Entries from January 2012 ↓
January 30th, 2012 — Publishing Project Ideas
IN MOST HOMES, it seems, the refrigerator door is the showcase for children’s artwork. From the tiniest toddler’s wobbly scribbles to a teen’s pencil sketch, the fridge gallery beckons everyone to enjoy the offerings.
The question is: Why don’t we do this as often with their writing?
A Purpose for Publishing
To make it more meaningful, children need an audience for their writing. If rough drafts are their only writing efforts—and they rarely (or never) rewrite, publish, and SHARE—it’s easy for them to lose heart. After all, they’re missing the point of writing: to share a published project with someone.
Granted, not all writing is meant for others’ eyes, such as diaries or personal journals. But for some reluctant writers, encouraging them to produce polished final drafts of their stories and reports can make the whole writing ordeal worthwhile.
Non-Crafty Publishing Projects
Publishing a project can be as simple as neatly rewriting the final draft and sharing it with Dad or Grandma. But there are loads of other ways to showcase a piece of writing, from plain and simple to craftily creative.
Since not every child will enjoy the creative element of publishing, an older student, or one who is not keen on crafty projects, may prefer displaying his final draft in one of the following simple but effective ways:
1. Computer Publishing
Type the story on the computer—or let an older child type his own. Add clip art, if desired.
2. Mat Mount
The quickest, easiest way to display your child’s story is to affix it to a slightly larger sheet of colored construction paper. The construction paper forms a simple mat that gives the final draft a polished, published look.
This is another simple publishing idea. Your child can place his Writing Project inside a piece of 12- x 18-inch construction paper folded to resemble a book. Glue or staple the story or report inside. Have him draw a picture and write the story title on the cover of the “book.”
4. Presentation Folder
Don’t underestimate the value of using a purchased report cover or presentation folder. There are many kinds from which to choose, such as ones with page protectors or pockets, but any report cover will lend a more professional or “official” look to children’s stories and reports.
“My daughter … liked how clean and nice the published project looked in the report folder.” ~Heidi D.
5. Manila File Folder
You will need one manila file folder for each story your child publishes this way.
- Decorate the inside left of the file folder with illustrations, photos, or clipart.
- Staple the story along the top, positioning it on the inside right of the folder.
- Write the story title on the tab and front of the folder. Let your child decorate the cover to match the story or report.
Each time your children produce a polished final draft, encourage them to share it with a grandparent or other special person. They’ll feel like real authors!
Copyright 2012 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
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WriteShop encourages students to write, edit, and revise in order to create a published final draft. These ideas, and many more, can be found in both WriteShop Primary and WriteShop Junior books.
January 24th, 2012 — High school, Reluctant Writers
How can you encourage reluctant teen writers when they feel stuck?
What should you tell them when they can’t seem to get started writing?
What advice can you offer when perfectionism rears its ugly head and they have trouble accepting their own mistakes?
Typically, you can’t say or do much—especially if they’re already in a funk. But if you can bite your tongue and sit on your hands till a teaching moment arises, they might be willing to consider one of these ten truths.
1. It’s not just you. I promise.
Writing isn’t always easy. I’m sure you think you’re the only one who suffers from writer’s block, but it might help to know that even famous published authors will agonize over a word, a sentence, or a paragraph.
2. There’s no penalty for a bad first draft.
“The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.” ~Robert Cromier
3. If you’re stuck, explain to someone what you’re trying to write.
My adult son is a former reluctant writer. But even to this day, as a Ph.D. student, he’ll call me from time to time when he hits a writing roadblock. Often, I do nothing more than listen and offer the occasional “Mm-hmm.” But the act of thinking aloud and tossing around ideas can open up the floodgate, and he finds that the log jam of words will finally loosen.
4. Set a timer.
Having trouble getting started? Grab a kitchen timer and set it for 15 minutes. You can do anything for 15 minutes, right? And some days, you may not even hear the beep.
5. To write well, it helps to read well.
Reading teaches you how words work. You can become more attuned to detail, imagery, voice, and sentence construction. There’s no guarantee that being an avid reader will automatically make you a polished writer, but reading certainly lays a foundation for writing in many ways.
6. Style comes with practice.
Writing may not be second nature to you, but you will learn to develop your own writing style over time.
7. It’s better to write poorly than not at all.
You can always improve your rough draft. Don’t get hung up on perfection. Everyone revises!
“The first rule of writing is to write. The second rule of writing is to rewrite. The third rule of writing is the same as the second.” ~Paul Raymond Martin
8. Don’t write and edit in the same sitting.
I can’t tell you how many little errors I catch when I revisit a piece of my own writing even one day later! I know it’s tempting to just “get it over with.” But really, you’re much wiser to let that essay marinate for a couple of days. When you come back to it, you’ll be more likely to see it with fresh eyes and be willing to make changes.
[Of course, this means you can't wait till the last minute to write your rough draft. 'Nuf said.]
9. Learn to edit your own work.
This is one of the most valuable writing skills you can acquire. The more adept you become at self-editing, the less you have to rely on others to point out flaws. Before you turn your paper over to your parent or teacher, proofread and revise it first.
- Am I being too wordy?
- Repeating myself?
- Making my point?
- Varying my sentence structure?
- Using descriptive detail?
- Punctuating properly?
Your writing will always benefit from a second set of eyes, but learning to edit your own work is a lifelong skill every student needs to develop. While you’ll never be completely objective about your own writing, the ability to self-edit is equally important as having another person do it for you.
10. Edit your writing as if it were someone else’s.
Take an emotional step away from your paper. Imagine that it was written by the kid who flips burgers at McDonald’s, and begin to look for ways the writing could improve. It’s much easier to be objective when you pretend that your composition isn’t actually yours!
Copyright 2012 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
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WriteShop provides schedules, checklists, and detailed instructions that give teen writers direction and help them stay on task. Choosing WriteShop I and II will help you equip and inspire successful writers!
January 23rd, 2012 — WriteShop Primary, Writing Games & Activities
“The kids loved the Friendly Letter Boogie—that was a fun entertaining way to make the lesson stick. I still catch them doing it.” –Jennifer, NC
The early elementary years are the perfect time to introduce children to writing a friendly letter.
Part of writing a letter includes learning to format it properly. With all those headings and greetings and signatures, this can prove complicated for young children, who are still just learning about writing sentences and paragraphs.
That’s why mnemonics, songs, fingerplays, and motion activities are so valuable at this age—they reinforce trickier concepts, aid children in learning new skills, and help with recall.
Doin’ the “Friendly Letter Boogie”
For a memorable kinesthetic activity, try teaching the Friendly Letter Boogie! Children enjoy this movement activity that helps them remember the parts of a friendly letter.
Heading. At the very top of a friendly letter is the heading. The date goes here. Ask your child to pat her head to remember that the heading comes first.
Greeting. Second comes the greeting, such as “Dear Grandma.” Extend and shake hands to “greet” each other.
Body. Third is the body of the letter. Invite your child to wiggle her body to remember that the body of the letter comes next.
Closing. At the bottom of the letter is the closing, where she’ll write: “Love,” “Your friend,” or “Sincerely.” Tell your child to close her feet together for the closing.
Signature. To help your child remember to include her signature at the bottom of the letter, have her sign her name on the floor with her foot.
Isn’t this a fun way to practice and remember? Each day that you work on writing letters together, have your children do the Friendly Letter Boogie. In no time, they’ll have mastered the steps of formatting a basic letter!
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WriteShop Primary, an early-elementary writing curriculum for homeschoolers, is filled with games and activities such as the Friendly Letter Boogie—fun ways to help you introduce important skills to your youngest writers. The Friendly Letter Boogie appears in WriteShop Primary Book B.
Copyright 2012 © by Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
Photo credits: Karah Fredricks. Used by permission.
January 17th, 2012 — Resources & Links, Writing Games & Activities
My name is Kim, and I’m a Pinterestaholic . . .
Well, maybe it’s not THAT serious, but I do love Pinterest. It’s simply the best way to keep online recipes, photos, tips, and craft ideas categorized—even the ones I think I’ll never actually get around to using!
In addition to pinning salad recipes, organizational tips, and ideas for a future kitchen remodel, I’ve been collecting scads of writing ideas, too. Here’s a toe-dip in the water of great writing ideas from Pinterest:
1. Paint Chip Contractions
Who knew you could have so much fun with paint chips? This Paint Chip Contractions activity will help your kids practice forming contractions.
Isn’t this the most fun? It’s a Printable Boggle Board! Boggle makes an outstanding pre-writing game for all ages, from elementary through high school. It’s a great way to dust off the cobwebs and get ready for writing time.
3. Paint Chip Synonym Garden
Use colorful paint chips in graduated hues to make a Paint Chip Synonym Garden. It’s a hands-on vocabulary-building tool that keeps dull or repeated words at a minimum. This is ideal for middle-schoolers, but you can certainly use it with younger students as well.
4. Traffic Light Transitions
Make a Traffic Light Transitions poster. This terrific visual will remind children to use transition words to connect sentences and paragraphs.
5. Journal Jar
Journaling is another way to loosen stuck thoughts and ideas. Make this cute Journal Jar, which includes a link to colorful, printable topics you can cut out and add to the jar. Children will have fun picking out topics, whether you do daily, bi-weekly, or weekly journaling. For added fun, let them give input about what they’d like to write about!
6. Venn Diagrams
When teaching children to compare and contrast, a Venn diagram is a useful tool. And when you add a kinesthetic dimension for your hands-on learners, it’s even better! Here’s a Paper Plate Venn Diagram that’s been used to compare and contrast two different versions of “The Princess and the Pea.” You can really run with this idea in so many ways!
7. Writing a Strong Lead
Students of all ages can struggle with how to introduce a topic or start a story. I love this free printable poster I found through Pinterest: What Makes an Effective Lead?
I’ve long been an advocate of list-making, so I especially love this link to a great resource for printable lists, including book lists, lists of descriptive adjectives, and this list of strong verbs. Watch your children’s vocabulary soar!
Be sure to follow WriteShop’s Pinterest boards for more creative grammar and writing activities like these!
Have you been bitten by the Pinterest bug? Leave your link in the comments and I’ll be happy to follow you, too!
January 13th, 2012 — Brainstorming, High school, Reluctant Writers, Writing Games & Activities
Although it’s is one of the most necessary and helpful steps of the writing process, brainstorming can stump a reluctant writer—even if she’s using a worksheet, graphic organizer, or parent prompting.
You: What comes to mind when you think of the beach?
Child: Sand and water.
You: Great! What else?
Child: That’s all I can think of.
And that’s on a good day!
Prime the Pump
When students have a deep “well” of words and ideas from which to draw, their compositions becomes more vivid and concrete. That’s why WriteShop repeatedly emphasizes the need for adequate brainstorming as a routine part of the writing process. But if their well is dry and they can’t come up with enough words or ideas, their compositions will fall flat.
To keep ideas fresh and flowing, students need to prime their writing pumps on a regular basis. By practicing frequent brainstorming—especially when there’s no added pressure to write a composition—they’ll discover that they can think of words more quickly and abundantly. An freewriting exercise like the Writing Well is a perfect training tool!
The Writing Well
The “Writing Well” is a freewriting exercise designed to stimulate vocabulary, ideas, and impressions on a particular topic. It makes a good pre-writing activity, but it’s really brainstorming practice in disguise!
Kept in a small notebook, these brainstorming results can also become a “seed book”—a resource, word bank, or collection of ideas—when writing future compositions.
- You will find it helpful to keep your “Writing Well” in a spiral notebook for easy reference.
- Use a separate page for each topic. You may use both front and back if you wish.
- Before beginning, choose a topic and write it at the top of the page. Then set the timer to write for five full minutes.
- The purpose of this exercise is to write down all the words, phrases, or sentences that come to mind about your chosen topic within the five minutes allotted.
If you get stuck, try some of these ideas:
- Picture the topic in your mind. Use your five senses—sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell—to describe details.
- Ask yourself questions about the subject matter—who? what? when? where? why? how?
- Use a photograph or magazine picture to jog your thoughts.
At first this activity may seem difficult. You may wonder: How can I write about one thing for five whole minutes? Relax! Over time you’ll find that it has become more natural to transfer ideas from your head to your paper.
Some of these exercises will lend themselves to becoming compositions. Put a colorful star at the top of the page if you might like to develop this into a paragraph or story in the future.
In the beginning, your child may have trouble writing for five full minutes. Perhaps you could set the timer for three minutes, then increase it to four, and finally to five over the course of several weeks.
If your student brainstorms very generally about a topic, you might suggest next time that she narrow her topic even further. For example, if she writes on the topic of animals, she’ll probably include a list of many kinds of animals. Next time, have her select just one of those animals (such as dogs, monkeys, or whales) and make a “Writing Well” for that subtopic, including as many details as she can.
Should your student repeatedly make lists of words only, challenge her to begin writing descriptive phrases, too. Sometimes these will be factual and sometimes experiential. For example:
If she’s writing about “red,” words and phrases might include:
- stop signs
- making Valentines for my family
- embers glowing in the fireplace
- fire engines
- Dorothy’s ruby slippers
- the crimson sunset on our vacation in California
If she’s writing about Grandma, phrases might include:
- baking chocolate cookies together
- lives in an apartment in Miami
- smells sweet like roses
- takes a ceramics class in her clubhouse
- silver hair
- favorite color is pink
The random list of “red” words and phrases probably won’t ever be developed into a paragraph. On the other hand, the “Grandma” list definitely has potential to become a great descriptive composition at some point.
Writing Well Topics
Are you ready? Dip your ladle deep into the Writing Well and pull up a full, soaking draught of words and ideas. Then spill them over a fresh page—and let the writing begin. Here are some topics to get you started!
- a famous place I would like to visit
- my dream car
- animals (farm animals, jungle creatures, pets, birds, insects)
- the beach
- sounds that make me happy (nervous, afraid)
- my childhood toys
- my favorite meal
- my grandpa (or other family member)
- our pantry
- things I like about myself
- the color blue (orange, yellow, gray, green)
- things that make me feel cozy
- new uses for duct tape
- If cars could fly…
- If I had to live underwater…
Copyright © 2012 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
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“The Writing Well” is one of the supplemental writing activities tucked into the appendix of the Teacher’s Manual for WriteShop I and II.
Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr. Other photos courtesy of stock.xchg. Used with permission.
January 11th, 2012 — Homeschooling
When I was a young homeschool mom (back in the days of dinosaurs, and just before the Model T and home computers), I had limited sources for support and resources:
- A close-knit circle of homeschooling friends
- My homeschool support group
- Our annual homeschool convention
- A small handful of local curriculum stores and catalog companies
- The public library
Today’s homeschoolers have so much more at their disposal! With the advent of the Internet, the world has become a smaller place. Now, with the click of a mouse or the swipe of a finger, homeschool moms can access articles, experts, discussion forums, online stores, virtual conventions, product reviews, e-books, apps, and printable downloads.
And blogs. Blog upon wonderful blog.
There’s really nothing quite like the homeschool blogging community, “which puts so much inspiration and so many great ideas right at your fingertips, without ever leaving the comfort of your home.” ~Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers
The homeschool-mom blogosphere has exploded.
Not only are there tons of amazing blogs, both established and emerging, there are now blogging conferences such as Relevant and the 2:1 Conference.
These conferences refresh, inspire, challenge, and equip women to become more successful bloggers as they tell their stories and share their journeys, lives, and faith.
Though next month marks the 4th anniversary of my own blog—In Our Write Minds, I’m excited to dip my toes in some new water as WriteShop helps sponsor three sweet bloggers who will be attending the 2:1 Conference in April.
Want to meet them?
Maureen of Spell Outloud homeschools her six children. I love her blog! It’s loaded with ideas and projects, free printables, helpful articles, loads of activities for preschoolers, and curriculum reviews and giveaways.
Stephanie blogs at Bowmania. She’s mama to five kiddos, including a new baby. She blogs about family, homeschooling, and life in the trenches (her family lost their house to a fire last year). Stephanie also does book reviews and giveaways.
You’ll find Shay blogging at Wonderfully Chaotic. A mom of two with diverse talents and interests that range from homeschooling to home birthing, Shay writes with refreshing honesty.
Please visit their blogs! I pray that the 2:1 Conference meets each of these women in a specific and fresh way. I’m excited to watch them continue to grow as writers, and I know I’ll learn a thing or two from them as well.