Entries from September 2012 ↓

Create a historical newspaper

Create a Historical Newspaper | Writing about History for Kids

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Making a newspaper is a great way to learn more about a time period or even a specific day of a famous event. During our homeschooling years, we put together several, including a Jamestown settlement newspaper and a Victorian era newspaper.

This activity is perfect for an individual history project, but several students can also work together. Because there are so many different sections in a newspaper, there’s something for everyone, from the most advanced writer to the youngest child.

TIP: If your children are not especially familiar with newspapers, pick one up at the grocery store. Have them do this free Newspaper Scavenger Hunt (courtesy of Moms and Munchkins) before launching into their project!


Consider the period you are currently (or soon to be) studying. Create a historical newspaper that centers on a specific year, decade, or era. Whether children are working alone or together, their newspaper should include 5-8 articles or sections:

1. National news story

What was happening in the news at the time? (Consider political, social, and religious news of the day in your country of study.)

  • Are you studying about Christopher Columbus? Then the national news story will probably be in Spain.
  • Are you learning about the the Renaissance? Your national news story would be about events in Italy or France.
  • Are you studying an American historical event? This news story needs to happen in the United States.

In addition to library books and other resources, web sites such as HistoryOrb.com, Animated Atlas, and Church History Timeline will help spark topic ideas. For specific help, try websites such as Roman Society, Elizabethan Era, Colonial Daily Life, or Victorian England.

Don’t forget to include a headline!

2. International news story

What was happening elsewhere in the world at this time? To find out, explore a timeline such as World History Timeline B.C. or World History Timeline A.D.

3. Letters to the Editor

Everyday citizens write letters to the newspaper expressing their opinions about current events. Your children might use this opportunity to tell why they think:

  • the Church should not sell indulgences
  • the Virginia Company is misleading new colonists
  • Industrial-era factories shouldn’t hire child laborers
  • the United States should practice isolationism

4. Advertisements

What sorts of jobs did people have during this time period? What were the common occupations of the day? What kinds of things did people buy and sell? Kids can do a little research to find answers to these questions. Then they can write:

  • For sale ads
  • Help-wanted ads (apprentices needed, etc.)
  • Ads for lost animals, runaway slaves, traveling companions, etc.

5. Crossword or other puzzle

Most modern newspapers include games or puzzles for entertainment. Your children can put puzzles in their newspapers, too!

Crosswords are the most “educational” because they require the student to come up with clues. Invite children to come up with crossword vocabulary and appropriate clues that fit the time period. These websites will help them generate a printable puzzle:

6. Vital statistics

Newspapers often include information that tells more about the people of the day. As they create their own historical newspaper, your kids might want to include vital statistics such as:

  • Births
  • Deaths
  • Marriages
  • Crimes
  • Casualty lists during war times

This can be especially interesting when they report about real people. What important people were born? Did anyone of importance get married or die? Was a notorious crime committed during this era?

7. Miscellaneous sections or news

Likewise, most newspapers have sections that provide other types of information or amusement. Invite your students to consider including:

  • Inventions
  • Sports
  • Travel
  • Advice column
  • Doctor’s column
  • Comic strips or political cartoons

8. Photos or other images

In addition to articles and sections, it’s fun to include images! Try a site like Historical Stock Photos.com for images you can download for free.

Edit: After posting this article, I received an email from the Historical Newspapers Database recommending Timothy Hughes Rare and Early Newspapers as a useful resource when creating your own historical newspapers. You and your students can look at pictures of real newspapers printed during the time period you’re researching.


Your Turn

Making a newspaper is a fun, educational way to practice new skills while writing across the curriculum. Have you ever had your children create a newspaper? What time period did you choose to write about?

Copyright 2012 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape


Photo of RMS Lusitania – Courtesy of Free Pictures at Historical Stock Photos.com

RAK report – and a winner!

TemStock - Birthday Candles

In honor of my recent birthday, I invited friends and blog readers to join me in celebrating my special day by doing Random Acts of Kindness toward others. The response was overwhelming! Not only was I blessed, but many friends and strangers received gifts of encouragement, friendship, food, and money.

I loved celebrating my birthday this way!

RAK fun … all around the town

First, let me report on my own day of RAK adventures!

Before I left home, I made up and printed a couple dozen small cards explaining the gift I handed out, hid, or left in plain sight. These came in handy as I zig-zagged around town, having more fun than any 58-year-old should be allowed.

1. Dollar Tree Hide-and-Seek! My first stop was the Dollar Tree, where I wrapped dollar bills around a “You’ve Been RAKed” note and hid them under items at the Dollar Tree: a bag of pinto beans, bottle of laundry detergent, a box of candy, etc. I also gave some $5 bills to random shoppers. Loved the expressions on their faces!

2. Pass It Back. Between other errands, I bought gift cards at several locations for the people in line behind me. At McD’s I ordered a $1 Diet Coke and a gift card. When I picked up my gift card at the drive-thru window, I tucked in one of my RAK cards and asked the attendant to hand it to the car behind me. At Wendy’s, I bought myself a $1 burger and repeated the gift-card fun.

I also visited Starbucks and Juice It Up, where I bought gift cards inside and handed them to the next person in line.)

3. Bake and Take. I delivered homemade brownies to two different city fire stations. As a bonus, I was greeted by an old friend from our former church, and he gave me a personal tour of the beautiful Jersey fire station.

RAK Fire Station

4. Brighten a Child’s Day. I took a few minutes to write a letter to our sponsored Compassion child, Mercy. I love the option of sending her letters online. She gets them right away, and I can attach photos of the grandkids and us.

5. More Hide-and-Seek Fun! I hid a few $1 bills around Walmart. It was pretty funny watching some of the “hot spots.” Several people picked the box or can right next to the hidden dollar. Another picked up the box and didn’t even see the little treasure hiding underneath! I love that, because it reminds me of how God chose each person who was meant to find it!

6. Just Because. I handed Walmart gift cards to two random (and very surprised!) shoppers. One lucky mama got her card because I heard her little preschooler singing “Happy Birthday” two aisles away. I hurried toward that sweet voice and told her, “Thank you for singing that song. Today is my birthday!” As the little girl beamed, I handed her surprised mom the gift card.

7. Washing Away the Blues. At the laundromat, I left piles of quarters on the dryers. I haven’t been to the laundromat in a long time. Man, it’s expensive to dry a load!

8. Lift Spirits. I took a moment to compliment a store worker who was tidying up seriously messy shelves at Walmart. Her eyes absolutely lit up!

9. You’ve Got Mail. We shipped a free book to someone in dire financial need. Coincidence that we chatted with this mom on my RAK birthday? I think not!

10. It’s On Me! Taped quarters to a vending machine. I loved watching people walk by as if the coins were invisible. They were just sitting there waiting for the right person to discover them!

11. Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella! I smiled at a sad person. How easy is that?

12. Hold it! I stood at the exit and just held doors for people. And smiled.

13. I Can Use the Exercise! I parked in spots that were farther away or less convenient. Besides, I was in such a lighthearted mood that even the extra walking made me happy!

14. Gas Gift. I tried buying gas gift cards at a couple of gas stations, but they didn’t sell them in smaller denominations. I had already planned out my cash, so instead of skipping the gas station altogether, I got the idea of stuffing a RAK note and some cash in the credit-card slot at a gas station.

15. Cheer Up! I wrote a note of encouragement to a friend.

16. Look, Mom! What child doesn’t love to find money? So I went to the park and dropped some quarters under the play equipment for surprised children to discover. My daughter told me this was her favorite of all my RAKs!

The gift that keeps on giving…

I wasn’t the only one doing Random Acts of Kindness! Exactly 58 of my friends joined me to do a RAK in honor of my birthday! Here are just a few of their stories:

  • The lady in front of me at Wal*Mart kept having her ATM card rejected … I paid her grocery bill. ~Erin
  • My daughter bought food for the animal shelter in honor of your birthday. ~Sharra
  • Surprised some folks with $5 bills at Sprouts this evening in your honor. Big, wide-eyed looks, then smiles and laughs when I said, “Happy birthday to my friend… she said to give it to you!” ~Arleen
  • I am taking an Anatomy and Physiology course and our professor posts lecture notes online. There are always several students that didn’t have time to print out the notes. In anticipation of that, I made 3 extra copies and handed them out to 3 that forgot to do it. ~Denise
  • Helping someone move. We were not asked, but we are jumping in. ~Teri

…and more…

  • McDonald’s cards for a some special ladies and helped one lady sew a purse. ~Susan
  • The Lord put it on my heart to purchase a bunch of socks and t-shirts at Costco.  I wrapped each gift with a bow and a RAK note that said, “You are important to this life and massively loved by God. He wanted you to know that today.” Then I drove to different areas with and distributed the little gifts. ~Debbie
  • My husband picked up In-N-Out for dinner and got a gift card for the car behind him. He could hear the guy loudly exclaiming, “What, no way!!” So fun! ~Christen
  • I collected the carts in the 99 Cent Store parking lot. ~Barb

…and more…

  • Is anyone/everyone else feeling as I am–why don’t I do this more often, every day? The homeless guy with the sign, when I handed him $20 and the peaches I had cut up for my snack: “Hey! That’s a h*** of a lot of money!” :) ~Jenni
  • Today we helped pay for care packages being sent to our troops! Love you Kim, happy birthday!! ~Laurel
  • Cookies delivered to the neighbors! ~Janel
  • Three bags of books packed up to donate to a local church library. ~Heidi
  • Sent 2 encouraging notes this morning to friends going through difficult times.  This afternoon I will serve with “Big Brothers/Big Sisters” at Camp Pendleton. ~Mary

…and more!

  • I got a $15 gas card, then spun around and handed it to the guy behind us. He couldn’t believe it. Even came out a few mins later as I was buckling her in to check that I really was giving it to him and asked why. I said it was for my friends birthday. He loved it! That was fun! ~Christie
  • Got a meal prepared and in fridge for pick up tomorrow for a stressed friend. ~Maggie
  • I paid a friend’s overdue gas bill before their gas was turned off.  ~Rachel
  • At the airport … personally thanked some brave soldiers for their service! ~Pam
  • I was the recipient of one of those RAK’s.  I was at Taco Bell and the person in front of me in the drive-thru paid for my order.  It really made me feel good for the rest of the day.  My bill wasn’t even $3, but it did a lot for my attitude! ~Gail

And we have a winner!

I’m sorry it took so long to post the winner of the RAK Birthday Giveaway. When I didn’t hear back from the first winner by the end of last week, I drew a new name. Congratulations to Lisa G!

A special thanks to each one of you who not only entered the drawing, but who took time to do a Random Act of Kindness as well. The results blew me away! It was the best birthday in recent memory.



5 top vocabulary-building apps

Nokia Lumia 900 Smartphone

creative commons

BECAUSE WE associate smartphones with texting, it’s easy to boil smartphone vocabulary down to a bunch of LOLs and BRBs. While that may be the case in the text-messaging world, it shouldn’t give the handy phones a bad reputation as a whole.

There are tons of smartphone apps that actually improve vocabulary and language arts skills. Here are five favorites among vocabulary-building apps on the market today.

Textropolis | Free

The Textropolis app is “English-class-meets-Where’s-Waldo.” Users must discover hidden words in cities throughout the world to build up their “Textropolis.” The game is designed for students 10 and up, but the lower levels might also work for younger students. This takes simple flashcard studying to a whole new level, helping kids learn through a fun video game adventure.

Word Magic | $0.99

Word Magic is a spelling/vocabulary app made for three- to six-year-olds who are just starting to develop their vocabularies. It shows users a picture of an item and then lists most of the letters for it below the image. For instance, it might show a picture of a hand with the letters H_ND. The student just has to fill in the blanks. This app may be targeted at a young group of people, but it gives parents a new way to help their children learn and grow.

SAT Vocab Challenge | $4.99

Created by The Princeton Review, this smartphone app teaches high school students the vocab they need for the SAT college entrance exam. There are two volumes available for download, as well as a GRE version for potential grad students. SAT Vocab Challenge reviews hundreds of rarely used words that often appear on the SAT, giving students the boost they need before their big test.

Vocab Junkie | $1.99

Vocab Junkie is an app designed to help middle and high school students learn their vocabulary words. It has over 800 flashcards with some of the most useful words in the English language. Users are asked to assess how well they know a certain word after the definition is revealed. The app then repeats words that a student may not have been confident about in the hopes of instilling it into his brain.

This app was created by Brainscape, one of the leading organizations for memory training and cognitive recognition in the modern world. You’ll have no trouble learning from this vocab app.

WordWorm | $2.99

This Android app won’t necessarily teach you new words, but it can be used to recall words you already knowWordWorm can be used at any age, and most people just play it for fun. In this game, you have to connect letters together in strings to form words. You must do this quickly though before the fiery letters burn their way to the bottom. Get as many words as you can in an allotted period of time, and maybe you’ll find something new along the way.

Check out these apps the next time you feel challenging your cranium, and you’ll have a better vocabulary in no time.

Stacy Anderson is a freelance writer and holds a bachelor’s degree in Education and Journalism. She writes guest posts for different sites and loves contributing education and school job related topics.

Modeling writing through conversation

Modeling writing and editing through questions and conversation trains children to be stronger writers who will one day gain their own voice.

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy.

WHEN apprentices work with a master craftsman or artist, they copy their master’s work. Consider the famous painters whose pieces we admire in museums and books. Most of them began as apprentices, but they became famous in their own right for their unique styles and methods.

Think about how we all learned cursive: we followed the model that we were taught in school. Yet, do you know anyone who still writes the same way we were taught? Probably not! Most people have pretty different penmanship styles, even though the original model was similar.

So when you get to the editing part of a writing project, don’t be concerned that you’re helping too much or offering too many stylistic suggestions. Your editing tips, whether broad or specific, serve as a model to the student. In time, he’ll gain his own style and voice.

Modeling Writing Through Conversation

Start with the first draft.

Since this is the sloppy copy, your student should be responsible to self-edit his own paper. It’s his job to take care of some of these problems before he ever turns the paper in to you. You can work on it with him, if necessary, but see if he can do it alone first.

You’ll have the opportunity to give suggestions after he’s gone through his paper by himself and revised it. Over time, students learn that the more time they invest in self-editing, the less “red-penciling” they’ll see from Mom.

Among the things he must look for:

  • Overly repeated words. This is a new concept for most students. It helps to use word banks or a thesaurus to think of different ways to avoid repetition.
  • Sentence limit. He will need to combine sentences, remove sentences, or blend information from two or three sentences into one in order to stay within the confines of a short paragraph of, say, 5-7 sentences.

Help him identify problems that might not be apparent to him.

I found it helpful when working with my own son to ask questions that allowed him to answer without making him feel like the ideas were all mine. Give options and choices. Here’s an example of a dialogue that helps a student hone a paragraph about a favorite stuffed animal.

You:  You used lots of great description in your paragraph, but now I’d like you to tell me some things about Rocket that don’t have anything to do with his appearance. Where did you get him? What is he?

Son:  I got Rocket for my birthday. He’s a stuffed blue jay.

You:  How could you combine some of that information into a topic sentence that doesn’t describe Rocket yet?

Son: (probably with help from you) I got a stuffed blue jay for my birthday.


You:  What do his eyes do?

Son:  Well, they’re shiny. They sort of sparkle.

You:  Those are good words to describe his eyes. What color are they?

Son:  Black.

You:  OK, so…His shiny black eyes (do what?)

Son: His shiny black eyes sparkle.

You:  Where are his eyes located?

Son:  On each side of his beak.

You:  If you combine all that information, you’ll have a great sentence!

Son:  His shiny black eyes sparkle on each side of his beak.

You:  Great! Now that you have the basic sentence, it’s easy to make simple improvements. For example, tell me about his beak.

Son: It’s black and it’s made of vinyl.

You:  How can you incorporate that information into your sentence?

Son: His shiny black eyes sparkle on each side of his black vinyl beak.

You:  See how much clearer this is? Each time you add a description, it helps your reader picture Rocket even better! Now, do you notice a repeated word?

Son:  Black.

You:  Yup! You have some options. You can use your thesaurus and replace one “black” with a synonym; you can remove one use of the word “black” altogether; or you can use a different descriptive word that isn’t a color word at all.

Son: His shiny black eyes sparkle on each side of his ebony vinyl beak.  (Or, His shiny button eyes sparkle on each side of his black vinyl beak. Or, His shiny black eyes sparkle on each side of his vinyl beak.)

You:  One last thing. Since you’ve used the word “his” several times in your paragraph, it might be good to use a synonym here and there. You can use his name or a different synonym for your bird.

Son:  Rocket’s shiny button eyes sparkle on each side of his black vinyl beak. (Or, My bird’s shiny button eyes sparkle on each side of his black vinyl beak. Or, Shiny button eyes sparkle on each side of my blue jay’s black vinyl beak.)

Modeling writing through conversation can take place anywhere along the way, whether it’s during your teaching time or while helping your child revise his story. Even if you don’t always feel secure about your own writing abilities, it’s amazing how much confidence these conversational times can instill in your young writer.

Give it a try!

Photo courtesy of Stockxchng.

Have you ever been RAK’d? | Kim’s birthday giveaway

My heart in your hands

creative commons

“Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.” ~Anthony Robbins

Have you ever been RAK’d?

I have!

  • A stranger shared her umbrella with me as we found our cars in the rain.
  • My neighbor slipped a homemade cinnamon roll into my mailbox.
  • A sweet friend cleaned my house while I recovered from surgery.
  • When I ran a bit short at check-out, a smiling grocery clerk pulled twenty-seven cents from her own pocket and tossed it into the cash drawer.

Each of these simple gestures presented itself in my life as a Random Act of Kindness (RAK).

I can’t begin to remember all the ways I’ve experienced the goodness and generosity of both friends and total strangers. Some cost nothing more than a bit of common courtesy; others meant a greater sacrifice of time or resources.

These blessings happen every day, all around us. I wonder how often we miss the gift?

Smallest Gestures

Just last week, a woman invited me to go ahead in line at the grocery store checkout. I know this seems like such a small thing, but it was a hectic day, and those few precious extra minutes meant a great deal to me.

Secret Blessings

Once, when my husband asked our server for the dinner tab, she told us our bill had already been paid!

As we left the restaurant, we spotted a young family in the corner whose children had been in our toddler Sunday school class over the years. Were they the givers of this sweet gift? We’ll never know for sure, but we certainly left that restaurant with lightness of heart!

The Kindness of Strangers

Perhaps the most striking act of kindness calls to mind a November night many years ago when our new dog, whom we recently rescued from a shelter, got into some snail bait and became seriously ill. Her treatment costs were mounting by the hour, and without my husband in town to help make decisions, I told the vet how much I could afford and asked him do what he could for Casey.

As I stood in the office, a man approached the counter and said he’d seen my son crying on the steps outside the animal hospital. He couldn’t bear to see a boy grieving so, and he proceeded to tell the receptionist that he’d cover the difference in the bill, whatever the cost. Whatever the cost!

I have never forgotten the kindness of this man, this complete stranger, because Casey, now quite elderly, has been the sweetest pet we ever could have asked for—and he helped save her life.

Kim’s Birthday Celebration

Today is my birthday, but I’m much more in a giving mood than a receiving one: I’m in the mood to pay it forward!

Ever since the lovely Jenn at Daze of Adventure posted about how she celebrated her 36th birthday by performing 36 Random Acts of Kindness, I’ve been looking toward my own special day with similar thoughts fluttering around in my mind.

Providing clean water to millions of peopleSo when my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I remembered a blog post from my friend Ann Voskamp and told him I wanted someone to have clean drinking water. For just $55, our gift will provide fresh water for 68 people for their entire lives!

Next, I invited friends and family to join me in performing one RAK on my birthday to help me celebrate.

My original goal was 58 RAKs, but in harnessing the power of the Internet, with its amazing viral capabilities, I’m believing that—with your help—my mundane 58th birthday will be a vessel to impact hundreds of people, if not thousands, in our communities and around the world.

Random Acts of Kindness Ideas

There are limitless ways you can bless someone with a RAK—and they don’t have to cost a penny! Whether you have change to spare or not, here are some places to gather ideas for ways you can pay it forward.

Will you join me by doing one kind deed to help celebrate my birthday? My blog gets thousands of visitors each week, so it’s my prayer that our collective Random Acts of Kindness will rock our world!

WriteShop Giveaway

To add to the celebration, I’m giving away a gift package to one lucky winner! Each person who comments below by sharing how you “RAKed” someone this week will be entered into a drawing for your choice of one of the following WriteShop curriculum packages:

What if you already have the WriteShop books you need, or you’re not homeschooling or teaching? Choose a $25 Amazon gift card instead!

I can’t wait to see how this takes off! Are you ready to RAK someone?

Photos: Louise Docker and DFID, courtesy of Creative Commons

a Rafflecopter giveaway

12 back-to-school writing prompts

back to school writing prompts

LOOKING FOR some fresh ways to ease your kids back into writing? These fun end-of-summer writing prompts will help them reflect on their summer without resorting to that tired, overused “How did you spend your summer vacation?”

  1. August is the only month that has no major holiday. Invent a new August holiday. How will people celebrate?
  2. Did you visit a new place for the first time this summer? Describe this place and tell how you felt about it.
  3. Think about your favorite activity from this past summer? What made it so much fun?
  4. Describe something you did this summer that involved water.
  5. Summer is a time for vacations, family reunions, and backyard parties. Write about something you did with a large group of people this summer.
  6. byke_boySummer is a great time to explore the out-of-doors. Did you spend time in nature this summer? Describe where you went and some things you did there.
  7. There’s one word that reminds almost everyone of summer: hot! Was your summer hot? What did you do to keep cool?
  8. Kids often get summer jobs. Did you? What were some things you did this summer to earn money?
  9. Write about something you did this summer that you have never done before.
  10. Write five words that describe your summer. Then tell why you chose each word.
  11. Describe something you did this summer to help someone in need.
  12. Write about a book you read this summer.
Photos: Vicki Watkins and Marius B, courtesy of Creative Commons.
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