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 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.

Grammar quiz: What do you know?

Question markOK, here’s a quick little grammar quiz. Yes, there will be differing opinions on the exact number of some of these, but this is just for fun!

I’ll post the answers Monday!

  1. There are 14 primary punctuation marks in English grammar. How many can you name?   
  2. There are eight traditional parts of speech. Do you know them all?
  3. What are the four main sentence types?
  4. There are approximately 50 common prepositions. Can you name 25?

WriteShop I

teen girlHere’s something almost everyone can agree on: writing is one of the most intimidating, scary, overwhelming subjects to teach.

You struggle with your own inadequacy of never having been taught to write. Or perhaps you’re an intuitive writer who has no clue how to teach your children. Plus, writing just seems so stinkin’ subjective? How do you grade a composition effectively without making random stabs in the dark?

Then there are the kids. So many of us have children who live in terror of the blank page. Even if they’re verbal and always seem to have a lot to talk about, it just never manages to translates to their writing. It’s as though they’re crossing a bridge between Brain and Paper, but along the way, half of their ideas tumble off the bridge and into the canyon below (along with everything you ever taught them about spelling and grammar).

Our twofold goal at WriteShop is to equip parents to teach with confidence and to encourage students that writing doesn’t have to be scary or hard. Though we carry materials for a variety of ages, today I’m going to zero in on our flagship program, WriteShop I.

Who Can Use WriteShop I?

The beauty of the program is its flexibility and ability to encourage success in a wide range of students, whether they’re struggling seventh graders or articulate, motivated sophomores.

Each student improves according to his or her own ability, depending on factors such as age, vocabulary, maturity, and life experience. Students are not measured against one another; rather, their work is evaluated based on each lesson’s expectations.

Working with Different Levels

A tenth grader with a mature writing style and broad command of language may easily earn an A on a given paper. But an eighth grader with a limited vocabulary and little writing experience can also pull off an A on the exact same composition. Why? Because working at their own level, both students can follow the directions and meet the lesson’s expectations! Sure, one paper may be stronger—more interesting, descriptive, or stylistically mature. But it doesn’t make the other paper bad.

Both types of student will grow in their writing abilities. Both will learn to brainstorm effectively, organize their writing, self-edit and revise, and submit to parent feedback. Through this process, the tenth grader will hone her style, learn to write more concisely, and develop a stronger vocabulary. The eighth grader will begin to write longer, more concrete sentences, and discover some new sentence variations that make his writing sound fuller, richer, and more alive.

Help for Parents

For parents, we’ve tried our best to make WriteShop user-friendly. If you start with our Basic Set, it includes a wonderfully resourceful Teacher’s Manual as well as a student workbook. Where editing and grading writing has always seemed so subjective, we’ve made it as measurable and quantifiable as possible so that you can really, truly offer objective input—regardless of your own confidence or experience. And you can always email us or give us a call if you have questions or need encouragement.

Suggested Placement for WriteShop I

  • 5th grade or below: It’s best to wait a year or more before beginning WriteShop I. For 4th-6th graders, consider Wordsmith Apprentice or WriteShop Primary Book C.
  • 6th grade: Proceed into WriteShop I with caution, holding off another year if the student is reluctant (and try the above resources instead). However, for a strong 6th grader who loves to write, is pretty motivated, and has good basic writing skills. WriteShop I should be a good choice, especially if you take two years to go through the program.
  • 7th-10th grade: The average student in these grades can launch right into WriteShop I regardless of past writing experience or skill level. The program works for almost every learner in this age range.
  • 11th-12th grade: Older students can certainly benefit from WriteShop I, but we usually recommend starting them directly in WriteShop II. Or, you can use WriteShop I during the first semester and WriteShop II during the second. However, if your student plans to take the SAT at the end of the junior year, you’ll probably want to use WriteShop II, which teaches both standard and timed essays.

I hope this sheds a little more light for those of you who are deliberating about a writing program. There’s a lot to think about, and I know it always helps to go into a new situation with as much information as possible.

Aaack! I’ve been tagged!

I know this is a writing blog and, for the most part, not a personal blog. But what can I do? I’ve been TAGGED by my daughter Karah!

So if you want to learn a few random things about me, read on! And if you don’t, that’s cool. Just come back another day to read more about writing.

Here are the rules :


And here are seven trivial facts about me. Are you ready?

1. I lived in Mexico City till I was six.

My family moved there when I was two because my dad and my uncle opened a chain of Tastee-Freez restaurants. Spanish was my second language; wish it had stuck better.

2. I’m a grammar geek.

I don’t mean to be. I don’t read church overheads or websites or signs in windows with the intention of picking apart the spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Honestly. But sometimes it’s like a neon light that glows against a black sky, and I can’t help but notice.

So I finally created an outlet for this distraction of mine: Twice a month I blog about bad signage for Wordless Wednesday. Serious fun.

And along those same lines…

3. I’m a word geek.

Crossword puzzleScrabble, Scramble, Boggle, crossword puzzles, anagrams—I love word games! Though my husband does enjoy crossword puzzles, and he’s a big Sudoku fan, he isn’t especially fond of word games, so sometimes it’s hard to find someone to play along. I have Boggle installed on my computer. A 3-minute game used to provide a perfect little break in the middle of some tedious task. But a couple of months ago, along came Facebook. Aaack! It opened up a whole new world of word games, not to mention friends to play with. I tell you, it takes real discipline to “just say no”!

4. I had cataract surgery at 15.

Cataracts run in my family—not the typical old-age cataracts that people get in their 70s. Nope. These show up during adolescence. As an added bonus, I passed ‘em down to two of my kids. What can I say? We’re special.

5. I’m scared of heights…but selectively.

Yes, I would definitely say I’m afraid of heights. Even so, I’m not always freaked out about being in a high place. There’s actually a fairly clean line between what wigs me out and what doesn’t. For instance, I’m OK standing at the window of a very tall building. I actually like looking down and seeing cars and people in miniature! I’m also OK sitting at the top of a Spiral staircaseFerris wheel or ski lift or standing at the rail of a scenic canyon vista. And I have absolutely no problem with airplanes. Give me a window seat any day—I love looking down on the world from 40,000 feet!

For some illogical reason, heights don’t bother me when I’m sitting. But what gives me the willies is looking between my feet through the gaps in a bridge and seeing the water so far below. The bottoms of my feet tingle and my stomach flip-flops in a most alarming fashion. Another super-scary thing is to walk on a metal floor grid where I can look waaaay far down. I just don’t do well when I can see through floorboards or mesh. And forget standing at the edge of a high place when there’s no railing. I’m outta there!

6. Once I locked myself out of the house while cleaning windows.

No big deal, right? Except that I was on the roof of our two-story house. Now put this together with No. 5 and, well, you’ve got a winning combination!

7. I was a huge Monkees fan during junior high.

  • The MonkeesNothing could tear me away from the TV screen when their show was on.

  • I got to go to a Monkees concert at the Hollywood Bowl. I don’t remember hearing much of the music, though. Why listen to the songs when we paid good money to jump up and down and scream?

  • In 8th grade, I went to an auto show at the Anaheim Convention Center. And certainly not because I cared a whit about cars in general. It’s just that one particular car would be on display—Mike Nesmith’s own personal vehicle—which is probably, when you think about it, the only way to get a 13-year-old girl to an auto show in the first place.

  • I still have a few of my Tiger Beat and Monkees Spec magazines from 1967. Yeah, I’m a dork.

OK, wasn’t that fun? Don’t you wish you could get tagged? Well, since I have to tag seven people, it’s your lucky day. Tag . . . you’re it!

  1. Janel

  2. Lori

  3. Amy

  4. Tami

  5. Nancy (or Humphrey)

  6. Anne

  7. Heidi

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