Entries from December 2012 ↓

12 favorite posts from 2012

The words are on everyone’s lips: Where did 2012 go?

I wonder that too. What a full, busy, interesting year! As I look back at the blog over this past year, I thought it would be fun to highlight each month’s most popular post. Which was your favorite blog post during 2012?

January

10 Writing Truths for Teens

February

Editing Tools for Young Writers

March

Book Report Sandwich

April

Build Skills with Puzzles and Word Games

May

The Pain of Grading Writing

June

5 Summer Writing Activities from Pinterest

July

Untitled

4 Things You’re {Already} Doing to Raise a Writer 

August

4 Tips for Writing College Application Essays

September

RMS Lusitania - Free Pictures at Historical Stock Photos.com

Creating a Historical Newspaper

October

Grammar Skills Your Kids Must Learn

November

Playing in the Grass by PatrickLim1996

10 Ways to Reduce Writing Stress

December

6 Christmas Journal Prompts

6 Christmas Journal Prompts That Make Writing Merrier

I’m looking forward to all that 2013 has in store. I  hope you’ll join me as together we inspire and motivate our young writers!

The magic of 3

Learning specialist Kendra Wagner joins us today as a guest blogger.

“The Magic of 3

Ask teachers what is meant by this phrase and they will likely answer: “The 3 body paragraphs of a 5-paragraph essay.”

Applications

I tell my students that the 5-part essay is designed to frame your thinking and make you a smarter person! It is a model of speaking or writing that is common across the professions of law, public speaking, journalism, and storytelling.

I make the analogy to football practice, with a warm-up, 3 main drills, and a cool-down. I also explain how, in the courtroom, TV and movie lawyers use 3 arguments with a short intro and their concluding statements. This wakes the kids up.

Ah, the power of what happens on a screen.

Exceptions

Notice I didn’t call it the “Rule of 3”  because there are many strategies to becoming a skilled writer, and many “right” ways to write.

Some kids find freedom in this, but others find it restricting: Why can’t writing be more like math? One correct answer. One correct way of constructing a sentence.

When these students beg to write only two body paragraphs, or a hefty four, I’ll let them if they make a good case for why a book character makes only two turning-point decisions in their novel, or for why the science museum might only have two interesting exhibits.

While the “Magic of 3” makes a great template to hang a child’s hat on, it should not be too rigidly enforced. Though a powerful paper can consist of two body paragraphs with compelling reasons or examples, these usually work best after establishing a comfort zone with the “Magic of 3.”

More Applications of the Magic of 3

The “Magic of 3” doesn’t stop with main points and paragraphs; it also applies to sentence building and word choice. I think you’ll find the following tips helpful as you guide your budding writers.

3 Topic Sentences

Here’s a good guideline: require students to come up with 3 options for a topic sentence (or thesis statement), and then choose one for their story or essay. This encourages prevention of topic sentence phobia, and reinforces the idea that there is no single right way to write.

3 Powerhouse Verbs and Adjectives

During the revising process, when students’ writing seems flat (or “wimpy,” as some of my middle schoolers call it), it is likely missing some powerhouse verbs and interesting adjectives.

Offer this guideline for powerhouse verbs: For every 3 long sentences, there should be at least 3 strong emotion or action verbs somewhere within those 3 sentences. (For 4th grade and above, a long sentence = 10-25 words.)

There should also be 3 adjectives, which can be as simple as color or number words.

These verbs and adjectives can be distributed in any way across the 3 sentences. Not every sentence needs one.

First try: We went to the water park. I liked the Geronimo slide best, but my brother was scared. It was hot and we all had fun and then went home.

Revision: We played all day at the water park and slid down ten slides. My favorite was a fast one called Geronimo, and it was the scariest, so my brother hung onto me as we skidded down. We beat the heat by staying in the water all day.

Verbs: played, slid, hung, skidded, beat, staying
Adjectives: ten, favorite, fast, scariest

3 Conjunctions

When kids are stuck at short, simple sentences, suggest using one of the 3 most common conjunctionsand, but, so—in the middle of the sentence, with a full sentence on either side of the conjunction. This is known as a compound sentence.

First try: I really like soccer. I get to do a lot of skill practice. It is all year round.
Revision: Soccer is a way to improve a lot of different skills, and you can practice and play year-round.

First try: There are many ways to use time wisely doing homework.
Revision: Homework is important, but students need to find ways to use their time wisely to get the most out of it.

3 Sentence Builders

When students need to improve word retrieval, sentence development, and ease with writing in a show, don’t tell style, provide the following drill practice. Have them create single, unrelated sentences using at least of the “5 Ws and How” in each sentence. For example:

After the long meeting, Lucy raced home in a flash to feed her dog, who was waiting on the porch.

  • when
  • who
  • how
  • why
  • where

Thanks to Kendra Wagner for guest blogging today! A learning specialist in Seattle, Kendra teaches children reading, writing, and thinking skills. Her specialty in ADD and dyslexia grew out of her work in schools as a reading specialist and consultant. She has a particular interest in written expression and helping unearth children’s voice. Visit Kendra’s websiteblog, and Facebook page.

Photos: lollyknit and rodimuspower, courtesy of Creative Commons.

 

6 Christmas journal prompts that make writing merrier!

6 Christmas journal prompts that make writing merrier!

During the holidays, it’s always fun to take a break from your regular writing assignments and let the children have some fun with writing prompts. Try these on for size!

1. A Doggone Exciting Christmas

Pretend that you are a wriggly, wiggly, roly-poly puppy, and you have been chosen as a Christmas present for a boy or girl.

  • First, tell how you feel saying good-bye to your family.
  • Then, describe being placed in a box under the tree.
  • Finally, write about what it’s like to meet your new friend and owner.

2. Elf Life

You are an elf who works at the North Pole. Write a paragraph describing a typical workday.

3. Extreme Makeover, Christmas-Style

6 Christmas journal prompts that make writing merrier!Your elderly neighbor’s holiday decorations always attract crowds. This year, unfortunately, she broke her leg and can’t decorate her house for Christmas. She has asked you to do it for her and has given you the cash you need to buy any supplies.

Decide on a theme, and describe what you will do to decorate her house.

4. How to Build a Snowman

Your pen pal in Hawaii has never seen snow. Write a letter to her explaining the steps to making a snowman.

5. Grounded!

Imagine that your family has made plans to visit relatives for the holidays. Write about what happens when flights are cancelled because of a blizzard, and you find yourselves stuck in the airport on Christmas Eve. Can your family make the best of a difficult situation?

6. It’s Traditional

6 Christmas journal prompts that make writing merrier!Most families have special Christmas traditions. Write about one tradition your family enjoys. Does your mom bake a certain kind of cookie each year? Do you assemble shoe boxes filled with gifts for needy children? Chop down your own Christmas tree? Sing Christmas carols at a retirement home?

Describe this tradition, and explain how it first started (you may have to ask a parent or grandparent). Include some descriptive details.

Photos: John Mayer,  Iryna Yeroshko, and Young Rok Chang, courtesy of Creative Commons.

10 tips to improve your child’s reading skills

Whether your child is falling behind or you want to give her a headstart in reading, here are some easy things you can do to improve reading skills.

YOU’VE PROBABLY HEARD a dozen times that reading and writing often go hand-in-hand. So to raise kids who can write, it only makes sense that reading should be a big part of their lives!

Children develop at very different rates, so the speed at which they learn to read can vary widely. Whether you’re concerned that your child is falling behind, or you simply want to give her a head start in reading so she has the best possible chance in life, there are a number of easy things you can do to improve reading skills.

1. Read together every day

The best thing you can do is read daily with your child. If she is a reluctant reader, you could take turns reading pages or sentences, depending on her age. Remember that practice makes perfect, so set aside some reading time every day.

2. Make reading fun

Your child’s reading is not likely to improve rapidly if she sees it as a chore. Try to make it as fun as possible by being creative. For example, if your child loves to read mysteries, why not settle down together with a favorite spy book and read by flashlight?

3. Surround your child with reading material

Many children will read everything they see around them, so the more they see, the better. Keep books and magazines readily available, of course, but also think outside the box. For example, rather than putting the breakfast cereal away as soon as you’ve poured it, why not set it in front of them on the table and let them read the back panel? To help very early readers, put name labels on doors, windows, pieces of furniture to help them learn everyday words.

4. Use a wide variety of formats

If your child really enjoys using an e-reader or computer, allow him to do this for some of his daily reading time. New technologies can be quite educational as long as they don’t completely replace more traditional methods and formats.

5. Provide plenty of cross-curricular reading activities

Offer historical fiction and interesting nonfiction books on a history or geography topic your kids are currently studying. The reading materials will enhance and reinforce the subject matter, and the children won’t even be aware that the task is designed to help improve reading skills.

6. Try audiobooks

Let the kids listen to an audiobook in the car (or at night before they go to sleep). Audiobooks can motivate a reluctant reader, appeal to auditory learners, and foster a real love of books in any child. If they have some daily reading time alone, why not put on an audiobook and encourage them to follow the text with their eyes as they listen? This way, they will learn many new words.

7. Use learning games

Flashcards and other games are invaluable for learning individual words or word families, and you can play a variety of games with them, such as the Card Match Game or Flyswatter Game, both found at Ten Ways to Turn Lessons into Games. With younger children, use colorful picture flashcards to capture their imagination and keep them engaged.

8. Go to the library

The library can open up a whole new world for your children! Not only can they choose books from a wide range of topics and genres, but the skills they develop in searching for books by subject area or alphabetically by author’s name will be helpful to them in the future. Librarians can guide you toward books that are both fun and suitable for each child’s reading level.

9. Find a genre that they really enjoy

As your children get older, help them discover new genres. If they fall in love with fantasy, sci-fi, comedy, mysteries, or historical fiction, let them read from this genre to their heart’s content. This is not to restrict them to a genre, but to help them develop a real passion for reading.

10. Participate in reading contests

During school holidays, many libraries and community centers offer reading groups or reading and story-writing contests. Nothing will motivate your child to read as many books as possible over the summer like the possibility of winning prizes!

Photo: kthompsonstudios, originally made available on Flickr, courtesy of Creative Commons.

 

Christmas writing prompt…with a compassionate twist

Unique Christmas writing prompt gets kids thinking about what it would be like to receive a gift when you have nothing of your own

AT THIS time of year, my husband and I always look forward to poring through the gift catalogs that come in the mail.

Not the “gimmee” catalogs from Macy’s or Target or Pottery Barn, but the catalogs that come from such worthy organizations as World Vision, Compassion, and Samaritan’s Purse, offering us a chance to buy a really special, greatly appreciated gift for a child or family in need.

In the past, we’ve given chickens and ducks, a goat, and even the gift of clean drinking water for life.

Compassionate Giving

As a family, look through one of these online catalogs, and prayerfully consider giving a unique Christmas gift:

  • Domestic animals not only provide a steady stream of eggs or milk, but also bring a bit of income from selling the extras.
  • 5 fruit trees can give a poverty-stricken family a fresh start in fruit-tree farming.
  • A new soccer ball can replace the rounded wad of trash used as a makeshift ball by barefoot boys.
  • Just $35 can buy 10 times that amount in life-saving medicines.
  • Garden seeds will grow into a harvest that can sustain a family.

Compassionate Writing

As you look for ways to stir compassion in your children’s hearts, here’s a related writing activity to try. Whether or not you’re able to participate in compassionate giving, this Christmas writing prompt will get your kids thinking about what it would be like to receive a gift when you have little or nothing of your own.

  1. Visit the Compassion or World Vision website and read about several children who need sponsors. Choose one as the basis for your story.
  2. Browse through one of their online catalogs and choose a gift you think this child’s family would like to receive.
  3. Write two paragraphs. In the first paragraph, describe what daily life is like for this child in your own words. You may write in first person (imagining yourself to be the child) or in third person (as an outside observer or narrator).
  4. In the second paragraph, describe the child’s reaction to receiving their special gift.

The very best gift of all would be to actually sponsor one of these sweet children as a family! We’ve sponsored children both through Compassion and World Vision, and it has been a tremendous experience for us. Once you’ve become sponsors, you and your children can develop and foster a warm relationship with your sponsored child (and build important writing skills!) through regular letter-writing.

Do you already sponsor a child? Share your experience in the comments!

Photo: Erik Hersman, courtesy of Creative Commons.
Related Posts with Thumbnails