Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Reluctant Writer's Story in Four Days

Writing is painful for my son. It's his Achilles heel.

During the last parent-teacher conference, his teacher told me all the things I already knew. My son's writing needed work. A LOT of work. So even though it was agonizing for him (and it was a little for me too) we forged ahead.

I created a story-in-four-days file folder. (Download a free 2-page PDF here and make your own file folder progressive story.) The idea was that the story would unfold over four days. He didn't need to know where it was going. He needed to answer questions, use descriptive words, and craft those answers and adjectives into sentences - writing a story in small pieces.

The question prompts page was glued to cover of the file folder and it was cut into four sections: 1) character & setting, 2) problem, 3) solution, and 4) conclusion.

The lined story paper was glued to the inside of the folder, directly underneath the other page.

Each day he completed a section of questions on the outside, opened the flap, and wrote three or four sentences about the details he'd just provided on the inside.

This activity reminds me of the cliché, "There's only one way to eat an elephant - one bite at a time." Writing stories is like eating an elephant for my son.

Day 1 there was crying.
Day 2 there was no crying, just whining.
Day 3 there was reluctance, but no whining.
Day 4 there was willingness and an end.

My son had written a short story. I was elated. But more importantly, he was extremely proud.


  1. This is such a great way to approach story writing! I love the way the steps are visually separated but then the kids can see them come together at the end!

    I also wanted to comment that all of your activities around practicing spelling words have been a life saver for me and my daughter! We cycle through them and she never complains about practicing them any more. Word dominos is another favourite that we now even bring with us when we travel! I have also used some of your math activities as she has started multiplication at school.

    Thanks so much for sharing all of these activities. Not only are you giving your kids a great help but all of us clueless moms too!

    1. Recognizing your daughter's needs, extending her learning outside of school, and finding resources to make it fun ... I'd say you're far from clueless! She's lucky to have such a dedicated mom. I'm glad I can help!

    2. Thanks so much for your kind words:)

      I wanted to add that as I was trying to come up with something for the kids to do for their grandma for mother's day I had the idea of using this to have them write stories about their grandma! My oldest can write her own and my 4 and 5 year olds can dictate to me and then we can cover the back of the folder with handprints!

  2. I love your blog so much. I wish we were neighbors because our sons seem so much alike! So glad I happened upon your blog on Pinterest!

  3. what a great idea ..I have a reluctant writer too . I am definitely going to try this idea!

  4. This will help a lot of reluctant writers, my 8 year old as well. School ends school here, and I plant to implement this throughout the summer. Thanks for always sharing such great activities.

  5. Hi, Thanks for this great post (and others)! I've translated your pdf into Dutch (for my kids). Would you mind very much if I posted the Dutch version on my blog (obviously I have left all the credits as is and would clearly point your blog out as source) or would you perhaps consider posting the Dutch version on your blog?
    I'm using this idea for the summer (as well as some others from your blog). Great stuff. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Cup of Tea, by all means, share away. My activities are free because I believe that learning should be as accessible as possible. I'm thrilled you found this useful enough to translate. Including a link to my blog on your site would be great. Thanks!

  6. This is amazing! Such a great way to introduce story writing piece by piece. Thank you!!!

  7. Yes, I am translating all too, because I am from Romania, both a mom of two (among of whom a son of 9, fighting telling the story he had read before) and I am also a teacher at the primary, range of age 6-7.
    Your work here is helping me, with all the children, to make a HUGE difference in teaching!

  8. Hi ! Love this idea !!! I just create the same things but in french for my class It's here if you want to see :

    thanks for this great work !