Entries from August 2010 ↓

Free class: “Ten Stumbling Blocks to Writing”

At homeschool conferences, one of my favorite workshop presentations is Ten Stumbling Blocks to Writing. I love sharing practical ways parents can help their children overcome the obstacles that stand between them and the blank page—including laziness, perfectionism, and lack of motivation.

HomeschoolBlogger.com has been presenting a great lineup of FREE online classes this summer, the last of which is “Ten Stumbling Blocks.” Not only will you hear the audio, but if you’re a visual learner, you’ll also enjoy watching examples and demonstrations on a helpful, colorful PowerPoint.

Class Details

Workshop: Ten Stumbling Blocks to Writing
Presenter: Kim Kautzer, WriteShop
Date: Tuesday, August 31
Time: 2 PM EDT/1 PM CDT/noon MDT/11 AM PDT
Cost: FREE
To Register: HomeschoolBlogger Free Classes
Webinar Description: “I hate writing!” Is this the cheerful response you get when you give your kids an assignment? Then you’ll want to find out ten common stumbling blocks to writing and discover what students need in order to overcome their anxiety, fear, or lack of confidence. Learn how the steps of the writing process can actually motivate your most reluctant children, and gain tips and tools for encouraging their success.

For more information: http://homeschoolblogger.com/webinar/ten-stumbling-blocks-to-writing/

Do you have a reluctant writer?

Homeschool moms can discover the hows and whys of helping a reluctant writer.

Young students are often bursting with ideas. Most likely they can talk your ear off, but getting them to write those ideas down is another story altogether.

Where Did It Go?

The act of capturing a fleeting thought and pinning it to the paper is a challenge. We think it sounds so easy to “just write what’s in your head,” but the reality is that many children simply aren’t mature enough to put all the pieces together.

First, a thought must formulate in a child’s mind. Then, it has to travel all the way down his arm to the pencil. But by the time he starts wondering how to spell this word or punctuate that sentence, the once-delightful idea has at best been reduced to three dull words, or at worst, vanished completely.

Children 10 and under often need more help with writing than we think they should. We expect them to be able to think of an idea all on their own and then write about it. But in truth, many kids

  • Struggle to come up with writing topics.
  • Forget what they want to say.
  • Get overwhelmed by perfectionism.
  • Complain that their hand hurts.
  • Fear making mistakes.

Whether or not your children have special needs or learning struggles, writing can throw them into a tailspin.

Start Them Young

Do you have a reluctant writer? Too many students approach junior high strongly biased against writing—either because they were never taught how to write and now fear it, or because of negative experiences with writing as younger children.

But by starting them while they’re young, your children can actually look forward to writing and learn to approach it with joy. This happens when you create a safe, warm, nurturing atmosphere and offer writing activities that teach—yes—but that are also infused with fun.

One of the reasons I’m so passionate about WriteShop Primary and WriteShop Junior is the focus on letting your children ease into writing. As the parent, you gently guide, rather than push or force. Definitely not the sort of program where you give an assignment and leave them to their own devices. Instead, you’re encouraged to share in the entire process—including the actual writing.

How Much Help Should You Give?

If you wonder how much of the writing you should take on, the answer is: As much as it takes for your children to feel successful. And if you ask how much of the writing your children should be doing? Only as much as they are able. It’s very simple, really. If you sense their frustration at ANY point along the way, recognize that this is their cry for help—and your signal to take over a bit more.

Depending on your children, you might:

  • Provide them with writing ideas and prompts.
  • Encourage them to write about topics they love or that tickle their fancy—horses, sports, chess, Legos, gardening, etc.
  • Use a personal experience or familiar story as the basis for a new story. They don’t always have to come up with something unique—it’s totally fine for them to retell a familiar story in their own words.
  • Do some or all of the writing while they dictate to you.
  • Let them write the words they know while you write the words they can’t spell yet.

Instead of worrying that you’re failing your child, enjoy the realization that you’re modeling and teaching. Meanwhile, your little sponge is absorbing, processing, and sorting everything into his mental filing system.

The good news is this: You won’t handicap your child by supplying him with writing topics; he won’t become a writing failure if he lifts a story idea from a sibling; and prompting him with questions and dialog won’t create overdependence on you. It may take awhile for him to really get it. Just know that your participation with him is an important key.

Shoot the Writing Rapids—Together

As the mom of a once-reluctant, writing-phobic son, I speak from experience. My daughters were more “natural” writers who fairly sailed down the rapids of writing.

My son, on the other hand, couldn’t stay afloat in the raft! Our journey was hard, and we experienced more than our share of frustration, so I can completely relate to your struggles.

From the time we began homeschooling in kindergarten until Ben was 14 or 15, I stayed very involved with his writing, whether it meant helping him with ideas, prompting his writing with questions and dialog, or letting him dictate to me while I wrote his words down. Sometime around 10th grade, the pieces FINALLY fell into place for him, and by the time he graduated from high school, he had become a strong, independent writer.

So hang in there! Don’t be afraid to hop into the writing boat with your son or daughter. Help now, as much as your child needs you, and believe that independence will come one day.

Copyright 2010 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Photos courtesy of stock.xchng

Warding off writing fears

“As children get older, they only get more intimidated by writing. You need to start at a young age.”

—Betty Rogers
2003 Teacher of the Year

Sonbeams interviews Kim Kautzer

I just finished doing a fun interview with Candace of Sonbeams. She asked me a bunch of questions and I answered away!

Here’s your chance to get to know me (and WriteShop) a little better and to read Candace’s review of WriteShop Primary. Click on over! (And pssst . . . there’s a coupon code too.)

Sonbeams interview with Kim Kautzer

And make sure to visit Candace’s Sonbeams website if you’re homeschooling preschoolers. Her site has tons of ideas and resources!

Masters of punctuation

I am hoping “Everything Go” is a title or business, but I think the more likely explanation is yet another misused apostrophe by these great masters.

And is that supposed to be a “dot” com? Or maybe the “com” is in the middle of a giant “dot”? Punctuation isn’t supposed to be this complicated!

. . . . .

Stop by every 1st, 3rd, and 5th Wednesday for a peek into the world of spelling, punctuation, or grammar gone wrong!

Inspire writing with old-fashioned joy

IT’S THAT time of year again–that wonderful back-to-school season when every imaginable school supply is on sale. We can talk all day long about brainstorming techniques and editing methods, but honestly–is there anything more inspiring to a young writer than brand-new writing supplies?

Old-Fashioned Joy

As a child, I loved visiting my grandma and grandpa at their brick apartment building in Chicago. My brother and I were allowed to walk the short block to Simon’s Drugstore at the corner of Roscoe and Broadway, where we’d head straightaway for the school-supplies aisle.

I loved them all: yellow #2 pencils sharpened to a fine point; clean, fat, pink erasers; and pads of crisp white paper that whispered, “Write. Here. Now.” And I grew positively heady over an unspoiled box of Crayola crayons.

Cool School Tools

No one is motivated by a handful of chewed pencil nubs and that pile of last year’s paper remnants. Thriftiness has its place, but a few inexpensive new items can make all the difference for a reluctant writer of any age.

Create a little writing buzz simply by investing in some brand-new school supplies! Hop on over to Target, Office Max, Office Depot, or the dollar store this week—the sales are crazy right now.

  • For mere pennies, you can find colorful pocket folders, assorted mechanical pencils, highlighters, and pretty gel pens.
  • Decorate some juice cans with self-stick paper and fill them with a fresh supply of fine-tip markers or luscious colored pencils.
  • In addition to white notebook paper, brighten up your writing corner with ruled paper in fun pastels.
  • And pick up a handful of spiral notebooks in different sizes for journaling and other writing. You can find them for a quarter at some stores!

Don’t Forget Mom

My love of office supplies hasn’t diminished over the years. I’m a sucker for those miniature Sharpies in rainbow colors, and I still stroll up and down the aisles, drooling over coordinated filing systems and desktop organizers.

Back-to-school isn’t just for students! So tickle your own inner child by indulging in a few goodies for yourself, too.

  • Toss a pack of colored sticky notes, a box of funky paperclips, and some new correction tape into your shopping basket.
  • Grab a package of bright but “not-red” pens for editing your kids’ papers.
  • Round out your writing supplies with an assortment of cheerful stickers or rubber stamps that proclaim a job well done.

The best news is this: You don’t have to spend much at all. With all the great back-to-school sales, for less than $10, you can load up on simple supplies and cool writing tools that will put a sparkle in your children’s eyes and make everyone much more eager for writing time.

What are you waiting for?

Copyright 2010 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Photos courtesy of stock.xchng

A man, a plan, and a Sharpie

If you follow this blog at all, you know how much I love to find a good typo: a misplaced apostrophe, crazy spelling error, or grammar faux pas. Just take a little stroll down Bad Signage Lane for some great examples of English language abuse.

So imagine my delight at discovering this little gem of an article: A Man, a Plan, and a Sharpie. I’ll admit that Jeff Deck actually did what I would LOVE to be able to do—correct mispunctuated or illogical signs. I’m just not as bold.

I applaud his gumption!

Thanks to my friend and fellow communications buff JoJo for the link.

Writing for an audience

Intrinsic motivation means children write without any additional outside incentive. No bribes. No treats. No money. But the truth is that few children are motivated by the sheer love of writing. So—short of paying them off with cash or candy—what can you do to inspire them? Writing for an audience adds purpose and meaning to assignments. Kids will love these fun ways to publish and share stories and reports.

Writers Need an Audience

Writing for an audience adds purpose and meaning to the assignment. Having an audience takes your child past the point of writing for a “requirement” or a grade—and it certainly takes him beyond writing just for his normal, everyday audience of one: you.

Importance of an Audience

You can spark renewed interest in writing by guiding your child to think of ways to broaden his understanding of what an audience can be. Help him experience how others can find pleasure in reading his work. He’ll be rewarded with increased joy and confidence, and I think you’ll begin to see his writing blossom as he takes more pride in his efforts.

Seeing Their Works in Print

When I taught writing classes years ago, we always ended the year with a Writers’ Tea. Our students invited friends and family, dressed up for the occasion,and recited poetry. At the end, we passed out class anthologies featuring samples of each student’s best writing. As they pored over the stories and poems in the spiral-bound booklets, it was clear how much the children enjoyed seeing their works in print and sharing the anthologies with their parents and grandparents.

Thinking Outside the Box

An anthology is just one of many ways to publish. Below are some other suggestions for expanding your kids’ writing audience or showcasing their writing through their published projects. When they polish a story or poem so that it’s the best it can be—and when they go beyond the traditional “final draft” to create an interesting published project—they’ll be much more likely to write for the joy of it. Here are some ideas:

Publishing Stories

  • Shape Books: Cut out shapes that match the story’s theme (e.g., house, car, seashell or animal shape). Use cardboard or heavy cardstock for the top and bottom cover and grade-level lined paper for the pages. Staple edges, or lace the pages together with yarn.
  • Puzzle: Glue a photocopy of the child’s story to a piece of cardstock. On the back, have her draw a picture about the story. Cut the cardstock into 8 or 9 simple puzzle pieces that a friend or family member can assemble.
  • Writing for an audience adds purpose and meaning to assignments. Kids will love these fun ways to publish and share stories and reports.

    Kids’ writing needs an audience.

    Board Game: Suggest that your child create a board game about his story. Play the game with the family.

  • Journaling Notebook: Assemble your child’s journal pages into a special notebook.
  • Cards and Letters: Help your child create a card on the computer. Or provide her with scrapbooking papers, punches, stickers, and other supplies so that she can make a fancy card for publishing her friendly letter or invitation letter.
  • Comedy Night: Have your child write & illustrate funny story. Host a special family Comedy Night. Start by having your young author share her humorous story. Then choose a funny cartoon to watch or a stack of silly books to read. Invite everyone to tell their favorite jokes.
  • Suitcase Story: For a story about a travel or vacation experience, make a suitcase out of a 12- x 18-inch piece of brown construction paper. Fold the paper in half and round the corners with scissors. Cut two handles from yellow or tan paper and tape them in place. Staple the child’s final story inside the suitcase.

Publishing Factual Reports and Book Reports

  • Lapbooks and Flap Books: These make great avenues for displaying facts, photos, drawings, and short reports. They work well for factual reports as well as for explaining the steps of a process. Here’s just one of many lapbooking websites to help get you started.
  • Mobiles: Mobiles are a fun way to publish a report or book report! You can attach index cards or paper shapes to a length of string or yarn and hang them from a coat hanger or the rim of a paper plate. On one side of each card, have the child write facts about his topic or details about a book’s characters, setting, or action. On the back, he can illustrate.
  • Trivia Game: This is a great way to publish a younger child’s short factual report. On the cover of a manila file folder, have the child write five questions about her topic and then staple the report inside. Let family members or friends try to guess the answers. Then they can open the folder and read the report to see if they were right!

.  .  .  .  .

Most of these fun and creative activities come straight from the pages of WriteShop Primary and WriteShop Junior, elementary writing programs that incorporate clever publishing ideas into every lesson.

Images: D. Sharon Pruitt and Indi Samarajiva, courtesy of Creative Commons

Bringing order and logic into the language

Many—like George Bernard Shaw—have complained about the inconsistencies of our language. Here are some helpful suggestios to bring order into it.

Exceptions are the greatest nuisance. Therefore let us be consistent:

Singular / Plural

Tooth / Teeth
Booth / Beeth
Goose / Geese
Bruise / Breeze
Noose / Niece
Look / Leek
Crook / Creek

Male / Female

Actor / Actress
Matter / Mattress
Butter / Buttress
Under / Undress
Needle / Needless
Supper / Suppress


The diminutive of:
Book is Booklet
Scar    Scarlet
Toy     Toilet
Ham     Hamlet
Bull      Bullet
Inn      Inlet

Collective Nouns

Jewelry   a collection of Jewels
Infantry   a collection of  Infants
Husbandry                     Husbands
Pantry                          Pants
Scullery                        Skulls
Flattery                        Flats
Factory                        Facts

From Little Book of Word Tricks. Copyright © 1958 Peter Pauper Press.

. . . . .

Happy Friday!

Same story, different twist

When assigning writing to your children, you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel with a brand-new lesson. Sometimes it’s fun to approach a familiar assignment in a fresh new way. For example:

  • Tweaking an existing lesson instruction by adding different elements.
  • Having your children revisit an earlier composition—either a recent story or one they wrote a year or two ago) and changing it up somehow. 

Here are some simple ways to add variety to your children’s writing by using lessons you already have lying around!

Change the tense

Using the same composition they wrote before, have students rewrite it, changing the tense. If it was written in past tense, ask them to write it in present, and vice versa. If the story was written long ago, you may also want to have them increase the length, add more sentence variations, or expand description.

Change the point of view

Have your child rewrite a story from a different point of view by writing as another character in the story. For practice, have him retell a familiar story such as David and Goliath, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, or a fable or fairy tale. Have him “become” one of the characters in the story and rewrite the story in first person. A younger child can do this exercise orally.

Describe a food

Instead of describing a food, students may write a restaurant review in which they vividly describe an assortment of foods—from appetizers to dessert. Expect this composition to be several paragraphs in length.  Suggestion: Visit a restaurant and have students take “brainstorming” notes as they sample various foods.

Describe a place

As an alternative to describing a place, your child can design travel brochures about a favorite vacation spot, famous landmark, city, country, or geographical region she would like to visit. Include text and pictures.

Write a biography

Every student writes biographies at some point. To change it up a bit, have your kids write an autobiography of a famous individual instead (autobiographies are written in first person) as if they were that historic person. Alternatively, you might ask them to assume the role of an historical figure and write one or more journal or diary entries or letters. Any of these exercises should be historically accurate, perhaps fitting in with a current topic of study.

Create a newspaper

A newspaper format lends itself well to a history unit. Why not have your child write an entire newspaper about a historical era? Include a wide assortment of the following:

  • Local, national, and international news stories
  • Advertisements
  • Comic strips
  • Entertainment
  • Doctor’s column
  • Literary news
  • Sports
  • Travel
  • Vital statistics (births, deaths, marriages, crimes)
  • Editorials/opinions/letters to the editor/exposés, etc.

This newspaper activity should be spread over a longer period of time. Some research will be required to ensure historical accuracy. This also makes a wonderful group project, with all your students contributing to one newspaper.

Encourage your children to take their writing in new directions by trying some of these simple ideas. It won’t be long before you—and they—are thinking up different twists all on your own!

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