August 27th, 2014 — College Prep, Writing & Journal Prompts
These days, students applying to colleges of their choice face stiff competition. To help narrow the selection of applicants, some universities have come up with out-of-the-box college essay topics to see who stands out from the crowd.
From the student’s point of view, application essay prompts are often boring, but clever topics like these inspire creativity. So whether you’re brushing up your college essay skills or are simply on the lookout for fun or unusual writing topics, one of these quirky writing prompts has your name on it!
1. Seen Through Their Eyes
If any of these three inanimate objects could talk, how would your room, computer, or car describe you?
Source: Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley
2. Just As I Am
Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.
Source: University of Virginia
What sets your heart on fire?
Source: Villanova University
4. 140 Characters
Some say social media is superficial, with no room for expressing deep or complex ideas. We challenge you to defy these skeptics by describing yourself as fully and accurately as possible in the 140-character limit of a tweet.
Source: Wake Forest University
5. Back to the Future
You are required to spend the next year of your life in either the past or the future. What year would you travel to and why?
Source Brandeis University
6. The Man in the Red-Striped Shirt
So where is Waldo, really?
Source: University of Chicago
7. Just Say No
What invention would the world be better off without, and why?
Source: Kalamazoo College
8. Pot of Gold
What do you hope to find over the rainbow?
Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
If you enjoyed these college application essay prompts, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays! Once a month, we feature topics especially suited for high school students.
August 25th, 2014 — Contests & Giveaways
We hit a big milestone on our WriteShop Facebook page last week: 5,000 likes! We so appreciate you being part of our Facebook community, and we’re celebrating with a special giveaway.
To thank you for your support of WriteShop, we’re giving one winner a choice of any level of WriteShop curriculum. That’s right: the winner will receive the teacher’s guide and student workbook for any level in WriteShop Primary, WriteShop Junior, or WriteShop I or II.
WriteShop Primary gives K-3rd graders an introduction to early writing skills. Young children learn to plan, write, and revise stories and short reports through activities such as games, picture books, and crafty projects. Topics especially appeal to these early elementary ages, and the hands-on learning experience is perfect for younger kids. Reading and writing skills are not needed, as all activities may also be done orally.
WriteShop Primary family features Book A, Book B, and Book C.
WriteShop Junior exposes 3rd-6th graders to genre, fiction and nonfiction writing, and journaling—and introduces great tools that truly motivate young writers. Prewriting games help them practice writing skills in such a fun way, they have no idea they’re doing school work! Graphic organizers help budding writers plan their stories and reports. And there are all sorts of engaging editing tools that actually make it fun to revise!
WriteShop Junior family includes Book D and brand-new Book E.
WriteShop I & II
WriteShop I & II for junior high and high school students offer step-by-step lessons, challenging assignments, and creative activities.
WriteShop I students improve writing skills by becoming proficient in four vital techniques: brainstorming, drafting, editing, and revising. WriteShop II users will expand their skills by learning about descriptive narration, point of view, and voice. This level introduces essay writing, including timed essays.
Enter the Giveaway
If you’re not yet part of our Facebook community, we invite you to join today! Just visit us on the WriteShop Facebook page and click “like.”
The giveaway is open to all U.S. residents, ages 18 years and older only. Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM (ET) on Sunday, August 31. The winner will be selected at random using Random.org via RaffleCopter.
The winner will be notified via email and given 72 hours to respond. You must enter a valid email address to win. In the event that the winner cannot be contacted by email or does not respond within 72 hours, the prize will be forfeited and and alternate winner selected.
This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. By entering, you acknowledge a complete release of Facebook for anything associated with this promotion.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
August 20th, 2014 — Writing & Journal Prompts
Who doesn’t love a good laugh? A healthy dose of humor is pretty hard to resist. These funny persuasive prompts will help you practice writing to convince, but instead of dull, ordinary topics, each one is laced with a touch of silliness!
1. It’s a Cover Up
As a citizen of your town, you want to convince the city council that pets should wear clothing. At their next meeting, you will have the chance to state your case. Prepare an explanation telling why animals want to dress up, why the public wants pets to wear clothes, and what sorts of outfits pets might wear for different occasions or in various settings.
2. Dragon’s Lair
A dragon has made a nest in a large tree in your backyard, and the two of you have just started becoming friends. How will you persuade your parents to let it stay?
3. Extreme Sports
The Summer Olympics feature core sports such as archery, beach volleyball, and gymnastics, but there are always new events that ask to be included in the program. Invent a crazy new summer sport you would like to add to the Summer Olympics, such as underwater boxing, parachute biking, or camel wrestling. Write a letter to the International Olympic Committee in which you describe your sporting event and persuade them to consider adding it as an event in the 2024 Summer Games.
For extra fun, ask a parent for permission to use the Letter Generator at ReadWriteThink.org.
4. Go, Granny, Go!
While on vacation with your grandparents in Hawaii, you see an advertisement offering a 2-for-1 deal on a snorkeling or parasailing excursion. Make a list of reasons why your elderly grandma should do one of these activities with you.
Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
By Kim Kautzer
August 18th, 2014 — High school, Writing Across the Curriculum
Do you have a teen gourmet or budding chef in the house? Have any of your kids traveled overseas? These writing activities invite them to explore recipes, describe travel experiences with food, or write a restaurant review.
Encourage your high schoolers to explore their culinary passion or hobby with one of these projects that encourages writing about food and culture.
This article contains affiliate links for books we think your family will enjoy.
Writing Project: American As Apple Pie
A well-rounded study of a geographic region or period of history can include maps, literature, art—even food! This activity focuses specifically on American cookery, helping you learn about foods of the past, regional dishes, or even your own family’s everyday eating habits.
Search recipe files, family cookbooks, specialty cookbooks, and online sources to find some recipes that are uniquely American. Your collection should include at least 10 recipes that relate to a single topic or theme.
If possible, choose a theme that ties into your current history or geography studies. Here are several possibilities:
- Colonial American or frontier recipes
- First Ladies’ recipes (from one First Lady or several)
- Regional or cultural recipes (choose one, such as New England, the South, or soul food)
- Ethnic foods introduced by immigrants (choose one, such as Scandinavian, German, or Italian)
- Contemporary cookery (choose one theme, such as salads, cookies, or breakfast foods)
Once you’ve chosen your topic and gathered your recipes, prepare three of them. Then, evaluate each one by asking yourself some questions, such as: Was this recipe easy to prepare? How did the final dish look, smell, and taste? What did your family think of it? Would you make it again? Why or why not?
Finally, make a booklet of your 10 recipes, designing or decorating it to match your theme.
Writing Project: A Taste of Travel
Have you ever eaten haggis or blood pudding? How about fried locusts or Vegemite? These foods may sound weird to us, but in other parts of the world, someone else is probably gobbling them down right now! If you’re up for the challenge, this writing project invites you to take a look at unusual foods.
My children are now grown, but when they were teens, they spent many summers on overseas missions trips. Their travels gave them the opportunity to try some strange local foods they wouldn’t normally eat here in the States.
Our middle daughter went to Peru when she was 15. One evening, her team was introduced to cuy chactado, or fried guinea pig. It sounds nasty, doesn’t it? But she actually loved the chicken-like meat. Do you want to see a picture of cuy chactado? Click here if you’re brave.
When our son was 16, he spent a summer in Botswana. In Africa, people eat dried mopane worms as a snack. He wanted to experience all sorts of new things while in his host country, so yes—he really did eat a caterpillar. (I don’t think I could be that brave. But who knows?) You can see a picture here, but don’t click if you think it will gross you out!
Have you ever traveled internationally? Perhaps you’ve been on a missions trip overseas, visited grandparents or other family, or vacationed in a foreign country. Write about your culinary experiences during your travels, choosing one or more of the following topics:
Describe the weirdest food you ate. How did it look and taste? What was its texture like? What did you think of it? Would you eat it again?
What was your favorite new food to try? Describe it.
Did you experience any unusual mealtime customs or expectations? How does this culture approach food? Explain how different it is from the way most Americans eat.
Writing Project: Restaurant Review
Next time you go out for a meal with your family—whether to a fast-food place, local diner, or a nice sit-down restaurant, write a review about your experience.
The gourmet burgers might be fantastic, but the service is slow. Or the food isn’t great, but there’s a breathtaking view. Because a restaurant review is about more than just food, be prepared to take in the whole dining experience. Include details about atmosphere, service, and food so you can give an accurate review. Readers appreciate knowing both the pros and cons. You’ll probably find it helpful to take notes to help you recall your meal.
Write descriptively. Vague words like good, delicious, or bad don’t communicate a food’s characteristics. Instead, explain how a food tastes by using specific words to describe appearance, aroma, flavors, and textures.
Vague: For dessert, I had their delicious Molten Lava Cake and ice cream. It was a perfect way to end the meal.
Descriptive: Topped with a generous scoop of homemade vanilla-bean ice cream, the rich Molten Lava Cake was drenched in a warm, fudgy sauce. What a sweet way to end the meal!
Make your review personal. Be real! Then, with a parent’s permission, publish your review on a site like Yelp or Urban Spoon.
By Kim Kautzer
August 13th, 2014 — Writing & Journal Prompts
Summer may be screeching to a close, but these imaginative summer vacation writing prompts can still inspire your children. Whether they’re floating in a houseboat or roaming the local nature center, real or imaginary summertime outings can be packed with adventure!
Kids will love to picture themselves zooming down a rollercoaster, working as a cruise director, digging up dinosaur bones, or heading off to sports camp. Each prompt is so much fun, they may want to choose all of them!
1. My Kind of School
This summer, your family has decided to take a “learning vacation.” Options include participating in a dinosaur dig in Utah, exploring ancient ruins in Rome or Greece, or snorkeling at a coral reef off the Australian coast. Which one would you vote for? Write about three things you would like to explore, discover, or learn about on this vacation.
2. House Float
Imagine your family will live on a houseboat for a week this summer. Write about four things you will do on this vacation.
3. Good Sports
Are you crazy about baseball? Is volleyball your game? Maybe you love sailing, soccer, or gymnastics. Imagine your surprise when your parents tell you they’re sending you to sports camp this summer! What kind of sports camp will you attend? Write a paragraph describing three skills you want to learn or improve while you’re away. Make sure to explain why each one is important.
Instead of traveling this summer, what if your family decided to vacation at home? Talk with your mom or dad about fun places within 100 miles that you have never been to before, such as botanical gardens or nature centers; zoos; museums; historical landmarks; parks or recreational sites; sports centers; amusement parks; or community theater.
Now pretend you have visited one of these places during your “staycation.” Write a journal entry describing your day. Use your five senses to tell about what you saw, heard, and felt. Don’t forget to describe some snacks or meals, too!
5. Cruisin’ Kids
A cruise ship has hired you to be their Children’s Activities Director. Make a list of 10 or more crafts, games, activities, and special events you will plan for this summer’s cruising families.
If your children have enjoyed these, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
August 11th, 2014 — Homeschooling
This article contains affiliate links for products we think your family will love!
A designated writing center in your home not only invites your kids to write and create, it provides a space to corral all the writing supplies so they’re handy and available whenever the muse (or the assignment!) strikes. Large or small, a writing center is just one feature of your homeschooling space. Below, I’ve gathered ideas for writing centers from Pinterest that fit every home, whether you have a sprawling schoolroom or no room to spare.
1. Over-the-Door Pocket Writing Center
Handy yet space-saving, a see-through shoe organizer that hangs on the back of a door makes a great place to stash writing supplies. Some, like this one, have a couple of larger pockets to accommodate paper too. I love how A Bowl Full of Lemons has organized this vinyl organizer.
A Bowl Full of Lemons
2. Writing Center in a Bag
My friend Maureen at Spell Outloud organizes writing supplies in a portable tote. This Organizing Utility Tote from Thirty-One Gifts, is sturdy enough to hold teacher’s manuals, paper, and folders. Side pockets hold pens, pencils, and more. If you’re using WriteShop Junior Book D or Book E, this is a fabulous way to keep everything you need at the ready.
3. Writing Center for Primary Ages
Here are tons of ideas that especially cater to young writers in kindergarten to third grade. You’ll find storage solutions of all kinds along with ideas for stocking your writing center with brainstorming and writing supplies, reference books, and creative publishing tools.
In Our Write Minds
4. High School Writing Center
When your kids enter high school, they’ll trade fancy paper and markers for slightly more sophisticated writing tools. Here’s a list of supplies you may want to consider for your teen’s writing center.
Following in His Footsteps
5. Writing Nook
A tabletop (or similar surface) paired with rolling storage work together to create a writing, notebooking, and lapbooking center. This one is part of a larger schoolroom that took over the family dining room, but it can also find a home in any available corner of your home.
6. Mobile or Dedicated Writing Center Ideas
If you’re not sure what sort of writing center will work for you, check out this post. You’ll find suggestions for establishing and stocking both permanent and portable centers, along with ideas for younger children and teens.
Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers
SPECIALTY WRITING CENTERS
You might want to create a specialty writing center! Whether it’s a little cubby for your preschooler’s writing supplies, a super-portable tin or box that takes up no room at all, or a temporary writing center devoted to a special area of study, one of these ideas may be just the ticket.
1. Mini Writing Center in a Box
Fill a tin or small box with paper, stationery, envelopes, stickers, and writing tools that your younger children can call their own, such as this one:
Adventures in Mommydom
2. Subject-Specific Writing Station
Here’s a brilliant idea! Create a temporary writing center dedicated to a topic you’re going to be studying for several weeks or a month. This birds writing station invites children to explore and write about birds. It includes writing prompt cards, bird fact cards, bird booklets, and bird-themed lined paper. You could make similar writing stations devoted to sharks, flowers, Japan—whatever! What are you studying about? The possibilities are endless.
3. Portable LEGO Story Folder
Do you have a LEGO lover? Boys can be prone to reluctance when it comes to writing, but this LEGO-themed writing folder may turn his crank! It may not be a traditional “writing center,” but because it’s slim and portable, he can take elements for his stories wherever he goes! As an added bonus, you’ll find printable LEGO story pages here too.
Home Grown Learners
Do you use a dedicated writing center in your homeschool? Linking up to the 2014 “Not” Back-to-School Blog Hop.
Permission obtained from original sources to use each of the above photos.
August 6th, 2014 — Writing & Journal Prompts
Stir up some spectacular storytelling creativity with August’s free printable story prompt! Invite the kids to pick several words from the list and start spinning a tale of mystery or enchantment.
Click the image above to download the Spectacular Storytelling free writing printable. If you would like to share this free writing prompt with others, link to this post. Do not link directly to the PDF file.
Check out our huge archive of prompts from Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
August 4th, 2014 — Grammar & Spelling
Across the Internet, it’s all the rage to poke fun at grammar and spelling bloopers that appear on signs, websites, and even Facebook posts.
A quick tour around the web will lead you to articles with titles such as:
- Top 5 Annoying Grammatical Mistakes
- 10 Punctuation Mistakes That Make You Look Stupid
- Five Grammar Errors That Make You Look Dumb
- 8 Grammatical Errors That Could Scare Away Readers
- 10 Résumé Mistakes That Can Cost You The Job
I won’t lie—there are some pretty hilarious examples out there. Funny as many of these are, however, this amazing scope of writing errors has begun to knock some sense into people. Homeschoolers, educators, and business folks alike are becoming increasingly concerned about teaching correct usage to this generation of students.
Bad Grammar Ruins a Good Message
Grammar and punctuation are a big deal. I don’t think I can say this too many times: poor grammar, spelling, and punctuation can interfere with your student’s writing success.
Sloppy grammar can render an otherwise great paper ineffective, because no matter how compelling the argument, some people just can’t get past the glare of those mechanical errors. Your teen may have interesting, clever things to say, but if his command of English usage is poor, it will get in the way of a good written message.
We’ve heard the old adage: Never judge a book by its cover, but let’s be honest. Right or wrong, we all make snap judgments about every person we meet. The way someone dresses, his hairstyle, his table manners, and the way he speaks can make us think highly of that person—or not so highly.
Writing that contains incorrect grammar, spelling, and punctuation can have a similar effect. A person may be bright and articulate, but if his writing is riddled with errors, it can actually make him appear uneducated and can jeopardize employment or advancement opportunities.
So what’s the purpose of grammar and punctuation? Basically, these writing conventions help students communicate clearly, avoid ambiguity, and prevent misunderstandings. Here’s a humorous example:
The murderer protested his innocence an hour after he was put to death.
By adding a bit of punctuation, the true meaning of the sentence becomes clear:
The murderer protested his innocence. An hour after, he was put to death.
What a difference in meaning!
There are tons of grammar rules to help students improve the way they communicate in writing. Through practice and application, your children will find that most grammar concepts eventually become second nature.
Where Do You Start?
There’s a lot to learn. Where should you begin? What concepts should you teach? Diagramming may have its merits, but more practically:
- Does your student understand when to use which instead of that?
- Does he correctly use affect and effect, their/there/they’re, and other frequently flip-flopped homophones?
- Can he identify and fix misplaced modifiers?
- Does he know when to use I and when to use me?
Grammar matters, so make it an important part of teaching writing. Teach correct punctuation. Practice using homophones correctly. Work on your kids’ grammar skills.
You can all brush up together! Why not start with these six helpful links?
July 30th, 2014 — Writing & Journal Prompts
Whether your kids are applying for a job in a candy shop or rebuking a naughty vacuum cleaner, these writing prompts for letter writing will inspire creativity—and even a few laughs!
1. The Sweetest Job
Your favorite candy store is hiring children. Write a letter to the owner of the store explaining three reasons why you are the perfect person for the job.
2. Pet Protests
Pretend you are a family pet who wants more freedom. Write a letter to your owners in which you ask them to give you one or two new privileges. Make sure to give several good reasons for your request!
3. Wish You Were There
Think about a recent educational field trip or memorable outing. Perhaps you explored an amazing science museum, took the plunge at the local waterpark, went to a Civil War reenactment, or toured a potato chip factory. Write a letter to a grandparent, cousin, or friend describing your experience. Include at least three details about something you saw or did. When you’re finished, mail your letter!
4. You Shouldn’t Have
Have you ever held a grudge against the brush that pulled your hair or the vacuum that sucked up your shoelaces? How did you feel when a pen leaked ink on your favorite shirt or the toaster burned yet another bagel? Think about a time when an inanimate object caused you a bit of distress, and write a letter to this object to express your disappointment.
If your children have enjoyed these, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
July 28th, 2014 — Publishing Project Ideas, Writing Across the Curriculum
Do your children tell you they hate writing?
Because kids learn differently, traditional writing assignments may not turn the crank of an artistic, kinesthetic, or logical learner. If this describes your child, maybe it’s time to take a break from book reports and essays and try a few project-oriented writing activities instead.
Projects that spring from a child’s interests—or that tie writing to other topics—add extra meaning to subjects like science or geography. To a reluctant learner, writing becomes less intimidating when it takes a back seat to an art activity or walk in the woods!
Nature studies should be an integral part of every homeschool. This week, let your kids explore the natural world through activities that are long on fun and short on writing. These nature inspired writing projects, which appeal to struggling and enthusiastic writers alike, make a great place to start!
1. Make a Nature Notebook
Charlotte Mason enthusiasts are especially fond of nature notebooks, but any student who is attracted to wildlife—or who loves to explore sand dunes, gardens, or woods—will enjoy creating a nature notebook.
Take the kids on a nature walk, or visit a botanical garden or zoo. Encourage them to observe and sketch plant or animal life and jot down rough notes or interesting facts they learn from posted signs or docent talks.
Later, beneath their sketches, your young naturalists can write captions or journal entries listing observed details, facts gathered from trusted sources, and their own impressions.
If you spend a weekend at the beach or mountains, the nature journal might be a thematic, one-time activity for your kids. But it can also be an ongoing, evolving project they add to regularly.
2. Make a Nature Craft: Explaining a Process
Invite your children to make a craft from items found in nature. Using their imaginations, they can create whimsical or practical items such as:
Painted rock animals
Diorama of a jungle, forest, or beach scene
Pressed-flower greeting card
Take a photo of the kids as they complete each step of the process. Then, using the photos as a guide, let them write the steps they took to make the craft.
Younger children can write simple, basic instructions. Older students’ directions should be clear enough that someone could follow the steps and make a similar project.
Kids who are totally into this activity may have fun printing out the photos to make an illustrated instruction manual or turning their how-to instructions into a mini book.
Check out these links if you need craft ideas:
Nature Crafts for Kids – Martha Stewart
10 Nature Crafts for Kids – Spoonful
Crafts Made from Nature – Kids Activities Blog
3. Make a Life-Cycle Book
If you’re currently studying about the life cycle of a plant, butterfly, frog, or other growing thing, your children can make a life-cycle mini book.
You will need a sheet of computer paper or cardstock, drawing pencil, colored pencils, and a book with pictures the kids can use as a reference when drawing.
STEP 1: CREATE THE BOOK
Make a simple 8-page mini book according to either the video or diagram below:
Video Tutorial: Make an Instant Book
PDF Diagram: Make a Folded Mini Book
STEP 2: DESIGN THE COVER
On the front cover, draw and color a picture that tells something about the subject of the mini book. Alternatively, cut and paste a photo to the booklet’s cover. Add a title, such as “Life Cycle of the Frog.”
STEP 3: ILLUSTRATE THE BOOK
On the inside pages, adding one illustration per page, draw and color up to 6 pictures to show each stage of the life cycle.
Leave room at the bottom of each page to write information. For example:
Apple: 1) seed, 2) seedling, 3) tree, 4) bud, 5) flower, 6) fruit
Moth: 1) egg, 2) caterpillar, 3) chrysalis, 4) moth
STEP 4: WRITE DETAILS
Younger children can write a word or two below each drawing. Older students should write 1-2 sentences that explain the life stage shown.
Enjoy getting out in nature this week and dabbling in one of these fun projects. Your children will be writing, but they’ll be smiling all the way!