Entries from November 2008 ↓

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!


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.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Photo: Alessandra Cimatti, courtesy of Creative Commons

Thanksgiving acrostic

LOOKING FOR a holiday activity? Divert your kids with a Thanksgiving acrostic poem!

  1. Write the word THANKSGIVING vertically on a sheet of lined paper. Using each of the letters, make a fun acrostic.
  2. Each line can be one word, a phrase, or a sentence. See how creative you can be!
  3. Poems can be left-aligned or centered.
  4. Afterwards, illustrate your acrostics or decorate the page with photos cut from a magazine.

I’ll start you off with a couple of examples.

First Thanksgiving

Thanking the Lord
Honoring Him
Abundant blessings
Needs met
Kneeling Pilgrims
Squanto’s help
Gifts of food
Indian corn
Indeed we are blessed
Neighbors have shared
God has provided

Thanksgiving at Home

T urkey time (I love the dark meat best!)
H oping the weather will turn cold
A untie’s apple pie—the best!
N ine plates around the table
K eeping family traditions
S tuffing my tummy with—what else?—stuffing!
G iving thanks for my family
I nviting our neighbor so he won’t be lonely
V egetables that I love (corn and green beans—yum!)
I think I am about to burst!
N aps for babies (and tired grandparents!)
G ames and laughter after dinner

Tuck this away for when the children begin to grow bored in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. I know your family will enjoy playing with acrostics!

Copyright 2008 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Photo: fivehanks, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Who are you calling a turky?

Overheard at Thanksgiving

“Hmmm…this turky is missing something.”

“Yeah, I thought so too. Salt, maybe? Gravy? A side of cranberry sauce?”

“Ah, I’ve got it! Would someone please pass the ‘e’?”

Turky misspell

. . . . .

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

Grammar in a nutshell

From geography jingles my children learned over 17 years ago, I can still remember, among other facts, the states that comprise the eastern border of the U.S.

There’s just something about poems, songs, and mnemonics that can make learning facts—and remembering them—so much easier. That’s why I’ve always liked this little poem, as it defines and illustrates many common grammar concepts.

                Grammar in a Nutshell

      The articles are, oh, so wee,
           These little words are A, AN, THE;
      The nouns are names of anything,
           Like BOOK, COMPUTER, FAITH, or RING.
      Pronouns are used for nouns instead—
           I run, HE flies, SHE wished, THEY said.
      Adjectives simply tell the kind
           of everything that we may find,
      Like BLUE and ROUGH and SOFT and SWEET,
           RUDE and PLEASANT, WISE and NEAT.
      Adverbs will tell “how,” “when,” “where,”
      The prepositions help each day
           IN our work or AT our play,
           AMONG, ABOUT, ABOVE, and TO.
      Good conjunctions join together
           Man AND woman; plume OR feather.
      Interjections always claim—
           OH, NO! ALAS! AH, what a shame!
      The verb—it helps us get along
           In conversation or in song,
      Since it explains the subject’s fate,
           Expressing action, being, state;
      You ARE friendly, I LOVE you,
           EAT your breakfast, TIE your shoe.
      Grammar may not seem exciting,
           But it will help our speech and writing!

Author Unknown

Learning to describe food, people, and places

Stop and smell the flowers

Narration is a wonderful tool for coaxing stories, descriptions, and letters from a young writer, especially a more reluctant one. Previously (Tip #1), I talked about using a tape recorder to encourage verbal storytelling. Sometimes, though, a child is still not ready or eager to tell entire stories. That’s OK! Just break it down into smaller pieces. Ask your child to describe what she can readily observe without the pressure of turning it into a published piece.

Let’s describe!

Take a closer look. Your child is just learning to describe. Begin to prepare her for a lifetime of observation by helping her describe familiar objects and foods. The key? Ask lots of questions about:

  • Color, shape, and size
  • Texture (how it looks and how it feels to the touch)
  • Sound
  • Smell
  • For a food, also add questions about its taste and feel when eaten

Cinnamon rollSuppose you’re enjoying cinnamon rolls for breakfast. As your child eats her treat, keep a pad and pen nearby and write down her observations. Ask her questions to prompt her. “Tell me some words to describe your cinnamon roll. What color is the bun? Is it soft and squishy or dry and stale? What smells and flavors do you notice? Take a bite and tell me how it tastes and feels. Does the roll have frosting? Is it a hard glaze or is it soft and creamy? Any raisins or nuts? What textures do they add?”

Describe a person. Suggest that your youngster describe family members, friends, and pets. If she tells you that Grandpa has gray hair, ask, “Is it gray, or is it closer to silver or white?” Have her tell you about his hair length and texture, too. Next, ask her to tell you about his face, eyes, and smile. What about his clothes? His personality? His posture? With younger children, it helps to describe people and pets they can observe firsthand. But a photo also works well to draw responses.

Study your world. It’s so much fun to describe a place with a young child. Even now, as I type with the window open, I can see grass, trees, bushes, and flowers; mountains topped in low clouds; my neighbors’ houses and cars; and fences, rocks, and telephone poles. In addition, I can hear birds chirping, a dog barking, a car horn honking, a lawn mower humming in the distance. Since it rained recently, the air has a fresh, sweet smell.

If you’re doing this exercise with your child, wander out into the front or back yard so he can touch the roughness of tree bark, the smooth finish of the car in the driveway, the prickle of a thorny plant, and the moist, dewy lawn. Let him crush leaves to release their scent, smell flowers, and observe insects and birds.

City - downtown ChicagoIn the city, sit on a bench and pay attention to traffic sounds, horns, voices, and other city noises. Look at the buildings. Are they old? New? Made of brick? Concrete? Glass? Do any of the buildings have interesting features? Do you see traffic signals or road signs? Trees or flowers? How about shops, stores, or other businesses? What’s in the windows?

Next, people-watch! You’ll see old and young, tall and short, serious and smiling. Are they walking or hurrying? Talking on cell phones? Alone or with a friend? What colors are they wearing? Are they carrying packages, bags, brief cases, or purses? Wearing backpacks? What kinds of shoes can you see?

Finally, notice the smells. Is that garlic wafting from an Italian restaurant? Do you smell fresh bread from the bakery on the corner? How about fumes from the bus that just pulled away from the curb? The whiff of someone’s perfume as she rushes past?

As your child makes observations, write down what she says in a small spiral notebook.

No composition required

Make learning to describe a fun experience for your child as you give her a chance to become a keen observer of her expanding world. Sure, there will be times when you’ll want her to develop her observations into a paragraph or story. But for now, focus more on the process of gathering and writing down ideas. The value comes from teaching your child that she really does have a great deal to say about different topics!

Visit Walking Therein to visit this week’s Carnival of Homeschooling (the 150th edition, BTW)!

City photo: Copyright 2008 © Kim Kautzer

Shop closed due to spelling errors

Shop closed

. . . . .

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

Brainstorming with 5- to 8-year-olds

Brainstorming with young children is often a shared experience, guided by mom or teacher. It helps kids plan and organize before writing.

Brain freeze, blank paper syndrome, and fear of writing often have their roots in the early elementary grades. Unless a child is taught from a young age that writing is the process—and her story is, in fact, merely the end product of that process—she is well on her way to a lifetime of writing paralysis.

1. Brainstorming unlocks ideas

A key ingredient of the creative writing process, brainstorming is fundamental to preparing a child to write. Brainstorming with young children is usually a shared experience, guided by mom or teacher. Make this a fun, low-key time for chatting about ideas for writing. And to take the pressure off, let the child talk while you jot down her thoughts.

Before beginning a writing project, brainstorm with your child for ideas related to that day’s topic. You and your child should use brainstorming to:

  • Generate possible topic ideas for writing.
  • Determine things to write about her chosen topic.

Whether your child wants to write about a favorite toy, yesterday’s visit to the fire station, or a make-believe flying car, brainstorm with her to help her unlock ideas. Even within her small world, she can talk about what she observes around her, what she knows in her head, or what her budding imagination can dream up. You’ll both appreciate this time of brainstorming and jotting down words and thoughts before actually beginning to write.

2. At the early elementary level, brainstorming:

  • Helps your child focus her attention on the topic.
  • Generates a number of different ideas.
  • Encourages your child to share her ideas and opinions without fear of criticism.
  • Shows your child that she will have more to say during writing time if she has already given her topic some thought.

3. Ways to brainstorm with primary children

List of Ideas. The most basic form of brainstorming is to make a list, writing ideas on a tablet or whiteboard. Keep this list handy throughout the rest of the lesson to help spark ideas during the writing stage and extended activities. Brainstorm to create a list of topic ideas, or brainstorm to make a list of things your child can write about her chosen topic.

Story Web. Draw a simple story web with a circle in the middle and five or six lines extending out from the circle to resemble a spider web. In the center of the circle, write the topic. On each of the lines, list the information that supports the topic. Click here to see an example of a story web variation.

Story Idea CardsStory Idea Card File. This tool helps you and your child brainstorm for topics. Using index cards, glue a small magazine or catalog picture to one side and write the topic on the opposite side. Store cards in a small file box labeled “Story Ideas.” Start by making about 10 cards.Story Idea Cards

During the brainstorming session, take out the index cards. Look at the cards together and read their labels. Ask your student to choose four cards (topics) she might like to write about. If she wants to write about a topic that isn’t in the box, help her make a new index card by gluing a picture on the front and writing the label on the back. Finally, encourage your child to choose one card as the topic for her next story.

Graphic Organizer. Graphic organizers come in many varieties. When your child is writing a story, it will help her to stay on task if you create a simple graphic organizer to list ideas for the introduction, body, and closing of her story. Label the graphic organizer as follows, leaving spaces for writing as you brainstorm together:

  • Title:
  • Beginning:
  • Middle:
  • End:

Ask your child to think of story ideas about her topic. Ask questions to help her come up with a beginning, middle, and end. Talk about possible titles and write these ideas on your graphic organizer.

. . . . .

Sound like fun? If so, you’ll find these and many, many more ideas in WriteShop Primary, our newest series targeting primary-aged children. The first book, WriteShop Primary Book A, is currently available for early learners in K-2nd grades. Visit www.writeshop.com to learn more!

Answers to Friday’s grammar quiz


As promised, here are the answers to Friday’s grammar quiz. I’m sure you’ll find differing opinions as to the exact number of punctuation marks, prepositional phrases, etc. That’s OK—these lists identify the main ones. 

1. The fourteen main punctuation marks in English grammar

  • Period .
  • Comma ,
  • Colon : 
  • Semicolon ; 
  • Dash — 
  • Hyphen -
  • Apostrophe ‘
  • Question mark ?
  • Exclamation point ! 
  • Quotation mark “double” or ‘single’
  • Parentheses ( )
  • Brackets [ ]
  • Braces { }
  • Ellipsis . . .

2. The eight traditional parts of speech

  • Noun
  • Pronoun
  • Verb
  • Adverb
  • Adjective
  • Preposition
  • Conjunction
  • Interjection

3. The four main sentence types

  • Declarative (statement)
  • Interrogative (question)
  • Exclamatory (strong statement ending with an exclamation point)
  • Imperative (command )

4. The 50 most common prepositions

    about, above, across, after, against, along, among, around, at, atop, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, by, down, during, except, for, from, in, in front of, nside, instead of, into, like, near, of, off, on, onto, on top of, out of, outside, over, past, since, through, to, toward, under, underneath, until, up, upon, with, within, without

. . . . .

The Blue Book of Grammar and PunctuationDo you or your kids need additional help with basic grammar concepts? The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation offers concise, helpful rules, examples, and practice exercises. It’s a combination reference book and workbook, super easy to use, and handy for home or office. 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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