family · parent involvement · presentations · writing workshop

Word Play (a writing night for families)

Tomorrow night I’ve been invited to talk with parents and host a mini-writing workshop for families. You must know, about a week ago, our youngest, Sam (a first grader), gave two slips of paper to each family member, along with a pen, and said, “Write two titles or story ideas on these slips. I’ll be back.”

Soon he was back with a small pitcher and said, “Put your idea in here and meet me at the table.”

Primarily because of curiosity, the entire family went to the table. There, we found a piece of notebook paper at each seat. (I promise I didn’t set this up!) Sam was the last to arrive and said, “Have a seat. Welcome to family writing night.” He covered the top of the pitcher and gave it a little shake. Then he offered the pitcher to each person to draw a slip of paper. “Write your story,” he said.

“It’s bedtime, so it’ll have to be quick,” I said. Andy laughed. Sam started writing. I did too. The girls looked at each other then giggled. Andy started writing words. So did Hannah and Stephanie.

Sam stopped writing and said, “I’ve been writing stories for four days. Mom said to make your characters move, think, and talk. Try it.” I couldn’t believe my ears.

Fifteen minutes later, I said, “Okay, we have to stop. It’s bedtime.”

“Not until we share,” Sam said.

Andy smirked at me across the table. He’s your son, the look said. So we each read our stories aloud. It was a lot of fun, but it was also bedtime. “Okay, up to bed,” I said.

But Sam wasn’t finished yet. “Thanks for coming to our first family writing night. We’ll do it again soon,” he said.

I’ve never considered orchestrating a family writing night. However, it now has my full endorsement.

Tomorrow, I plan to share a handful of ideas with parents.

We’ll start with thinking about stories we can tell. I’ll encourage families to tell ONE TIME stories.
We have time to tell stories and write together…if we want to chose to spend our time in this way.
Find natural fits in our days for sharing stories. In the car, around the table, at bedtime are all possibilities.
One of my favorite parts of this message. It’s important for parents to know perfection isn’t expected.

The majority of the time will be writing together — inspired by Sam. At the end of the evening, every family gets a blank book to take home and write together. I’m looking forward to the magic of story tomorrow night.

19 thoughts on “Word Play (a writing night for families)

  1. After reading the quote “sharing stories is one of the best ways to build relationships in our families”, I thought about how I’m now getting to the point in the year where each of my group of students is starting to feel like a family. And literally the day after I read the quote, one of my students says to me (after we had discussed some 6 Traits of writing from the text book), “hey wanna hear a story about X.” I smiled because I thought of what I had read here, and said, “sure!” I knew from past experience teaching that is how the students and I built a rapport and I like hearing their stories and I love that they are willing to share them with me. So now I look for a daily “Hey I have a story that totally relates to what we just read” moment from this student.


  2. What a precious little boy. The intuition of a 1st grader and the support of a loving family willing to play along… Sam’s idea for inspiring everyone at the table to write was great!


  3. I love this, Ruth. I love Sam’s impromptu family writing night, too. How precious! We started a family writing night two years ago in my elementary but our focus has never been storytelling. This is simply genius (not to mention a very commonsensical place to begin with parents). Thanks for pushing my thinking on what we could accomplish during this year’s event!


  4. Oh, Sam! I love this story! What a special moment for your family and I love the idea of a family writing night! (This speaks volumes of all the talking you do at home about writing as well — not just school.) And the timing just couldn’t be any better before your parent sharing night. I think your last bit of advice is most important for parents to walk away with at the end of the evening. Unfortunately, what many parents remember from school is the red markings and making it look right, so it is essential to stress the importance of story. You are awesome and so is your Sam!


  5. What a special night for families! Sam should probably be leading this workshop,though, Ruth. What a cutie!

    Your message is a powerful one. It reminds me of all we have been hearing lately about the impact of vocabulary on a child’s achievement.


  6. What a great idea. Your son sounds so cute! I love that.
    I’m writing a book with my second-grade granddaughter and we’re having a blast. It’s so important for her to know it doesn’t have to be perfect. Since we started this book she’s been making up so many stories and sharing them.
    I really enjoy your blog. I’m going to share it again today. Thanks,


  7. Wow — what a phenomenal idea! This is a great way for families to spend quality time together. Sam is just like you, huh?! It’s amazing what children will do when you ignite that passion for writing and reading. Way to go!


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