a girl playing by herself and ask if she can join her.
I like to encourage students to have at least two things that happen that might cause conflict for the protagonist in the story. This makes stories more interesting and realistic to what the problem-solving process looks like in most situations.
Finding a Solution in Your Writing Process Activity
With the first steps, you have the beginning and the middle. However, you still need the need. This is where the “then” comes into play. After they decide on toast, then they aren’t hungry, and they are feeling ready to start the day. In the story about Lisa, she has found a girl to play with and now they are both happy.
Writing Your Story
Once students have the planning done in their writing process activity, they can take teach section and turn it into the actual story. I typically ask students to use a coordinating conjunction to combine who the story is about and what the problem is.
You can have students write one long paper, or you can have them break up their writing and illustrate their story. It’s always fun to illustrate using pictures you find online or you can have students draw their own pictures. When COVID was going on, I often hung students’ illustrated stories on the windows so parents could see their child’s work since they weren’t allowed in the building.
Methods of Teaching This Writing Process Activity
There are many ways you can teach this writing process activity. You can simply model an example like the one with Lisa or you can have students contribute to the story. If I have students contribute to the story, I typically will have them either draw each step on their personal whiteboards or I will draw it on the whiteboard or on an anchor chart. Whichever way works best for you is the best way to go.
Writing stories can be difficult. However, using a writing process activity can be an effective way to keep students engaged and ensure their writing is organized. With this writing process activity, students have to think about what they are going to write about. In addition, you have the opportunity to check their thought process before everything goes on paper. As an added bonus, students can read to each other to check for comprehension! With this writing process activity, the sky is the limit!
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