Entries from March 2011 ↓

WriteShop’s homeschool conference schedule: 2011

In 2011, WriteShop will be exhibiting at 10 brick-and-mortar homeschool conventions where you can see our line of WriteShop products in person, get the skinny on our upcoming WriteShop Junior series and, at most locations, sit in on an informative workshop.

I’m also speaking at a handful of online conferences—which make a great alternative if you’re unable to attend a convention in person.

March 31-April 2: Cincinnati, OH

MidWest Homeschool Convention
Kim Kautzer is a featured speaker - “Teaching Writing: The Big Picture”

May 2-6: Online Conference

Ultimate Homeschool Expo
Kim Kautzer is a featured speaker – “College Prep: Is Writing on Track?”

May 6-7: Arlington, TX

Home School Book Fair
Kim Kautzer is a featured speaker – “Ten Stumbling Blocks to Writing”

May 16-20: Online Conference

Schoolhouse Expo
Kim Kautzer is a featured speaker – “Teaching the Timed Essay”

May 26-28: Winston-Salem, NC

NCHE – North Carolinians for Home Education

May 26-28: Orlando, FL

FPEA – Florida Parent Educators Association
Exhibitor Workshop – Teaching Writing: The Big Picture

June 17-18: Puyallup, WA

WHO – Washington Homeschool Organization
Exhibitor Workshop – Teaching Writing: The Big Picture

June 23-25: Philadelphia, PA - CANCELLED

(We were sorry to learn that the NorthEast Homeschool Convention has been cancelled and rescheduled for 2012.)

July 14-16: Pasadena, CA

CHEA – Christian Home Educators Association of California
Exhibitor Workshop – Ten Stumbling Blocks to Writing

July 16-17: Charlotte, NC

HINTS Book Fair
Exhibitor Workshops
– Inspiring Successful Writers (K-6th)
– Inspiring Successful Writers (7th-12th)

July 22-23: Phoenix, AZ

AFHE – Arizona Families for Home Education
Exhibitor Workshop – Teaching Writing: The Big Picture

July 29-30: Modesto, CA

VHE – Valley Home Educators
Exhibitor Workshop – Ten Stumbling Blocks to Writing

Will you be attending any of these events? Let us know. And if you’ll be there in person, please come by our booth in the exhibit hall and say hello!


Apostrophe alterations needed

no vehicle's

Words fail me, so I’m quoting Meredith Colleges Colleges’ College’s grammar guide:

The correct use of plural and possessive forms may seem like a minor issue. Among educated persons, however, incorrect forms, especially misuses of apostrophes, stand out like red flags. One area executive has said he will not hire an applicant whose letter or resume includes such an error. ~”Patient Griselda’s Guide to Grammar” (Meredith College, NC)

{Oh, and bonus points if you find the misspelled word. Nothing like a double whammy.}

. . . . .

Check out more bad signage humor for a peek into the world of spelling, punctuation, or grammar gone wrong!

Springtime: The perfect time for a rebirth of writing goals

Crocus boke

Most folks think of January as a time of reflection and goal-setting. And while the New Year is certainly the most popular time for planning those resolutions, spring offers additional, thoughtful opportunities.

We view the Easter season as a time of rebirth and new growth. Why not use this time as an emergence into a new season of writing, as well?

A Writing Portfolio Conference

As a former classroom teacher, I kept writing portfolios for each of my students. With the turn of each season, I met individually with each student for a portfolio conference. As in the traditional classroom, portfolio conferences are also valuable in homeschool settings.

Assessing growth

In a portfolio conference, parent and child can face the child’s writing growth together. This is mutually informative for mom or dad, son or daughter alike. Not only do children learn more about their strengths and weaknesses, but parents learn how their children view their own work.

Parents also gain insight into the effectiveness of their teaching strategies! Children receive feedback on setting and achieving writing goals. Parents receive feedback on how to make writing activities more meaningful and useful to their children.

Discussion questions

As you prepare for a spring portfolio conference with your child, here is a list of questions to jumpstart discussion with you son or daughter:

  • What kinds of things do you like to write about?
  • What does your portfolio show about you as a writer?
  • How have you improved as a writer? What can you do well?
  • What else do you want to improve in your writing?
  • What new types of writing would you like to try this spring? Fantasy? Mystery? Poetry? Memoir pieces?

As the Lenten season prepares the pathway to Easter, may springtime lead to new avenues of writing and learning with your children.

. . . . .

Janet Wagner is a new contributor to In Our Write Minds. For over two decades, Janet was an elementary and middle school teacher in two Christian academies, a public district school, and a public charter school. She also had the honor of helping to homeschool her two nieces. Janet and her husband Dean live on the family farm in the Piedmont region of north central North Carolina. Currently, she enjoys a flexible life of homemaking, volunteering, reading, writing, tutoring students and training dogs, and learning how to build websites. You can view her web work-in-progress at www.creative-writing-ideas-and-activities.com.

9 tips to conquering the blank page

There’s nothing quite like a blank page to ruin a perfectly good day.

We need to put words to paper, but they will not come. The blank page intimidates us. The objects in the room call, our eyes wander, and our mind runs to places that are more desirable. We struggle to come back to the page with pen in hand. In the meantime, the white space has grown in intensity, until it is blinding. –Richard Mansel, “The Fear of the Blank Page

It can be a formidable foe, this empty field of white—especially for the child who struggles to coax even a short string of words from his reluctant pen.

Fortunately, there are simple things you can do to help the most reluctant student find his footing—or at least his voice. Let’s look at nine ways you can encourage your child to face (and perhaps even conquer!) that blank sheet of paper.

1. Write first thing. 

Consider starting the school day with a writing activity, while attitudes are still positive and minds feel more creative. Facing an unpleasant or challenging task earlier in the day—when your children are fresh and alert—may be the key to unlocking ideas.

2. Brainstorm separately before beginning to write.

Jotting down random thoughts—no matter how jumbled—can help release a log jam of words and phrases. Encourage your kids to brainstorm before beginning any writing assignment.

3. Set parameters for the assignment.

Few children find it freeing to hear: “Write about whatever you want.” The vastness of total choice can overwhelm even the most eager writer, so establish some boundaries for the assignment. For example:

  • Specify the kind of writing. Will the composition be a personal narrative? A persuasive essay? A descriptive piece?
  • Let students choose a topic within a particular genre such as mystery or adventure, or within a current area of study such as pioneer days or the Great Depression.
  • Give expectations regarding composition length or number of sources you require.

4. Offer story prompts.

StoryBuilders are creative writing-prompt cards that let students choose a character, character trait, setting, and plot as the launching place for a zany (or serious) story. Mixing and matching elements of a story can unlock creativity and open the door for some fun writing experiences.

5. Give topic options and choices.

Encourage students to write about favorite, familiar topicsdogs, ballet, skateboarding, Legos, karate, etc. The more they enjoy the subject matter, the more vested they’ll be in the writing project.

6. Start with a personal experience or familiar story.

It can make an excellent foundation for a new story. Your children don’t always have to come up with something unique—it’s totally fine for them to retell a fable, fairytale, folktale, or other familiar story in their own words.

7. Provide a photo.

Pictures—especially those that “speak a thousand words”—make great prompts for generating story or narrative ideas. When searching for photos online, you’ll want to preview sites for appropriate content. That said, consider finding inspiration from one of these:

8. Do some or all of the writing.

By the time a thought makes its way from brain to hand to paper, the reluctant or learning-challenged student has lost her grasp on the idea, and it simply drifts away. Letting her dictate allows you to capture those words before they dissipate. Then, once they’re written, she can more easily rearrange and modify.

9. Encourage a “rough draft” mindset.

Students who think their first draft should be perfect can gain a lot from adjusting their thinking. Writing is a debugging process. Starting sloppy deals a blow to the blank page as the student plays with early ideas and gets into the writing flow. As author and poet Margaret Atwood so aptly put it: “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”

A blank sheet of paper may intimidate reluctant writers, but overcoming their fear and conquering the blank page are possible!

A cat weighs in on word walls

Humphrey the Cat belongs to author Nancy I. Sanders. he has his own writing blog, Writing According to Humphrey, where he shares helpful writing tips. From time to time, I’ll feature some of his articles here (with permission from Nancy, of course). Today we get to learn about “Word Walls According to Humphrey.”

Short of ideas for a story you’re writing? Does your brain feel like a sieve with all the ideas drained out?

Here’s a tip to help you brainstorm and get those creative juices flowing:

Make a Portable Word Wall

A Word Wall is used to help elementary children get ideas and learn words that are related to the main theme. It’s also known as a Word Bank. For instance, if children are learning about farm animals, the teacher posts a picture of a barn on a bulletin board. Then, she posts words underneath the picture such as cow, sheep, pig, hen, and duck. When children are writing and get stuck for ideas, they look at the word wall and choose words from the list that they want in their story.

I like to make Word Walls, too! I figure, why let the kids have all the fun? We kitties like to have fun, too!

You can make a portable Word Wall that’s as fun as it is practical. Get a file folder. On the front, decorate it with a picture of the theme of your story or book. For instance, I made a portable Word Wall when I wrote a story where I was the star. (I actually made my published debut in Clubhouse Jr.!)

Then, open up the file folder. On the inside write any word or phrase that comes to mind about the theme of your story or book. For example, my Word Wall about me includes the following words and phrases: purrfect, pawsitively, paws/pause, nine lives, cat-a-tonic, cat-alogue, tuna fish, etc.

Keep adding to your Word Wall when you think of more words and phrases. Then, next time you sit down and get stuck writing, pull out that Word Wall and see how it helps jump-start your creativity!

Here you can see me with a set of color-coded word walls I made. One color has nouns like tuna and fish. Another color has adjectives like tuna fish. Did I mention that tuna fish is my favorite word to write about?

 . . . . .

WriteShop Primary by Nancy I. Sanders is filled with games, crafts, and tools such as Portable Word Banks—fun activities that help you introduce important skills to your littlest writers.

Word Walls According to Humphrey” ©2011 Nancy I. Sanders. Used by permission.
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