Entries from November 2012 ↓

Synonym bingo

GAMES ARE such a great way of teaching or practicing skills. When an activity is fun and engaging, learning happens more naturally. The best part? The kids don’t even realize they’re doing “schoolwork”!

To give your children practice with synonyms and help them better understand the subtlety of word meanings, play Synonym Bingo!


Printable bingo cards (blank or customizable)

Synonym word lists such as:

Bingo markers such as pennies or dried beans


  1. Choose 24 synonym pairs from one of your word lists. Circle one word from each pair. This will become your call list.
  2. If printing out blank bingo cards: Write the other word from each pair in a different square on the bingo cards. If several children are playing, scramble the order of the words so the cards are different from one another. Words on the card should not be synonyms of other words on the card. For example, write “large” or “big,” but not both.
  3. If using customizable cards: Type the words as directed by the website. It will generate the customized bingo cards and create a PDF for you to print.
  4. To play the game, call out one of the circled words on your list. Players then place a marker on the corresponding synonym. Play continues until a child covers five squares in a row either vertically, horizontally, or diagonally.


  • Give a list of 24 words to your child (but not their synonyms). Let her think of a synonym for each word and write it in a square. Use the list as your call list.
  • Play the game using homophones or antonyms.

Free writing games! {and a WriteShop coupon}

IT’S BLACK FRIDAY weekend, and WriteShop has some goodies for you!

1. FREEBIE: Writing Games and Activities

First, we want to bless you with a special freebie to download and enjoy with your children!

They’ll love this assortment of writing activities, including:

  • “Where in the World” pre-writing game helps children plan an exciting setting for a story
  • 30 kid-friendly writing prompts for both older and younger children
  • A fun sentence-building game

Grab your download from the pop-up window by visiting WriteShop’s shop at Homeschool Block!

 2. WriteShop Coupon: Save 20%!

While many shoppers are fighting crowds, others prefer taking advantage of online specials from the comfort of home. How about you?

We love our customers, so we’re offering a rare 20% discount on WriteShop products, valid through December 2, 2012. If you’re looking for the next WriteShop level for the new semester, or you’re thinking ahead to next year, now’s your chance to get those books at a great price!

The coupon code is included in the free Writing Games download.


5 {fun} Thanksgiving writing prompts

5 Fun Thanksgiving Writing Prompts

IT CAN get pretty hectic around the house in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Instead of assigning your children their normal writing schoolwork, why not take a little break and let them choose one of these clever creative writing prompts? For added fun, have them read their stories after Thanksgiving dinner!

1. Gobble! Gobble! Tweet!

Imagine you are the Thanksgiving turkey. It is your good fortune to discover that the Farmer accidentally left the door to the house ajar. You sneak in unnoticed. Quickly, you find the computer and login to Twitter.

You have just enough time to type five tweets. What will you say to your followers in no more than 140 characters per tweet?

2. Invitation to Dinner

5 {fun} Thanksgiving writing prompts for kidsSuppose you can invite one special person, living or dead, to share your family’s Thanksgiving dinner this year. Would you choose a favorite relative who lives far away? A famous explorer you have studied in school? The Queen of England? Your best friend who moved away?

Think about who you would invite, and then write down 10 questions you would like to ask this person.

3. Thanksgiving Traditions

5 {fun} Thanksgiving writing prompts for kidsWhat does your family do for Thanksgiving? Do you host a big gathering at your house? Do you travel to another state to visit grandparents? Is Thanksgiving a small get-together, or is the house packed with friends and family? Who does the cooking? Does your family have traditions, such as playing games, watching football, or putting puzzles together?

Write about how you spend Thanksgiving, describing the sights, sounds, flavors, and aromas of the day. Use this Thanksgiving Word Bank if you need help thinking of strong, descriptive words.

4. Leaf Pile Adventure

5 {fun} Thanksgiving writing prompts for kidsAfter Thanksgiving dinner, you and your cousin decide to explore the neighborhood. At the end of the street, you notice a giant pile of leaves.

Together, you make a running start and leap right into the middle of the pile! Suddenly, the ground opens up beneath you, and you find yourselves sliding down a steep slide.

Write a story about what happens when you land at the bottom of the slide. Where are you? Include three different things that happen on your adventure, and conclude your story by telling how you and your cousin get back home.

5. A Feast of Favorites

5 {fun} Thanksgiving writing prompts for kids
At the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims and Indians ate foods such as wild turkey, venison, berries, squash, corn, roasted eels, and shellfish.

If you could go back in time to that historic event, what would you bring to share with your new friends? Make a list of 3-5 of your personal favorite Thanksgiving foods, and describe each one.

. . . . .

If you enjoyed these fun Thanksgiving writing prompts, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photos: Mark DumontCliff, Kevin K, OakleyOriginals, and Steve Johnson courtesy of Creative Commons.

10 ways to reduce writing stress

Does writing stress out your kids and challenge you as a homeschool mom? Reduce writing stress by making simple adjustments to your teaching routine.

TEACHING WRITING can seem complicated and stressful—and for many homeschoolers, it’s the most challenging, stress-inducing subject you teach. But you can lighten the load with a few small, simple adjustments to your normal teaching attempts. Try these ten tips on for size!

1. Don’t let your child go it alone.

At every age, your child needs your involvement in the writing process, not just to give editing feedback, but to instruct and model. Like teaching your child to wash the car, crochet a hat, or clean the hamster cage, you’ll need to remain involved until she is confidently and successfully progressing.

2. Give guidelines for the assignment.

What’s one of the most frustrating assignments you can give a reluctant child? Believe it or not, just ask her to “write about whatever she wants.” While it seems that this should inspire her, it can actually shut down her creativity altogether. Why? Because without guidelines, she feels like she’s been tossed into a vast ocean and told to swim for shore!

Instead, provide clear instructions and lesson boundaries, which make her feel more secure.

3. Offer choices.

An unmotivated student may benefit from having choices, such as deciding between several writing topics or choosing whether to do his writing assignment at his desk or the kitchen table.

4. Plan before writing.

When a student goes off on rabbit trails, he loses his focus and ends up with writing that’s awkward or hard to follow. Help him create an outline or use a graphic organizer before he begins so he’s less likely to wander off the path. Work together, modeling the brainstorming process for your child.

5. Just write!

Though it’s tempting for your student to try to correct everything as he goes, have him finish his rough draft without wrestling with every word, phase, and sentence. That’s what revising is for!

6. Kick perfectionism to the curb.

Perfectionism—personal pressure to “get it right the first time”—is the mother of all stumbling blocks and the key contributor to writer’s block. Don’t get hung up on perfection. Your child can always improve the rough draft. Remember: the creative process isn’t always neat, tidy, and measured, and it’s certainly not perfect!

7. Give your teen frequent essay practice.

Regularly assign essays related to other subjects of study such as literature and history. Practicing often with essay writing of all types—including timed essays—will make college writing that much less stressful.

Read About It Later

8. Give deadlines.

Establish a due date for each writing assignment. When you don’t give a deadline, you imply that your child can put the task off indefinitely. Set a cut-off date and stick to it.

9. Use writing checklists.

Children should begin using a checklist as a guide to help them identify errors in content, style, and mechanics. A checklist makes self-editing more objective by offering specific expectations to meet.

10. Bless your student’s writing efforts.

Before you make a single correction on your student’s paper, affirm her by helping her discover what’s right about her story or report, not just what needs fixing.

Your Turn!

Be brave! Which of these 10 tips will you try this week? Share in the comment section below.

Photos: Patrick Lim, Caleb Roenigk, and Alena Navarro-Whyte courtesy of Creative Commons.

Writing distractions: That pesky “person from Porlock”

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

Like superheroes, great pieces of writing often have an origin story. In the case of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous unfinished poem “Kubla Khan,” it’s a doozy.

Coleridge claims the poem came to him complete and entire, something like 300 lines’ worth, in a dream as he dozed off in his chair after taking laudanum (an aspect of the literary life best avoided when instructing young writers).

He set to work writing down his vision, but only got through about 30 lines before, Coleridge says, he became sidetracked by a “person on business from Porlock” who detained him for a full hour.

When the visitor finally left, Coleridge found he’d forgotten the rest of the poem.

Dealing with Writing Distractions

It has been disputed whether Coleridge’s explanation is an accurate account of “Kubla Khan’s” genesis, or might itself be merely a fancy, a fiction, meant to add even more mystery to his beautiful and enigmatic poem. Either way, the “person from Porlock” has become a literary icon:

He represents two equally important aspects of writing: the distractions and competing social obligations a writer faces in the real world, as well as our tendency to make excuses.

Shutting out the world when we write is both impossible and, to some extent, necessary. So what are we to do? The answer can be summed up in one word: boundaries. The act of writing should (generally) be taught as a purposefully solitary effort bounded with a beginning and an end.

Writing by the Clock

I highly recommend sticking to a disciplined timetable for any writing assignment. (If this is challenging for you or your older students, the free download The Pomodoro Technique might be worth a read.)

Taking your child’s age and skill level into account, set the alarm for 30 or 60 or 90 minutes, however long the project (or a good-enough-sized chunk of it) seems to require. Don’t set the timer for less than 15 minutes, though, as that’s too short to accomplish much. After all, your kids will just be getting warmed up! Nor should you set it for longer than 90 minutes at a time, as they’ll burn themselves out without scheduled breaks.

Say No to Interruptions

Finally, don’t feel guilty about shutting off any non-emergency contact during that time.

person from Porlock, writing distractions, writing focus

This part is getting a lot more difficult. Coleridge’s interrupter just happened to be walking around town. What chance do you (or your students) have in this Twitter age when distractions come by the microsecond?

If you want to give yourself to a piece of writing (and you’ll need to for it to be any good), the phone must be turned off.

Then, when you turn it back on, it feels like a reward.

Setting aside time and space for your creative work improves the rest of your day. Give yourself permission to be done after a while and return to normal life, where you can attend to the other million things on your mind or just do as you please. Don’t forget to pay some attention to your friends and family.

Even that person from Porlock.

. . . . .

Thanks to Lauren Bailey for her guest post. Lauren is a freelance blogger who loves writing about education, new technology, lifestyle and health. She welcomes comments and questions via email at blauren99@gmail.com.

Photos: alexderhead, courtesy of Creative Commons, and Stockxchng.
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