Creating Other Worlds- Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction

Blog, She Wrote: Creating Other Worlds- Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction

Ethan, our 11th grader, is a writer. He loves to create worlds and activity within them. When he was younger, his stories told a tale, but they often didn’t end concisely. Or they simply ended. A bit too concisely. Now that he is half way through high school, we’ve been honing in on his interests and his course work reflects this. Enter novel writing courses. For the past two years, he has immersed himself in the many worlds of his novel settings. Do you have a student who loves to write science fiction and fantasy?

Creating Other Worlds- Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing

If you are unfamiliar with the genres, suffice it to say the world in which the story takes place helps to set these stories apart from just any adventure tale. In some way, the author of a fantasy and science fiction novel will build a world. Sometimes the author creates a whole new fantastical world and sometimes it is a world within our world.

The basic story structure is carried over into “other worlds”. In both fantasy & sci fi literature one main thing is the game changer.

  • Science Fiction- You’ll find one main scientific breakthrough or advance which changes how the story will play out or it can be a single change in history that gives the story its twist.
  • Fantasy- There will be something else magical about the world. For example, in Narnia the animals talk.

Resources for World Building

Does your student like to write and immerse himself in new worlds? Here are a few links from the website Go Teen Writers to help students think about their world building.

Worldbuilding is a lot of work! That’s why learning to write an adventure first is a good idea because it takes place in our world and you can concentrate on the story itself rather than building a world at the same time. If you have a student working on writing herself a world, these posts will be very insightful.

Blog, She Wrote: Creating Other Worlds- Writing Fantasy & Science FictionUsing Other Worlds Curriculum to Teach Fantasy & Science Fiction Writing

Other Worlds is the science fiction and fantasy expansion module from One Year Adventure Novel by Daniel Schwabauer. Ethan, our 11th grader, has been working with the curriculum for a year. I asked him for his take on the program and here’s what he said:

  • One Year Adventure Novel (OYAN)- has to be completed first. The Other Worlds curriculum is based on the original OYAN and referencing the original lessons is helpful as you go along.
  • The Tools Are There to Be a Finisher- You still need to bang out twelve chapters, but the OYAN model is helpful in finishing your storytelling.
  • There’s a Basic Story Structure- Which is carried over from OYAN. Three acts with four defining scenes. The outlining of the events in your novel is important for the story.
  • History of the Genres- You’ll learn how science fiction and fantasy got their start and who the major players were.
  • What Makes Science Fiction & Fantasy?- There are 10 to 12 lessons devoted to what defines these genres.
  • Collision Course Anthology- Is a collection of stories and excerpts from fantasy and science fiction which help to illustrate Daniel’s lessons.
  • Community Forum- For students of OYAN & Other Worlds. This is a community of writers where you can get advice on developing characters, general writing tips, get help with story ideas, engage in novel critiques, contribute to a collective novel, etc.
  • Summer Workshops- Every summer OYAN students gather from all over to listen to seminars and work in critique groups to improve their writing and learn writer’s craft.

As the teacher and a mom I’ll add a few more tidibits I like about the curriculum:

  • Video Lessons- They are thorough and so well done. I enjoyed watching them with my student and I’m looking forward to seeing them again with Rebecca this year.
  • Great Talking Points- As you progress through the curriculum, there will be a lot of opportunity for discussion. This has been invaluable in our homeschool. We’ve talked about books- classics and modern and read even more. It’s been fun to talk about books and about life with our teens based on the lessons.
  • Engagement- Whether it’s the online community of teens or the regularly scheduled evening webinars and summer workshops, the author and his wife interact with and encourage your student as do the other students.

Science Fiction Writing Sample

Blog, She Wrote: Creating Other Worlds- Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction

Having completed the outline over the last school year as an elective, Ethan has been working on the novel. I’m not sure it has a name yet, but the first chapter is complete. He said I could share it with you all as long as I let you know it’s a work in progress! This is the first three paragraphs of the first chapter. Currently, he’s working on a prologue.

I woke with a start at the crack of lightning overhead, drowning the room in a flash of light. The whole house shook when the thunder came a moment later. The rain pelted down, making little ‘ting’ sounds as it hit the roof and gutters. A dull roar built up in my head; each raindrop seemed to increase the pressure inside. With a sigh I pulled the blankets up a little farther up and rolled over. A moment later I pushed them back down and rolled the other way. Another crack lit up the sky.

I looked at the clock. 11:43. It was still early. And the storms were as bad as they ever had been. There were no good explanations. No explanations at all, in fact. Except one.… Whispers, rumors moving through the populace. Tales of a people who- No, I thought. But there was no doubt that the storms were getting worse. And there was nothing the government could do this time.

I slipped my feet from underneath the covers and onto the hard wood floor. The old boards creaked as I put my weight on them. I tip-toed down the hall to the old study. My exhaustion vanished in there, I was able to sleep. Why can I sleep in here? But I didn’t really care why, I just came to rest. I closed the heavy door behind me and sat in my father’s armchair to wait out the night.

His writing has really matured over the last few years since he initially started OYAN in 8th grade. It’s been enjoyable to watch the process. These days he writes (even in the summer) about an hour a day on average, but he said it should be more. I’m excited to see how his writing schedule takes shape this fall as he enters into a variety of writing courses.

Other Resources for Teaching Science Fiction & Fantasy Genres

Given that Ethan has such a profound interest in writing and literature, we’ve been taking advantage of opportunities as they come along.

  • Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop- At our local library. A local author is teaching “other world” writing through twice weekly gatherings for teens. At the end, their writing will be included in an anthology which is published.
  • Dystopian Literature Class- As part of our two hour, ten week co-op, Ethan is taking a dystopian literature class in which they will read and compare Fahrenheit 451 with The Hunger Games- a classic sci fi novel with a modern tale.
  • World of Imagination: Fantasy & Science Fiction Literature- Taught through The Potter’s School, these are two one semester courses. They will make the bulk of his English course for the year.

Do you have a student who loves to write stories? Do you have a big fantasy and science fiction fan in your home? Enjoy the journey with your student and engage in their world with them!

How to Build up A Repertoire of Words

Blog, She Wrote: How to Build up A Repertoire of WordsThis post may contain affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

It’s easier to write when you have the tools to work with and one tool which goes a long way is vocabulary. Today’s post is all about How to Build up A Repertoire of Words.

Blog, She Wrote: Story Cubes Review at Curriculum Choice

Ideas on How to Play with Words

Enjoying and playing around with words is a great way to build up a repertoire of new words. Sure, you can focus on vocabulary and word exercises and programs, but an authentic approach helps you to hold on to the new words better.

  • How to Make a Word Collage {& Why}- A post from earlier this school year on how to use a thesaurus and art supplies to reflect on a word and all its uses and meanings. It’s one of our favorites and my word kids love this activity.
  • Five Ways to Play with Words- A post I did for Bright Ideas Press in the fall on all sorts of ways to get to know words.
  • Rory’s Story Cubes- Fun way to create story and practice words with friends or alone. This one is my recent review over at The Curriculum Choice.
  • Writing with Word Cards- Give word cards kids have to use in their writing. They can be ordinary or not, but always try to give a new word.
  • The Dictionary Quest- The perfect activity to make friends with a printed dictionary. Use the dictionary to explore a word and the words around it. Those of us growing our vocabularies before the internet, have the advantage of wandering through print dictionaries and stumbling across all sorts of words surrounding the target word. Use this activity to investigate new words. At random!

Blog, She Wrote: The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home

Reading Builds Vocabulary

The more kids are exposed to words in a variety of contexts, the more they get to know new words. Be sure to get your kids reading- whether they like the process or not! Madeline L’Engle said it well when she talked about how we need many words to make sure our thoughts can stay big (that’s the Heather Woodie paraphrase).

The more limited our language is, the more limited we are; the more limited the literature we give to our children, the more limited their capacity to respond, and therefore, in their turn, to create. The more our vocabulary is controlled, the less we will be able to think for ourselves. We do think in words, and the fewer words we know, the more restricted our thoughts. As our vocabulary expands, so does our power to think. – Madeline L’Engle

If you need ideas for how to getting ready to be a regular part of your home, here are a few I’ve compiled.

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Coaching Writing Helps to Build a Word Repertoire

One of my favorite things to do as a homeschool mom is to banter with my kids over their writing. From the youngest to the oldest, it is always an engaging time to see what their vision is and to hear them tell about their writing choices. Often, we’ll talk about using strong words to replace weak choices so they can convey a thought more precisely.

  • Resources for Coaching Writers- Do you need some help finding things that will help you to work with your students? This post is full of books, websites, and general information on working with student writing.
  • Coaching Writing Pinterest Board- This board has all sorts of ideas on how to work directly with student writers. Mostly for middle and high school students, you’ll find many resources here.
  • Essay Rockstar- Do you find that you have trouble being a mentor to your student’s writing? Essay Rockstar could be the tool you are looking for to have occasional or routine outsourced help with writing.

Whatever you choose to do to enhance your use of words, make it fun. Try out new activities and think about words. Use them. Try them out. Surprise people with them. Make words enjoyable. Play with meanings. Challenge yourself to find precise words. See how your use of language changes and see how your writing changes. Join your kids with word challenges. See what happens!

Summer Reading Challenge without The Carrot & Stick

Blog, She Wrote: Summer Reading Challenge without The Carrot & Stick

This post may contain affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

It’s summer time once again and homeschooling parents everywhere are thinking about how to keep the academics fresh in their students’ minds and how to keep kids reading throughout the summer. Summer reading programs abound whether it’s the library, the bookstore, or even the local pizza shop. Everyone wants to add up the books read and hand out the rewards. 

What are the summer reading plans for your homeschool this year? What if we shatter the paradigm on summer reading and require it without the baiting? How would that look?

Don’t Be Afraid to Assign Reading

Parents worry a lot about assigning reading to their kids. We want our kids to love to read and we believe that if we make our kids read, they can’t possibly learn to love it. However, there is evidence to suggest that required reading is pretty important.

  • The Read Aloud Handbook- Jim Trelease in his book about how reading aloud affects children as readers, specifically tells us not to be afraid to require reading from our kids. After all, practice makes a better reader no matter who we are or how well we read. Ben Carson is a classic example of this. The story goes that his mother, who only had a 3rd grade education, turned off the TV on Ben and his brother and required them to read and write about what they read. The rest, as they say, is history.
  • Getting the Most out of Your Homeschool Summer- This book talks about taking a break for the summer and making sure you take a break even if you school year round, but the author also recommends using the summer for purposeful reading for your students. Many resources, including this one, mention the book lists for college bound students. This is a great time to check some of them off and add them to the finished list.
  • Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations- Written by Alex & Brett Harris, this book is all about showing teens they have a lot to offer and how they can break through the stereotypes of the typical teenager today. When they were 16 and and their debating days were coming to a close, their father put the boys on an intense reading program for the summer. The stack of huge books included titles on varying topics such as history, philosophy, theology, sociology, science, business, journalism, and globalization. They read a lot of the time that summer and the more they read, the more excited they became of the ideas they were learning about. Wanting to do something about these ideas, eventually led to their website- The Rebelution.

The point is just because our kids may not choose to read, that doesn’t mean we should shy away from assigning it. I’ve seen many students get excited about a topic or a book when they’ve been told to read it. If our kids, especially the ones not inclined to read on their own, are never stretched to new places in books, their experience will become limited and they will miss out.

The more limited our language is, the more limited we are; the more limited the literature we give to our children, the more limited their capacity to respond, and therefore, in their turn, to create. The more our vocabulary is controlled, the less we will be able to think for ourselves. We do think in words, and the fewer words we know, the more restricted our thoughts. As our vocabulary expands, so does our power to think. – Madeline L’Engle

Blog She Wrote: Summer Reading Challenge without The Carrot & Stick

Avoid the Carrot & Stick Approach to Summer Reading

That’s not to say you have to forgo any sort of summer reading fun, but connecting book reading directly with a reward seems counter intuitive. If you have more than one child, it gets cumbersome to keep track of and it feels a lot like coercion. Here are some other tried and true ideas for encouraging reading:

  • Enjoy reading books together- Change things up so kids aren’t always reading alone. When my readers were at the emergent stage, I often would read with them. They would read a portion and I would read some and we’d take turns. This way reading isn’t always a solitary activity.
  • Have book discussions- Engage with your kids about the books they are reading. Let them know you’ll talk about the chapter they’ve read for the day and ask them what they think. It’s easy to get simple answers, but try to draw the story out of your child and offer some insight as you go. This is a great way to check up on how your kids are understanding what they read and it’s done in an authentic conversational sort of way.
  • Form a summer book club- We’ve had a girl’s book club going all year and their June selection is Frankenstein. Book clubs let kids come together to talk about a book and they are more willing to read titles outside of their usual experience. Forming a summer book club is a fun way to encourage kids to read. Of course, there are plenty of activities that go with book club gatherings so prepare to insert some fun!

Blog, She Wrote: Summer Reading Challenge without The Carrot & Stick

Summer Reading Resources & Ideas

There is no shortage of summer reading ideas. Here are a few for inspiration:

  • Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home- This ultimate post has so many ideas for building a reading environment in your home- from babies to high schoolers. Don’t miss this resource. You’ll find resources for any time of year including the summer.
  • Book Wagon- I really enjoyed this creative idea from another blogger. Fill a wagon with favorite titles and new ones and take your books on the road to a picnic or in the yard under a favorite tree.
  • Set up Your Home Library- Make sure your home library is engaging for your kids. Rotate titles, get new titles and make use of eReaders!
  • Give eReader Surprises- Make ample use of your Kindle and surprise the kids now and then with a new title. You can check your library for titles or keep an eye out for Kindle deals. I have a Pinterest board on eReader Homeschooling which has a lot of ebook resources all in one spot.
  • Five Reasons to Use an eReader Kindle- I have found our Kindles to be invaluable in our homeschool. If you haven’t given one serious though, here are some compelling reasons. I find myself using the library less and grabbing an ebook in 10 seconds which costs less than the price of gas to get to the library!
  • Five Reasons to Use a Tablet Kindle- This little affordable tablet is a great tool for listening to audio books, watching video, and reading text clearly. I didn’t imagine how useful this tool would be for our homeschool.

Blog, She Wrote: Summer Reading Challenge without The Carrot & Stick

Summer Reading Challenges

If you are going to set a reading challenge before your kids this summer, consider bringing them to the table to have input on their challenge. If you know that will not be productive or you have something in mind (like Mr. Harris), then forge ahead and put together a reading list for your children. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:

  • Set a Number- Simply set a number of books they must read. However, you will want to add some parameters such as “new books” or ” a particular genre”. Assign four books for the month but they must be new titles. Be creative about how to set a number and see it through. Take the challenge with your kids!
  • Classics- Assign a certain number of classic titles. If your kids haven’t read much in the classic arena, then the sky is the limit on choices. You can suggest tales of intrigue and adventure or any other type of story your student might like. So many of these are great stories which are rarely read because they intimidate. Shake the reputation and select a few this summer.
  • Set a Time for Reading- Rather than focusing on the number of books tackled, focus on the amount of time you read daily. That will take care of numbers in the end most likely if you are consistent. If your kids aren’t inclined to read on their own, you can read at the same time. What better way to get your extra reading in during the summer. Once the habit is set and you feel your kids are enjoying the time, you can relax and let them choose a time. However, my boys love to read and it is still a great practice to set a time. Otherwise, they may always find other things to do!
  • Set Your Own Summer Reading Goal- And join your kids in the reading challenge. I know I always have books I want to read and re-read during the summer. What better way to meet your own goal than to join your kids in meeting theirs? Research shows that seeing parents read has a positive effect on children’s reading. Let them see you making reading a priority this summer!

I have grown so weary of the trinket based programs that try and encourage reading. Require your kids to read. Just like you require them to eat their vegetables. Don’t worry about your kids being turned off to reading because you require it. We don’t have to love to read. We just have to do it.

Be real with them and enjoy discussions based on the books they are reading. Gather kids together and make books engaging for the sake of the story. But stop with the prizes. They don’t make readers.

So, let’s join the challenge together. Make reading a part of your summer without meticulously counting books and making it a race. Simply set some goals- either together or on your own and make it happen.

Happy Reading!