Story algorithm for reluctant writers

My 10 year old had a school activity to complete at home ‘complete the story. Write for 30 minutes’ and we battled. We battled on and off all day.

I suggested chunking the activity into 10 minute blocks but that was too much too. He needed it to be broken ‘right down’.

Not only did he not like the story he was supposed to complete (!) but he also found ‘writing’ overwhelming. 30 minutes! It is practically a whole day in his view.

Opening up the content to suit his interest (video game monster) and giving him a decomposed version of ‘writing’ using computational thinking and sequencing meant he could follow the steps more easily. He actually finished a little story. (Big achievement!).

So here is the algorithm.

1. Three things – idea dump. Set the scene, something happens, something else happens (to end the story). I wrote prompts of ‘what goes here’ at the top of three sections on the page. It was no longer a blank page and consequently less daunting.

2. Fill in blanks with ideas.

(Write but don’t worry about spelling.)

3. Read out loud and turn into sentences.

(This part needed some adult ‘I wonder if that makes sense’ think out loud assistance).

4. Add adjectives. (Describing words).

We looked at each noun and wondered about adjectives to go with them out loud before he wrote them in.

5. Add details. Any details. Paint a picture with words.

6. Check pronouns.

7. Check tense. (All present or all past).

7. Eliminate unnecessary details. (He has a tendency to go into too much detail with irrelevant ideas that are not in the first part of the story so this helps anchor the writing).

8. Bubble the ending. Is it nicely closed off? Is it a full thought bubble?

9. Leave the reader with a feeling.

10. Share proudly.

And at the end he said, “I actually like writing now”.

Big win for us. The battle was won.

Next steps: adverbs, similes. Getting him to unpack the algorithm on his own to write himself a set of instructions.

Stock image for ‘algorithm’. It fits because neurodiverse learners need structure. Sometimes even more than we initially plan for.

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