This year I volunteered in the classroom to teach a group of 4th and 5th graders how to write fanfiction stories. It was a great experience! I got the chance to see some really excited writers and read their work, and the kids got the chance to have fun writing.
When planning it, I thought about what would have helped me as a young writer. I was constantly writing stories, but I felt like they all had the same character in them . . . a girl with an embarrassing similarity to me! There’s nothing wrong with that, but it made me feel self-conscious about my writing. I was also self-conscious about writing stories featuring my favorite book characters. I didn’t realize that authors are always borrowing characters and plots and then reworking them.
I also thought about what would be helpful for kids who think they can’t write. Grownups make writing quite difficult for kids by insisting it be done “the right way.” That’s why so many adults have writer’s block. In some ways, schooling seems to have improved — I’m seeing more focus on starting out with a rough draft and not worrying about spelling and punctuation in that rough draft. But at the same time, there’s a much smaller emphasis on teaching handwriting, and that hinders kids’ fluency and their feelings about their own writing. So writer’s block isn’t going away anytime soon!
Teaching fanfiction instead of regular fiction had big advantages for both these groups. Self-conscious writers don’t have to worry that their characters or plots suck, because somebody else made them up. And they don’t have to worry so much about pleasing adults — only themselves.
In the next few blog posts, I’ll be writing about my experience. I also have some worksheets to share, so I’ll be uploading them to this blog for general use.