Entries from April 2008 ↓

Spring into Writing | Outdoors Writing Prompts

When spring fever strikes, head outdoors to try descriptive writing and spring journal prompts

quotation-marks-grayIt’s spring fever…. You don’t quite know what it is you DO want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!  –Mark Twain

Spring has sprung . . . along with a serious bout of spring fever! Warmer weather, refreshing spring showers, tender shoots of grass, and unfurling buds issue a siren’s call to your children, who want to ditch school in the worst way and just plain frolic.

How can you help them stay on task while allowing them to revel in the joy of an April morning? For a welcome break, why not take writing outdoors now and then as the weather beckons? Tote notebook and pencil to park, field, or yard and try some of these refreshing spring writing activities. You’ll find that none require your student to write a full-fledged composition—but they do make great writing warm-ups or entertaining exercises for the more reluctant writers in your family.

Spring Journaling Prompts

Sometimes, all a child needs is an idea. A writing prompt is designed to be a springboard. Have her pick a topic and begin to write. Whether she ends up with three sentences or three pages, let her just write. Don’t red-pencil her journaling efforts—save your comments for actual writing instruction. Here are some friendly questions to prompt the writer in your child:

  • What three things are you the most thankful for during spring? What makes them so special?
  • Write about three things you most enjoy about springtime.
  • How do the pleasant days and freshness of spring affect your mood and attitude? How does spring make you feel positive and hopeful?
  • What do you feel or think about when you take a walk on a spring day?
  • Write about your favorite spring memory.

Descriptive Writing

Vivid description makes writing come to life. Encourage your kids to practice using strong nouns and verbs, colorful adjectives, and precise adverbs. Instead of writing a composition, they should aim for a list of descriptive phrases or sentences.

Sit on a bench or take a walk in your neighborhood or park. Describe some of the sights you see. Which paints a more vivid mental picture: Flowers blow gently in the breeze, or Golden poppies nod sleepily? Pink clouds drift in the sky, or Rosy wisps of cotton candy drift in the sky? Specific words do make a difference, so pick them wisely!

Close your eyes and listen attentively. Do you hear the chipper chirp of a bluebird? The lazy drone of a honeybee? The rustle of leaves in the elm tree? Write descriptively about what you hear.

Next week, join me for Spring into writing, part 2. I’ll share some simple yet creative spring poetry ideas!

Copyright © 2008 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

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Photo: Ellenm1 and Allen Sheffield, courtesy of Creative Commons

FAQ: Giving high school credit

WriteShop mailbagSome of the most popular questions we receive in our mailbag regard assigning high school credit for WriteShop I or II.

Common Questions about High School Credit

  • Is WriteShop I considered an English course?
  • My daughter will be starting WriteShop II. Would this count for high school English credit?
  • My 10th grader has almost completed both WriteShop I and II. How much credit can I expect to assign him?
  • I’m teaching a WriteShop co-op class. How much credit should enrolled high schoolers receive?
  • Can I give high school credit to my 7th grader upon completion of WriteShop I?

Know Your State’s Requirements 

A course can be content- or hours-based. Your student must complete a prescribed course of study or log a certain number of hours to receive credit. And requirements for high school credits differ from state to state. For hours-based courses:

  • In many parts of the United States, a semester of study (65 hours) equals 1/2 credit and one school year (125 hours) equals 1 credit.
  • California requires a student to invest 65 hours (one semester) to receive 5 credits and 125 hours (one school year) for 10 credits.

Options for Assigning High School Credit

Option 1: 1/2-Credit Composition Elective

  • Based on hours alone, WriteShop I or II qualifies as a one-semester, stand-alone composition elective, separate from English or other language arts credits.
  • The average student spends about 4-5 hours on each lesson (more in WriteShop II), or 64-80 hours per WriteShop level. If your student completes both books in one school year, you could consider each semester a 1/2-credit composition elective.

Option 2: 1-Credit Complete English Course

  • WriteShop assignments may be figured into a student’s total language arts or English grade (along with literature, grammar, and/or vocabulary).
  • One WriteShop level, plus grade-appropriate grammar and literature, would together comprise a 1-credit English course.
  • Since most students will spend about 65 hours completing one WriteShop book, we recommend that you give writing (WriteShop) at least 50% weight when determining your child’s grade.

Option 3: 1-Credit Composition Elective – Co-op Class

  • Many students are enrolled in WriteShop co-op classes. Depending on class length and frequency, a class effectively adds 1-2 more hours per lesson to the 4-5 hours a student spends at home.
  • This can amount to an extra 30-60 hours per level of WriteShop, which would make each BOOK qualify as a 1-credit course.

7th and 8th Graders

When my son took WriteShop II in 8th grade, I did not give him high school credit. He worked hard and wrote decent compositions and essays, but he needed a great deal of help from me and certainly did not produce what I considered high-school quality writing. He wrote like a junior higher.

On the other hand, a 10th grader working through the same book is 1)  actually in high school; and 2) more likely to write compositions that reflect his or her age and maturity.

So even though some homeschool umbrella schools or ISPs will allow an 8th grader to get high school credit for a course that is considered high school work, please make this call with care. Remember that even though WriteShop may be used with students as young as 6th grade, it is the rare 12- or 13-year-old indeed who can actually write at the high school level.

For more information on the WriteShop program for your junior high or high school student, visit writeshop.com. Or give us a call if you’d like to ask specific questions about using WriteShop. Debbie and I are glad to help!

A Peek at WriteShop Primary

WriteShop Primary

Are you ready to learn more about WriteShop Primary? 

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Graphic organizers

Graphic organizer pocket chart

Ever heard of a graphic organizer? 

I found several explanations, some so wordy or convoluted that you would need a dictionary just to clarify the definition! What’s with educators these days? Seems as though they love to make things more complicated than they really are. My editor friend Mary Jo Tate commented on this very trend at her blog recently.

But enough about that.

Here are a couple of definitions that actually make sense:

graphic organizer  1. A visual organizer such as a map, web, chart, or diagram that shows relationships. 2. A tool used to arrange thoughts and ideas in an orderly fashion.

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Teaching writing | Steps of the writing process

Using the steps of the writing process can position your kids for success

As promised…the final installment in our three-part series called Teaching Writing.

Today you’ll learn how the steps of the writing process can free your struggling or reluctant writer from his self-imposed torture.

And of course, reluctant writers aren’t the only ones who benefit. Make sure your eager, motivated writers take their compositions through these steps as well to ensure a well-written final draft.

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Drum roll, please…

Thanks to everyone who took the time to cast a vote in yesterday’s cover illustration poll. Option A2 was the overwhelming choice for our WriteShop Primary Book A cover. Just take a look at what a splash of color and a hint of shading can do to a simple sketch! And when Deborah’s whimsical artwork is paired with David Borrink’s delightful layout design, we end up with a most appealing cover for the first book of the K-2nd grade series.

So here it is…the unveiling of the cover for WriteShop Primary Book A!

Help us pick cover illustrations!


Oh, the excitement is mounting! The talented Deborah Thomson keeps sending us sketches, each one cuter than the one before! Since WriteShop Primary teaches writing for kindergarten, first, and second grades, we especially love the cheerful, whimsical, inviting faces and poses.

Once we settle on our three sketches, Deborah will create a clean drawing of each grouping. Finally, she’ll add color and shading.

Please tell us what you think!

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Jane’s grammar nugget: Comma or semicolon?

The Blue Book of Grammar and PunctuationJane Straus, author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, is back as a guest at our blog, bringing you another grammar nugget to help ease your pain.

Jane says: Many of you have been asking for help with punctuating between sentences. You want to know when you should use a comma and when you need a semicolon. Here are a few rules with examples that I hope you find very helpful.


Rule: Use a comma between two complete, long clauses (two subject and verb pairs) when conjunctions such as and, or, but, for, nor connect them.

Example: I have painted the entire house, but she is still working on sanding the floors.

Rule: If the clauses are short (your call), then leave out the comma.

Example: I painted and he sanded.

Rule: If you have only one clause (one subject and verb pair), do not use a comma in front of the conjunction.

Example: I have painted the house but still need to sand the floors.
(This sentence has two verbs but only one subject, so it has only one clause.)

Semicolons So when does the semicolon get to have its time in the spotlight?

Rule: Use the semicolon if you have two clauses you are connecting without a conjunction.

Example: I have painted the house; I still need to sand the floors.

Rule: Also, use the semicolon when you have commas for smaller separations, and you need the semicolon to show a bigger separation.

Example: We had a reunion with family from Salt Lake City, Utah; Los Angeles, California; and Albany, New York.

Reprinted by permission of Jane Straus, author of the bestselling The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, from her free Grammarbook.com e-newsletters and blogs.

From Kim: We love The Blue Book so much that we’ve been carrying it for years in the WriteShop store. We also include it in the WriteShop Starter Pack. It’s a combination reference book and workbook, oh so easy to use, and handy for home or office. Jane’s examples are short, simple, and practical. We know you’ll love it too! Want to read some reviews? Just click here.

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WriteShop wins award

Third Place Seal

It’s Official 

The March/April issue of Mary Pride’s Practical Homeschooling magazine features its 2008 Practical Homeschooling Reader Awards. We were excited to learn that WriteShop tied for third place in the Writing Composition category.

Among the winners, WriteShop is the newest kid on the block, so we feel especially honored to receive this distinction!

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