Entries from May 2010 ↓

Better to write twaddle…

 

“Looking back, I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was too. But better far write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all.”

—Katherine Mansfield

We’ve got (more) mail!

It’s always so encouraging to open up my inbox each day and find a glowing review or happy testimonial from a homeschooling mom who’s been using WriteShop with her children. It’s been nearly ten years since we first published WriteShop I and II, and believe me, I never dreamed the results would be so far-reaching.

I’d love to share some of these comments with you. Be blessed!

WriteShop I and II

“Thank you so much for a fabulous two years!” ~Mindy

“Kudos to WriteShop! I have found your program to be the most clearly laid out program that I have ever used. My son and his friends went from whining about a writing project to being capable of producing a great essay in a short period of time. Best of all, they now see themselves as writers. I simply cannot believe the difference.” ~Kristel

Write Shop has been a wonderful program for us. I don’t think my dyslexic daughter would have ever learned to write without it!” ~Dena

“I’m using this program with my 13-year old son. I used it with my freshman-in-college son also. I believe WriteShop gave my oldest son amazing writing skills; in fact, he aspires to be a writer. Thanks for putting out an amazing curriculum!” ~Roseann

“We have used your products for three years and love them!” ~Lisa

“Let me tell you what a wonderful writing program you’ve created in WriteShop I & II. I used it with my son, who received a journalism scholarship to Samford University in Birmingham, AL … Your material covered every reasonable thing he needed to know about sound, solid writing and enabled me to objectively assess his work. I recommend WriteShop to everyone who talks to me about writing skills.” ~Mary

“WriteShop is a Godsend to us…Thank you so much!” ~Linda

“I love your program! I have taught in the public schools, and I have also homeschooled, so I have seen my fair share of writing curriculum, but this is the best. It’s not hard to teach from the teacher’s point of view, it’s not hard to learn from the student’s point of view, and—it’s fun! Plus, thank you for the twenty-two pages of word lists—they’re fabulous! …Your program has answered many prayers.” ~Sharon

“You should call this program Writing for Children Who Have Mothers Who Didn’t Pay Attention in High School. It’s just so easy to teach!” ~Becky

WriteShop Primary

Book A

“My son and I have already dived right into Book A—he’ll be starting Gr. 1 in the fall. I have been very impressed so far at the fun we’re having and how well this has been put together.” ~Dianne

“I am working through your WriteShop Primary Book A with my 2nd grader. He loves this program. He told me that it is his favorite subject. He loves the creative part of dictating the story and illustrating it each day.” ~Tami,

“This is the best writing experience my kids and I have ever had. They are writing!!! My little one (Kindergarten) is writing as well as my 2nd grader and both are doing so much better than I ever expected.” ~Mia

Book B

“A special thanks to the dedicated staff at WriteShop for a wonderful curriculum! We really enjoyed using WriteShop [Primary] together. It was challenging and rewarding, and also held his interest because of the subject matter and creative way that it was presented.” ~Julia

“My son progressed in his ability to organize his thoughts before starting to write, and he learned the importance of choosing the right words to express his thoughts…. I love the way the curriculum guided him through the writing process in small steps, and the way it offered me lots of options to tailor it to him.” ~Debbie

Book C

“My daughter, who has always loved to write, feels like she has gotten much better at writing paragraphs. I would agree with her! She’s never lacked confidence, but just needed some guidance and this program has helped her tremendously…. She loved this program so much that she has been writing paragraphs on her own during her free time!” ~Beth

“I am thrilled with my 10 yo’s progress…. This last project was so encouraging!! It was a ‘Yes! This is why I am homeschooling’ moment…. Now he is much more OK with writing on blank page—once we stop and do the brainstorming! Since I’ve used your other products I must say—you do such a great job of breaking it all down—making the end project attainable. It’s fun to see kids even at this level able to make so much progress!” ~Sharie

Read more testimonials here.

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Visit our website at writeshop.com to learn more about WriteShop I, WriteShop II, and WriteShop Primary.

Photo of boy © 2009 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved. 

Newspaper bloopers

Oh, the things that slip past the editor!

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

A murder of crows: Fun with collective nouns

A gaggle of geese.
A school of fish.
A flock of sheep.
A nest of hornets.

These animal groupings are called collective nouns, and I’m sure they’re well known to you and your kids. But have you heard of any of these?

A murder of crows.
A crash of rhinoceroses.
An unkindliness of ravens.
An exaltation of larks.
An implausibility of gnus.
A memory of elephants.

I love these! Could word usage be any more fun?

If you want to take a humorous trip down vocabulary lane, check out this link and learn all sorts of interesting collective nouns people have attributed to birds, fish, and mammals. From what I’ve gathered, some of the terms date back to the 1400s. Many may be archaic, but for the most part, they’re purely entertaining!

Fun with Words: Collective Nouns for Animals

I think it would be great to encourage your children to write a poem using these unusual animal groupings. Maybe we could call our collection a ponderance of poems.

Do you have a few favorites from the collective animal nouns list? Share them in the comments. And while you’re at it, why not make up a new collective noun of your own? I think a ponderance of poems is a great place to start!

[Edited: Sherri alerted me to a wonderful song by Carrie Newcomer called A Crash of Rhinoceros, about how Adam named the animals. You just have to check out these fabulous lyrics!]

Ideas for expanding writing vocabulary

This morning I presented a jam-packed workshop at the Schoolhouse Expo, a virtual homeschool conference sponsored by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. The hour whizzed by as I shared tons of ideas for ways to creatively introduce and expand your children’s writing vocabulary. Here are just a handful of suggestions from today’s session.

Be a Writing Role Model 

You’ve heard that if you want your children to become readers, they need to see you reading. Likewise, to raise writers, you must make sure they see you writing. When your child writes, think about stopping to write as well.

  • Draw attention to your writing. Point out times that you use writing to communicate with others.
  • Talk about writing opportunities. Explain the purpose for each kind of writing and the target audience, handwriting vs. computer, etc.
  • Let your child see you prepare for a Bible study, keep a prayer journal, or take notes during church.
  • Have your child help you write letters, even such routine ones as ordering items from an advertisement or writing a letter of praise or complaint to a company. This helps the child to see firsthand that writing is important to adults and truly useful.
  • Take time to write in your journals together.

Assign Copywork

Copywork has so many benefits, including providing students with excellent writing models. You can use various copywork passages as opportunities to look up unfamiliar words, which is a great way to naturally expand your children’s vocabulary.

You can purchase resources specifically intended for the purpose of copying. Or simply encourage copying Bible verses, hymns, favorite poems, passages of literature, or famous quotations.

Suggest Making Lists

Making lists is an effective writing tool for all ages. Most children like to create lists anyway, but writing out lists—from the mundane to the meaningful—also helps them become more organized. Taken a step further, when list-making is used as a brainstorming tool, it can even help students plan the elements of an essay or story. And it also helps build context-specific vocabulary.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Show them how you keep a calendar, make grocery lists, write daily to-do lists, add to an ongoing list of projects, etc. Then your kids can make their own lists of schoolwork, dates for soccer practice and games, family birthdays, etc.
  • They can inventory furniture in a room or items in a junk drawer, jewelry box, or medicine cabinet. Talk about different ways to name common objects.
  • Likewise, they might make lists of their various personal possessions such as baseball cards, stuffed animals, shoes, or CDs. Collections, such as seashells or Matchbox cars, often have specific or specialized names. Learning these helps contribute to vocabulary growth.
  • Another suggestion is to create word lists: Your child can begin a list with a word that describes a texture such as rough or slippery, or a character quality such as gentle, brave, or faithful. Then have him use a thesaurus to look up synonyms for that word to expand the list.

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If you missed it, you can still get an Expo to Go ticket that will give you access to all the MP3 audios beginning May 31, 2010. It’s been a wonderful event, and I highly encourage you to grab a ticket so that you can take advantage of the encouragement and ideas that each outstanding speaker has offered. At $19.95, it’s an outstanding deal! Just click the Expo to Go image to the right. >>>

My homeschooling days are well behind me, but I still gleaned so much from the excellent sessions. Hope you take advantage of “Expo to Go”!

Photo courtesy of StockXchg.

Finger posts

Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.

—C. S. Lewis

How to teach spelling with WriteShop Primary

Another question from the WriteShop mailbag . . .

Q:  I am very interested in WriteShop Primary. I love the layout of the lessons and the help you offer the parent. I see that it has a spelling component, but would I need to supplement that?

A:  Spelling is taught in both WriteShop Primary Book B and Book C. WriteShop Primary encourages individualized spelling. Instead of focusing on a prescribed list of words from a spelling book, your child will learn to spell the words he tends to use in his own writing. This is a more natural, practical approach to spelling. You don’t need a separate spelling curriculum when using Books B and C.

Young children often spell “by ear” as they try to write phonetically. Books B and C introduce them to simple reference tools and spelling games they can use to check and practice spelling.

Here are a few examples:

Super Speller!

The Super Speller! helps your child become more aware of familiar sight words and other words he uses frequently. You can think of it as his own personal spelling reference. As you work closely with him, you’ll spot the words he can and can’t spell correctly. When you note a misspelled word, you can add it to the Super Speller! To reinforce the importance of using standard spelling, your child will be directed to use his Super Speller! throughout Books B and C.

Can of Words

This is a fun Book B activity that helps the child practice his spelling words.

Labeling Household Objects

In Book B, you’re encouraged to write common words on index cards and tape them around the house: door, lamp, floor, rug, desk, book, etc. This helps your child become familiar with the spelling of these everyday objects.

Spinner Spelling Game

Introduced in Book C, this is an engaging game with variations that gives children spelling practice.

Spelling Dictionary

The child will make a personal spelling dictionary in Book C. This is yet another tool we use to reinforce standard spelling.

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Spelling tools and games are among the many fun and creative activities WriteShop Primary uses to reinforce simple writing skills at the primary level. Learn more by visiting www.writeshop.com.

Spelling isn’t on the menu

Our local pizza place has tasty food, but apparently, spelling isn’t on the menu.

Can you find the spelling errors? Post your corrections in the comments.

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

Oh, deer: English language silliness

   The English Language

A pretty deer is dear to me,
   A hare with downy hair;
A hart I love with all my heart,
   But I can barely bear a bear.

‘Tis plain that no one takes a plane
   To have a pair of pears.
All rays raise thyme, time razes all;
   And through the whole, hole wears.

A writ, in writing “right” may write
   It “wright” and still be wrong—
For “write” and “rite” are neither “right,”
   And don’t to write belong.

Beer often brings a bier to man,
   Coughing a coffin brings,
And too much ale will make us ail,
   As well as other things.

The person lies who says he lies
   When he is but reclining;
And, when consumptive folks decline,
   They all decline declining.

A quail won’t quail before a storm—
   A bough will bow before it;
We can not rein the rain at all—
   No earthly power reigns o’er it.

The dyer dyes awhile, then dies;
   To dye he’s always trying,
Until upon his dying-bed
   He thinks no more of dyeing.

A son of Mars mars many a sun;
   All days must have their days,
And every knight should pray each night
   To Him who weighs his ways.

‘Tis meet that man should mete out meat
   To feed misfortune’s son;
The fair should fare on love alone,
   Else one can not be won.

The springs spring forth in Spring, and shoots
   Shoot forward one and all;
Though Summer kills the flowers, it leaves
   The leaves to fall in Fall.

I would a story here commence,
   But you might think it stale;
So we’ll suppose that we have reached
   The tail end of our tale.

From Eclectic Magazine, January 1881

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The author of this poem uses many homophones to create plays on words. But if some of these homophones regularly give your children trouble, consider All About Homophones, a wonderful resource that clearly teaches homophone spelling rules with fun games and activities. Contains exercises for grades 1-8.

Describing a food: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Describing a Food: Teach kids to use vivid words to describe tasty or yucky foods

The Good

I love the deliciousness of certain words—the way something as ordinary as chocolate can take on an entire new personality when dressed up with adjectives like warm, rich, thick, gooey, chilled, creamy, or frothy. 

Such descriptive words bring everyday foods to life.

Magazine writers, cookbook editors, food bloggers, and restaurant reviewers are experts at describing a food. They definitely know the value of a well-turned phrase! Using appetizing words like simmering, hearty, robust, browned, and spicy, they tempt the reader to try a new recipe or visit an out-of-the-way cafe with enticing offerings like these:

The cake looked like a homespun masterpiece.  It was fluffy as a pillow, toasty brown, and shot through with plum-colored swirls. Serious Eats

This cream of mushroom soup hasn’t lost one jot of its butter-laden, cognac-kissed suavity. “Soup” is too prosaic a term for the pungent, earthy silkiness in every bowlful. Fungi beg for the honor of giving their lives this way. 239 Best Dishes to Eat in Philly

Plump shrimp, sautéed with chile flakes and served with a salad of oyster mushrooms, cucumber and corn, turned out to be everything I wanted on a Saturday morning: fresh, vibrant and crunchy, with just enough spicy zing to wake me up. Salma Abdelnour, Best Restaurant Dishes of 2007

Broiling a nice juicy steak until it spatters and hisses and crusts up in all the right places is wonderful. Roasting a chicken and seeing the skin crisp up in the oven while the meat goes tender beneath is lovely, too. And most of the ills in the world can be cured with a few savory pork-stuffed dumplings, dripping broth and juice. The Wednesday Chef

I could marinate in these all day. Pun intended.

The Bad

Teach kids to use vivid words to describe foods that are both appetizing and yuckyAh, but it’s also possible to describe a food—even one you normally like—in a way that totally robs the joy of eating it. Or to describe “iffy” foods like okra, black licorice, or liver and onions that are popular enough with some folks, but we just can’t abide ‘em.

Yucky Foods Worth a Second Taste” tells why some people don’t like—among other foods—tomatoes. Given the description, I can understand why! To me, a good tomato is ripe, sweet, and juicy. But as the article explains, the “slimy, jellylike substance around the seeds, thin skin, [and] grainy pulp” send some people running from this salad staple.

Whoa. Almost had the same effect on me.

And last week, a friend’s Facebook status lamented the horrors of a recent fast food experience. She complained:

Just had the worst breakfast [I have] *ever* had. Ever. I love Sausage Teach kids to use vivid words to describe tasty...or even yucky...foods!McMuffins and went for Burger King’s knock off. Imagine an English muffin soaked in artificial butter oil, toasted, assembled with a spongy egg-like substance, cheese whiz or something, and a sausage puck. Now, wait a few hours, microwave until completely indestructible, and serve to an unsuspecting consumer. It was malevolently bad.

Melanie’s description has had its effect. Off to BK, anyone?

And this description of how to eat raw oysters, though intended to set the novice at ease, sure doesn’t inspire me to rush out to my nearest oyster bar!

Stay calm when faced with a half-dozen to a dozen barnacled, irregular and slimy oysters set on your party’s table. If you’re an oyster eating novice, attempt to suppress the look of horror at not only the aesthetics of the shellfish, but how you’re going to manage extracting the oysters from their watery home.

And the Ugly

Describing a Food: Teach kids to use vivid vocabulary to describe appetizing foods as well as yucky, moldy ones!Then there’s just plain ugly food. You know the kind I’m talking about: Undercooked. Overcooked. Burned. Mystery meat lurking in an old margarine tub at the back of the fridge. An unnamed vegetable weeping at the bottom of the crisper. The leftover cup of grayish, congealed gravy. Things sprouting fur and fuzz.

The stuff no one wants to—or should ever—eat.

Some people are experts at describing a food that’s ugly. In children’s literature, Shel Silverstein and Roald Dahl pretty much top the list. Silverstein’s poem “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out” contains some of the very best of “worst food” descriptions you’ll find! Adjectives like grisly, gloppy, withered, rubbery, curdled, and moldy perfectly describe a food that, to put it kindly, is beyond its prime. Here’s an excerpt:

. . . Prune pits, peach pits, orange peels,
Gloppy glumps of cold oatmeal,
Pizza crusts and withered greens,
Soggy beans, and tangerines,
Crusts of black-burned buttered toast,
Grisly bits of beefy roast.
The garbage rolled on down the halls,
It raised the roof, it broke the walls,
I mean, greasy napkins, cookie crumbs,
Blobs of gooey bubble gum,
Cellophane from old bologna,
Rubbery, blubbery macaroni,
Peanut butter, caked and dry,
Curdled milk, and crusts of pie,
Rotting melons, dried-up mustard,
Eggshells mixed with lemon custard,
Cold French fries and rancid meat,
Yellow lumps of Cream of Wheat. . .

It’s a fun poem! Hope you’re inspired to read the whole thing.

So there you have it—the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of describing a food. Have I whetted your appetite for descriptive writing? If so, I challenge you and your kiddos to grab a food from the refrigerator, study it carefully, and come up with a list of words to describe it—for better or for worse. And if you’re brave enough, leave a comment sharing your lists with us. We’re hungry to read them!

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If you’re looking for curriculum to help your students write more descriptively, consider WriteShop Primary Book C for grades 2-3, WriteShop Junior Book D for grades 3-4 (or even grade 5) and WriteShop I for grades 6-10. WriteShop I has a great lesson on describing a food, but each of these levels offers several lessons on concrete description that will draw out the best in your young writers and make their writing sparkle with interesting, colorful vocabulary.  

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