The Ins and Outs of the Family Writing Night

Family Writing Nights create both a social and creative outlet for families to enjoy. The purpose of this event is to experience writing as a form of creative expression and communication. Whether the attendee is relaying an experience or painting an image with words (or even crayons for younger children), this evening encourages all to express themselves and share with others. Family Writing Nights provide an opportunity for families to form a partnership with the school and to make connections with other families. By carefully structuring this event, attendees will understand expectations and be able to fully enjoy this evening.

Some tips:

A quiet atmosphere needs to be encouraged for writing. Sitting together as a family fosters a supportive atmosphere. Parents can be encouraged to have younger children dictate to them for part or all of the writing portion. All types of expression are encouraged. It’s important to have drawing material available at writing tables. Presenters need to model sharing. Polished pieces are not expected and that may be a point to have attendees understand. This may be most important for adults. Three chart paper sheets were posted around the room for interactive communication. One might ask to draw a
silly snowman. Another might ask what the reader’s favorite word is. Ask for rhyming words, alliteration, drawings of leaves, sounds that mud makes, drawings of jack-o-lanterns, funny faces, leaves, signs of spring etc.

Ways to expand: use images or items (such as shells, leaves etc.)

Dinner: 30 minutes
(penne w/choice of red sauce or butter, salad, garlic bread, apple cider and water)

Writing Prompt: 7 minutes
(Examples: If you were a season, what season would you be? Describe a perfect winter day. Describe a favorite family event. Write about a time when you felt loved or showed someone love. What flavor ice cream best describes you? What book would you want to jump into?) Be mindful of the time of year, season, events, happenings, etc. Writing prompts might connect to Martin Luther King Jr., a  undraising event, elections, world events, etc.

Small group share: 5 minutes
(sharing at tables of 8)

Short Story/Discussion to spark ideas: 7 minutes
A good picture book to share is one that many people can connect to on different levels. Think: Can a grandmother and kindergartner both relate to this story? Read a picture book aloud. Ask “What does this make you think of? What ideas does it spark? Use this story to help start something new or feel free to continue on what you were working on.” (Short stories used in the past are listed below.)

Writing: for 15-20 minutes

Whole group share: 7 minutes
Open up the sharing to the whole group and encourage all types expression, including drawings. Sometimes people might just want to talk through their ideas. It helped to have the facilitators model the writing process, including struggles.

Dessert: 15 minutes
(ice cream sundaes or cookies, or sheet cake)

Clean up: 20 minutes

Materials needed:
• Folders
• Paper (lined, plain and elementary school lined)
• Pencils
• Crayons
• Variety of short stories

Here are some short stories that we used:
• When the Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
• The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco
• Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
• Pumpkins by Mary Lynn Ray
• Mud by Mary Lynn Ray
• Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
• All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan
• The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster
• Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
• Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
• The Pigeon Wants a Puppy by Mo Willems
• The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant
• When I was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant
• In November by Cynthia Rylant
• Night in the Country by Cynthia Rylant

Cost: We budgeted $70.00 per family writing night. We would pre-buy folders and paper at the beginning of
the year.

Kari Allen
Arlene Taranow