Entries from March 2010 ↓

Lost in translation

It just goes to show that you can’t always trust your Chinese-English dictionary. For starters, how about a box of crackers complete with an excellent dose of delicious food?


Even better, you can dig into a package of biscuit snacks bursting with that ever-popular “burned meat” flavor.


Strange juice, eh? I think I’ll pass.


And finally, here’s an excellent tip. I’m making a mental note right now.

Above photo: Christopher / CC BY 2.0

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

Spring writing activities


Spring is in the air—and it’s a great time to look for some fresh writing opportunities for your children. Considering my wacky schedule this week, I thought I’d visit the archives and find some creative writing ideas that will help you dispel spring fever. Give them a try!


New birth, fresh growth: springtime fairly explodes with life! Poetry is a perfect way to capture the fragrance, blossoms, showers, sunshine, and birdsong of the season. Visit these mini poetry lessons for some inspiration.

Creative Writing

Brighten up your schooling: let your children dabble in these simple, creative, colorful writing exercises. You’ll love the results!

A miraculous feeling of words

“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.”

—Vladimir Nabakov


Where’s Kim?

If you’re a regular reader here at In Our Write Minds, you may wonder why I’m not posting as regularly as I normally do. I thought I’d give you a little peek into the goings-on around here so you’ll understand.

It’s crazy mode at my house for the next few weeks as we prepare to host a wedding reception for our son and his new bride.

Because their wedding took place in England last summer, very few friends and family on this side of the pond were able to attend, so we’re looking forward to our California celebration.

We’re also excited to spend some time with the two of them—a true luxury, now that we’re an ocean apart. We have a wonderful—albeit full—couple of weeks ahead of us!

I’m finding it hard to squeeze in much writing time, between baking dozens and dozens of cookies, planning all the details for the party, and preparing to speak at a homeschool convention on April 10. If time permits, I’ll do my best to post a few articles between now and the reception. Otherwise, at least you’ll know what’s become of me.

Thanks for understanding!


Guaranteed . . . in writing

I spy with my little eye . . . someone (cough, cough) who needs a writing tutor.


. . . . .

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

Book review: All About Homophones

The Confusing World of Homophones

“If your going too the movies, make sure you don’t by to many sweets.”

Your/you’re. By/buy. To/too/two. These often-confusing (and frequently misused) words are called homophones—words that sound the same but are spelled differently.

While the difference between its and it’s may not seem like a big deal to some, using these two little words—or any homophone—incorrectly can make us seem ignorant and uneducated. You see, whether or not they mean to, people often form first impressions simply by reading our writing. Isn’t this why our shelves brim with English references, grammar programs, and spelling books? It IS important to us that our children write as accurately as possible.

It’s never too late to teach the rules to your kids. And if you didn’t quite grasp these concepts during your own school days, it’s not too late to learn or re-learn the rules yourself.

All About Homophones

All About Homophones is an exciting new curriculum that will unlock your children’s understanding of these confusing word sets. Author Marie Rippel says:

“Teaching homophones can be tough! They sound the same, but they aren’t spelled the same, and they don’t mean the same thing . . . [All About Homophones] is a complete teaching tool kit that helps you demystify homophones and homonyms for students. They’ll learn and master spelling easily through interesting worksheets and games they love to play.”

One Book, Multiple Grades

Take time to teach your children about homophones so they’ll learn to correctly spell and use these word sets.

Because the worksheets are divided into sections by grade level, All About Homophones is perfect for teaching multple grades. One book includes reproducible worksheets for grades one through eight, making the program budget friendly too.

Lessons You’ll Love

The book includes a comprehensive list of common homophones and recommends which grade to introduce each one. And All About Homophones offers a variety of activities that appeals to different learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.

These aren’t your ordinary dull worksheets! Whimsical illustrations and engaging activities maintain your children’s interest while helping them make sense of each new set of words. Here are some of the ways your children will learn about homophones:

  • Homophone Worksheets to reinforce reading and writing.
  • Graphic Organizers to help teach the meanings of each set of words.
  • Crossword Puzzles, Riddles, and Tongue Twisters to reinforce with fun and humor.
  • Card Games with cards and instructions for playing several different games.
  • Student Record Sheets
  • List of Homophones
  • List of Homophone-rich Books to read with your children

Click here to see sample pages from All About Homophones.

Now in the WriteShop Store

We’re always looking for top-notch products that reinforce writing, grammar, and spelling, so we’re excited to announce that All About Homophones is now in stock in the WriteShop store. Stop in and check out this great new resource. Teaching your children to use homophones correctly is one of the best gifts you can give them. Order yours today! 

Homophone Humor

If I haven’t yet convinced you of the importance of teaching homophones—or if you think your children can simply trust their spell-check to correct these troublesome words, you’ll want to read Owed to the Spell Checker. One of my favorite examples of homophone confusion, this humorous poem illustrates just how easy it is to mix up words that have similar sounds.

On revising

“I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.”

—James Michener

Photo: Phil Hilfiker / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Haiku contest winners

First Place

We have our winners in last week’s haiku contest! I used random.org to select the first place winner, Cullen. Here’s his haiku poem:

The grasses are green
dew is sparkling here and there
earth’s morning beauties.

Second Place

Second place goes to Andrew K., age 9, who wrote my personal favorite and won a World of Animals StoryBuilders card deck. Here’s his haiku about a yellow jacket:

buzz-black, yellow bug
in garden flying, eating
stinging all the worms

It was a tough choice because there were some very clever and well-written entries. But in the end, Andrew’s won out because he:

  1. Followed the format.
  2. Avoided “to be” words.
  3. Made every word count.
  4. Picked a nature theme.

Thanks to everyone who participated. Keep up with your haiku!

Purim for Punsters

This past Sunday (February 28) marked the Jewish holiday of Purim. One of the most joyous days on the Jewish calendar, Purim is based on the Old Testament story of Esther.

Someone sent me this clever version of the Purim tale. Hope it brings a laugh to your day!

The World-Famous Story of Purim

by Meish Goldish

The story of Purim is an international tale.

King Achashverosh was Finnish with his disobedient wife Vashti.”You Congo now!” he ordered her. After she had Ghana way, the king’s messengers went Roman the land to find a new queen. And India end, the beautiful Esther won the crown.

Meanwhile, Mordechai sat outside the palace, where the Chile Haman would Czech up on him daily.

“I Haiti you because you refuse to bow to me!” Haman scolded Mordechai. “USA very stubborn man. You Jews are such Bahamas*! If you keep this up, Denmark my words! I will have all your people killed! Just Kuwait and see, you Turkey!”

Mordechai went into mourning and tore his clothes—a custom known as Korea*. He urged Esther to plead with the king. The Jews fasted for three days and grew very Hungary. Esther approached the king and asked, ‘Kenya Belize come to a banquet I’ve prepared for you and Haman?” At the feast, she invited her guests to a second banquet to eat Samoa.

The king asked, “Esther, why Jamaica big meal like this? Just tell me what you want. Unto half my United Kingdom will I give you.” Esther replied, “Spain full for me to say this, but Haman is Russian to kill my people.”

Haman’s loud Wales could be heard as he carried Honduran this scene. “Oman!” Haman cried bitterly. “Iraq my brains in an effort to destroy the Jews. But that sneaky Mordechai—Egypt me!”

Haman and his ten sons were hanged and went immediately to the Netherlands. And to Sweden the deal, the Jews were allowed to Polish off the rest of their foes as well. “You lost your enemies and Uganda friend,” the king smiled.

And that is why the Purim story Israeli a miracle. God decided to China light on His chosen people.

So now, let’s celebrate! Forget all your Syria’s business and just be happy! Serb up some wine and Taiwan on! Happy Purim!

*Behaimeh: (Yiddish) Animal, cow; ignorant drudge; when referring to a human being, means dull-witted
*Keriah: (Yiddish) Jewish custom of tearing one’s clothing after a death

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Which one of these puns is your favorite? Share a comment and let us know!

Comma splice errors: An object lesson


We writing and grammar geeks can hardly contain ourselves as two fabulously nerdy events collide. Today, National Grammar Day meets Words Matter Week.

To celebrate this momentous occasion, I’d like to bring you a fun little way to teach your students to find and fix comma splices.

I know. Your enthusiasm—like mine—knows no bounds.

The Problem with Comma Splices

When a comma joins two independent clauses or sentences, it’s called a comma splice. 

Example 1: J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, he also wrote The Lord of the Rings.
Example 2: The bridge collapsed into the river, fortunately no one was injured.
Example 3: Maya arrived late, her car wouldn’t start.

These three examples demonstrate the typical comma splice. Since it’s one of the most common grammar errors, I encourage you to devote time to helping your students identify and learn to fix comma splices in their own writing.

Suzanne Cherry, director of the Swamp Fox Writing Project (South Carolina), finds that relating the concepts of punctuation and grammar to real-world experiences—in this example, through an intriguing demonstration involving electrical tape—helps students recognize and correct their errors successfully.

Cherry uses a unique object lesson to explain the comma splice error to her students. Showing the class two pieces of wire, each with the last inch exposed, she says: “We need to join these pieces of wire together right now if we are to be able to watch our favorite TV show. What can we do? We could use some tape, but that would probably be a mistake as the puppy could easily eat through the connection. By splicing the wires in this way, we are creating a fire hazard.”

Turning Wires into Sentences

The students usually come up with a better alternative: to use one of those electrical connectors that looks like the cap of a pen.

“Now,” Cherry suggests, “let’s turn those wires into sentences.”

She reminds her students that if they just splice them together with a comma—the equivalent of a piece of tape—it creates a weak connection, or a comma splice error.

The answer is to use the grammatical equivalent of the electrical connector: either a conjunction (and, but, or) or a semicolon. Either option “shows the relationship between the two sentences in a way that the comma—a device for taping clauses together in a slapdash manner—does not.”

[In addition to Cherry’s suggestons, I would add that a period also makes an effective repair for a comma splice, as it separates the two independent clauses into distinct sentences.]

Here, our three example comma splices have been repaired:

Example 1: J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit. He also wrote The Lord of the Rings.
Example 2: The bridge collapsed into the river, but fortunately no one was injured.
Example 3: Maya arrived late; her car wouldn’t start.

“I’ve been teaching writing for many years,” Cherry says. “And I now realize the more able we are to relate the concepts of writing to ‘real world’ experience, the more successful we will be.”

Read more: Keeping the Comma Splice Queen Happy

Source: National Writing Project, 30 Ideas for Teaching Wriing.
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