Week of June 10, 2012: Finding Inspiration
Tuesday, June 12—Family Interview
The phrase most often heard in a writing classroom is “I don’t know what to write about.” Many picture book writers have the same problem. I try to head off that problem by providing lots of idea-gathering tools for my students throughout the year. One of the first homework assignments I give is a sheet entitled “Family Interview: Gathering Stories From My Family.” (Imagine homework that asks a family to sit down together and talk—what a novel concept!)
Students gather stories from their families in three categories:
1. What was a funny thing I did when I was little? (Usually kids list several ideas.)
2. Tell me a story about your childhood.
3. What is your favorite time we have spent together as a family?
When students bring back their completed sheets, they share their interview discoveries with a partner or small group. I encourage kids to place stars beside the ideas they love the most and want to write about in the future. We place the sheets in our Writing Portfolio/Writer’s Notebook for continued use.
Ways to extend the use of the interview sheet:
1. 1. Students may use additional sheets to interview grandparents, aunties, uncles, and others who are important in their lives.
2. 2. Throughout the year additional interview sheets with new questions can be sent home.
3. 3. Periodically, remind students to look back at their interview sheets to find ideas to write about.
How a picture book writer could use the interview sheet:
1. 1. Sit down and interview your family. You may even want to use one interview sheet form for each of your family members.
2. 2. Interview extended-family members to discover family stories that may be close to being lost forever.
3. 3. Let your interviews inspire you to write. Maybe a story you hear/remember would make a perfect story just as it is, maybe what you hear/remember is a scene in a story, maybe what you hear/remember inspires a totally different story. Write down each and every idea. Save those ideas in your Writer’s Notebook and get busy writing!