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Wednesday, August 9

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We like to spend the summer doing in-depth fun learning….as in, they choose the topic and I assist in their student-directed learning.  For example, one son is learning how to read and write hieroglyphs.  Strange child, I know, but that’s what he wanted to learn.  Another is learning the basics of aircraft mechanics.  He’s only ten, but hey, when you know what you want to do from birth, why wait to study it?  Another has been tinkering with building engineering projects….it’s taking everything I have to continually talk him out of wanting to build some sort of incendiary deviceWhat is it with boys and explosives?? 

And finally, one is all pirate-happy this summer – but that worked out really well for us in this case.  See, he also needs to really work on his writing, and we had the chance to check out A Pirate’s Guide to the Grammar of Story, by Yogger LeFossa, which is – as you may have guessed – writing with a pirate theme.  Yo ho, yo, a pirate’s life for us!!

A Pirate’s Guide to the Grammar of Story is a unique creative writing curriculum,
geared toward children aged 8-12, but it’s easily adaptable for slightly younger students (or up through high school students who need extra help with writing).  It’s written by a guy who has spent many years working with screenwriters and novelists, so he has a lot of real-world experience.  He has taken the principles of creative writing and put them into a format that is engaging for students…with a bit of grammar snuck into the mix.

It’s all in one workbook (can I get an ‘Amen’ for not having to keep up with a thousand components?) that can be used over the course of a year or a writing-intensive semester.  Older children can use it independently, but I really recommend doing it together as a family.  This gives everyone the opportunity to learn from each other, and gives you (the parent) a chance to walk through the creative process with your child…and probably learn something about him / her along the way!

The workbook opens in the middle of a story – the reader (your student) has been kidnapped by Captain LeFossa and is stuck on the crew.  The reader is hitherto referred to as Scurvy Spat, and his mission is to learn how to tell an engaging story.  He must complete this task before becoming a full-fledged member of the crew.  All of the text is written in ‘pirate speak,’ and admittedly it’s very difficult to read at first.  I dare you to try and read it without doing a pirate impression, too!  Once you get past the ‘pirate speak,’ it’s very engaging and witty….parents will enjoy it nearly as much as the kids.

Each chapter begins with a note from First Mate, the talking monkey, followed by the day’s exercises.  (These differ in length, and I would have liked to seen more consistency in the length…if for no other reason than planning.)  After this, there is a section where they work on their own writing – with the character they’ve developed.  Every few chapters, there is a review section, to go over concepts learned recently.

Woven throughout the text are lessons and exercises.  Mindstorming is used to introduce new ideas, including getting the students to begin their own writing.  They create a character, and then spend the rest of the curriculum crafting a story around that character.  For example, in one lesson, the assignment is to come up with as many adjectives as possible to describe the character they have created.  Other assignments include developing character background, personality, description, and actions.  Then, they use this character to write a short story.  Taking the character even deeper, students learn about setting, plot, crisis, character transformation, and resolution.

My son has many issues with writing, the process being only one of them.  We completed this curriculum together so that I could physically write down what he dictated.  However, I feel blessed to have done so, because it gave me a chance to see his mind in action as he wove together his own characters and story.  He has a very creative mind, and I could have missed out on some of that!  In the future, I’d love to see this curriculum used with different voices – for kids’ different interests.  For example, given his extreme interest in aviation, we may repeat the exercises again, but with a World War II pilot as the narrator….if mom can come up with some sort of story.  Until then…Anchors Aweigh!

Check out more pirate-themed studies with our FREE Pirate Unit Study (younger children) and FREE Pirate Adventure (upper elementary - middle school).

We are giving away a copy of A Pirate's Guide to the Grammar of Story to one lucky winner!  Enter below....  (Winner will have 24 hours to respond with mailing information)

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