Merry Christmas

Christmas candle lightWith Christmas upon us, hopefully in all hurrying and scurrying we’re also taking time to remember our Savior, whose birth we celebrate during this festive season.

We pray you enjoy the holiday wth your family and dear friends. We’ll be back to blogging around December 29—see you then!

Peace,

Kim and Debbie

www.writeshop.com

Photo courtesy of FreeFoto.com Creative Commons license 3.0.

Wordless Wednesday – Stuck like glue

Doing your holiday shopping? Good news! Though some stores’ chocolate Santas and Gummi Bears may jump up and run away, you can rest assured that this store offers stationary candies. Stationary candies

Stationary vs. stationery

. . . . .

Stop by every 1st and 3rd Wednesday for a peek into the world of spelling, punctuation, or grammar gone wrong!

Photo courtesy of Ben Ostrowsky.

Handwritten notes: Christmas gifts from the heart

A gift doesn't have to be wrapped in fancy paper and tied up with ribbon. Handwritten notes and letters make lovely Christmas gifts from the heart!

One year for Mother’s Day, my son Ben wrote me a long, sappy letter dripping with affection and appreciation. I’m sure he figured that if he was sentimental enough, I wouldn’t notice that he didn’t get me a gift.

Know what? He was right!

Sometimes, the best present isn’t wrapped up in a box. It’s the genuine expression of love and appreciation that you tuck into an envelope in the form of a special note or letter.

Not sure who or how? Check out Christmas Gifts Worth Giving for some ideas. Then sit down as a family with a box of beautiful cards, pretty paper, stickers, colored pens, and rubber stamps and write Christmas gifts from the heart to those extra-special people in your lives.

Christmas Gifts Worth Giving is a chance to make writing truly practical.

Now go bless someone!

Photo: Jessica Spengler, courtesy of Creative Commons

Win a World of Sports StoryBuilder

World of Sports StoryBuildersHere at WriteShop, we’re excited to release another great addition to our StoryBuilders series. This one is especially sure to delight your young athletes. World of Sports StoryBuilders will motivate any sports-loving student to create tales packed with action, heroic deeds, skill, perseverance, or just plain silliness!

Each printable deck of writing prompts contains character, character trait, setting, and plot cards that students can mix and match to craft their stories. StoryBuilders include instructions and ideas for using the cards with one child or a group, making StoryBuilders ideal for homeschools, co-ops, and classes.

Contest: Win a FREE StoryBuilder!

We’re giving away World of Sports StoryBuilders ($7.95 value) to 10 lucky winners. You can win one for your family simply by leaving comments on any three articles posted here at In Our Write Minds.

Here’s how to play and win:

  1. Browse the Blog Categories and Archives (see the sidebar) to find some articles that appeal to you.
  2. Read and comment on three articles.
  3. When you’re finished, come back and leave a comment here with the titles of the three articles.

The contest will remain open until we’ve reached our 10 winners. Feel free to pass the contest details to your friends so they can join in the fun!

This contest has ended.

To order any of our StoryBuilders, including the new Christmas Mini-Builder, visit the WriteShop Store.

Writing tip: Wise feedback makes a difference

Correct and grade wisely. An arbitrary grade based on feelings (”This feels like a B-”) won’t help your student become a better writer.

Tip 4: Offer helpful and consistent feedback.

  1. Woman smilingUse objective checklists to help you pinpoint specific areas to improve.
  2. Value your child’s efforts. If you stick her paper in a pile and never respond to it, she won’t bother doing her best because she assumes you don’t care.
  3. Your kids want to please you, so praise the things they do well! An approving tone and encouraging words can go a long way toward soothing the sting of a critical comment.

Though we’re not all strong or confident writers, we can’t let that keep us from investing in our children’s writing. Remember: Writing doesn’t teach itself. Our kids need us. Really! And today, more than ever, there are tools at our fingertips to help each of us teach successfully.

(All of the WriteShop products offer tips and checklists to help you edit and grade your students’ work more objectively.)

Also see Writing Tip 1: Set Boundaries, Writing Tip 2: Process vs. Product, Writing Tip 3: Write Often

Writing tip: Write often

 Kindergarten boy writing

Much as we wish it weren’t so, kids don’t learn to write by osmosis. They need your instruction, guidance, and feedback.

Tip 3: Make teaching writing a regular part of your school week.

With littler ones, this may mean a daily investment of sitting together to practice new skills.

Older students may not need you to sit with them through every stroke of the pen, but definitely set aside time on a regular basis to teach or review concepts and give constructive input. Read examples together and talk about what makes a particular paragraph boring or enjoyable. Look at passages of literature or student essays to find great word choices, sentence variations, and colorful description.

Choose a writing program that offers strong parent support through lesson plans, schedules, teaching and editing tools, checklists, and objective grading forms. When you have a plan and feel equipped, it’s much easier stay on track, explain a new concept, or offer suggestions.

Whether you use a formal program or make up your own assignments, you’ll go a long way toward developing confident writers by giving them frequent practice. There’s just no substitute!

Also see Writing Tip 1: Set Boundaries, Writing Tip 2: Process vs. Product, Writing Tip 4: Wise Feedback Makes a Difference

Photo: © 2008 by Kim Kautzer

Writing tip: Process vs. product

 Reluctant writer

How many times should a student rewrite a composition? Depends on who you ask. If you ask the student, she’ll emphatically reply, “Once!” Not only that, she wants you to love that paper, slap a gold star on it, and pronounce it stellar. Should you suggest a revision, you’re met with howls of protest.

But in the real world, rough drafts—unpolished writing—go by other names: phone messages, shopping lists, e-mails, timed essays. Chances are, just about anything else that’s printed and published has gone through more than one revision.

Tip 2: Explain that writing is the process and the composition is the product.

Start early. Children as young as kindergarten can discover the simplest steps of planning and writing. They can also learn to make changes such as adding detail or ending a sentence with a period. WriteShop Primary is a great way to introduce your early elementary student to the writing process in the gentlest way.

The benefits for older students are many. Through the writing process, they learn to follow a routine, pace themselves, and become accountable to deadlines. Here’s a brief overview of the five steps.

  • Brainstorming: Thinking through a topic using a graphic organizer or planning tool.
  • Rough draft: Putting words and ideas onto paper without fear of perfection.
  • Self-editing: Using a checklist to identify measurable errors and make simple corrections, and then writing a second draft.
  • Parent editing: Using an objective checklist to suggest improvements to the second draft.
  • Final draft: Polishing the composition so the student can share it proudly.

For students in junior high or high school, you’ll find WriteShop to be one of the most effective tools for teaching the writing process. For beginning and average writers in 7th-10th grades, consider WriteShop I. For students in grades 8-11 who need a bit more challenge, take a look at WriteShop II.

Also see Writing Tip 1: Set Boundaries, Writing Tip 3: Write Often, Writing Tip 4: Wise Feedback Makes a Difference

Writing tip: Set boundaries

Teaching writing is one of the most daunting tasks homeschoolers face. But once you discover how to teach in measurable, objective ways, your confidence will soar. And guess what? When you radiate confidence, your kids pick up on it too!

Over the next few days, I’ll be offering simple, practical tips to help the writing atmosphere improve at your house.

Tip 1: Build confidence through guidelines and boundaries

Offer Topic Suggestions

Many children fear the blank page. But believe it or not, saying “Write about anything you want!” actually contributes to the problem. Instead, suggest topics while still giving freedom.

  • Let your student write from observation or personal experience. It’s easier than making up stories.
  • When possible, let him write about things that matter to him so his passion shines through. If the topic bores your child, his readers will yawn, too.

Set Boundaries

Make sure the assignment includes clear expectations and instructions. Your child should never have to wonder, “What, exactly, am I supposed to do?”

  • Define the nature of the composition. Is it a descriptive writing assignment? Narrative? Biography? Book report? Be clear with your student so he knows what you expect.
  • Limit composition length. If a reluctant student knows he only has to write one five- to seven-sentence paragraph, his confidence gets a boost!
  • Give step-by-step instructions. Unclear directions create anxiety. It’s not enough to just say, “Write.” Kids need to know how to write, so you’ll have to guide them through the steps. If you need help teaching the writing process, look for writing programs that give this type of guidance.
  • Provide a list of required elements, such as:
    • Describe the object but don’t tell a story about it.
    • Use one simile.
    • Begin a sentence with a prepositional phrase.
    • Find synonyms for uninteresting or overly repeated words.

Also see Writing Tip 2: Process vs. product, Writing Tip 3: Write often, Writing Tip 4: Wise Feedback Makes a Difference

Wordless Wednesday – Bmup ahaed?

Now these are what I call road hazards!

Ahaed

Beam Me Up, Scotty?

SOTP

And to think that you and I actually fund this stuff!  Maybe this is really just an acronym for Soak Our Tax Payers? Hmmmm. If so, guess the joke’s on us.

. . . . .

Stop by every 1st and 3rd Wednesday for a peek into the world of spelling, punctuation, or grammar gone wrong!

Thanksgiving writing activities for kids

From silly stories to sensory descriptions, these fun Thanksgiving writing activities will occupy restless children during Thanksgiving week.

Looking for a few last-minute Thanksgiving writing activities to occupy your antsy children? Try some of these!

List

Make a list of things you’re thankful for.

Thank-you Note

Think of a special person in your life. Write a thank-you letter and tell him or her why you value your relationship.

Silly Story

Pretend you are a turkey who does not want to end up on someone’s Thanksgiving table. Write a plan for how to escape.

Sensory Description

At first glance, a leaf is just a leaf. But when you study it closely, you can discover many small details that make it one-of-a-kind. Choose a colorful autumn leaf and brainstorm a list of phrases or sentences describing its unique features—including colors, shape, size, texture, veins, blemishes, or spots. Older students can then write a paragraph describing their leaf.

Explain a Process

Write a paragraph explaining a simple process, such as how to make mashed potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce, or pumpkin pie. If possible, have someone take pictures of you during each step of preparing the food so you can decorate the pages with photos.

Build a Story

Write a story using as many of these words as possible: turkey, feast, chimney, pajamas, taxi, elevator, feathers, pencil, pennies, city, alarm clock

2008 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

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Photo: Alessandra Cimatti, courtesy of Creative Commons
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