Top posts to pin from 2013

These 2013 Top Posts include writing tips, journal prompts, essay topics, & help for reluctant writers

LOOKING back on 2013, we were hard pressed to pick only twelve favorite blog posts. Our final list of most shared and most memorable articles includes teaching ideas and writing tips, journal prompts and essay topics, and timeless encouragement that never goes out of season.

Which one is calling your Pinterest board’s name?

January

It used to be acceptable to type a double space after periods. Why did the rules change?

Double Space after Periods? Just Say No!

February

Encouraging your reluctant child to brainstorm with graphic organizers, lists, and mindmaps

How to Brainstorm with Reluctant Children

March

 high school essay writing, college prep essays, direct quotes, quotations

Essay Writing: Using Direct Quotes

April

Creative journal prompts help you write about childhood memories and childhood secrets!

22 Writing Prompts that Jog Childhood Memories

May

compare and contrast essay, high school writing prompts

6 Compare and Contrast Essay Topics

June

writing family stories, writing your family history

Let’s Write Family Stories!

July

travel journal ideas, travel journals, travel writing ideas

Travel Journal Ideas

August

How to Write a Standout College Application Essay @writeshop

How to Write a Standout College Application Essay

September

Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom @writeshop

Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom

October

Are you using gracious writing in emails, blogs, & social media? Learn simple ways to bless your online community with kind, caring words.

Writing with Grace

November

Play this fun game to introduce children to writing a descriptive narrative using 5 paragraphs.

 What’s in my Bag? Intro to Writing a Descriptive Narrative

December

Gifts for grammar geeks, writers, and literary buffs! From dining room to game room, there's something clever for everyone on your list.

10 Gifts for Grammar Geeks and Writers

We hope you enjoyed our top blog posts of 2013! (Which was your favorite? Leave a comment and let us know!)

And, of course… Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas from WriteShop!

Merry Christmas from WriteShop!

WHEN the familiar tune of “Greensleeves” fills the air at Christmas, our hearts answer with the lyrics that begin, “What child is this….” Written nearly 150 years ago, this carol still reminds us to share our treasures, our love, and our heartfelt songs in honor of the greatest Christmas gift of all:

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
Come, peasant, king, to own Him!
The King of Kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him!
Raise, raise the song on high!
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy! joy! for Christ is born,
The babe, the son of Mary!

From all your friends at WriteShop…

Merry Christmas!

Winter picture writing prompts

Kids will love creating stories of winter adventure and mystery with these photo writing prompts!

FROSTY, fanciful, and far-fetched tales delight the child in each of us this time of year. Let your kids create their own seasonal stories with these winter picture writing prompts!

Frozen in Our Tracks

Four sheep were enjoying a stroll through the meadow until a dark figure blocked their path. What does the  stranger say? Can he be trusted? Will the sheep help him find the one thing he is looking for?

Sheep in Snow

A Chilly Cavern

You and a friend have stumbled across a mysterious cave. The path inside has led to you to a frozen waterfall and a strange, rainbow-colored lake. Who lives here, and why have they allowed you to discover their world?

Frozen Waterfall

Brightly Shining

Every year on Christmas Eve, a light shines from the frozen lighthouse. Write a story about this mystery using at least four of these words: abandoned, compass, flag, reindeer, captain, pickaxe, baked beans.

Frozen Lighthouse

Photos: Matt Belton, Jedimentat44, and wsilver, courtesy of Creative Commons.

How to write Christmas shape poems

Help kids practice free verse poetry with holiday alliteration, contrast, and onomatopoeia!

CHRISTMAS themes make writing activities a whole lot merrier! If you’re looking for a poetry lesson with a holiday twist, then gather the kids for an hour of writing Christmas shape poems.

Last month we spotlighted rhyming poetry activities. Today we’re excited about writing free verse poetry. Free verse has no set requirements for the number of lines, syllables, or rhymes. Instead, free verse relies on lyrical phrases that trip lightly off the tongue when read aloud.

Christmas Shapes

For your child’s free verse poem, choose a simple Christmas shape such as a tree, star, or snowman. This will determine the shape of the poem. A strong-willed writer will need few guidelines to build her poem into a recognizable shape. If your child prefers specific directions, however, you should draw an outline on a blank sheet of paper. Use a ruler to fill in the outline with 8-10 straight lines. When these blank lines are filled, the poem is finished.

Help your child brainstorm different aspects of his Christmas shape. If your son chose the snowman, he might think of cold weather, colorful mittens, and imaginary friends. Now he has three possible topics for his Christmas shape poem. Using our winter word bank, he could expand with words like cozy hat, snow bank, or bare branches.

For poems with a specific Christmas theme, direct your children toward two different word banks, one focused on Jesus’ birth and the meaning of Christmas, and the other filled with words about Old St. Nick, holiday feasts, and trimming the tree.

Example: “A Mountain of Pine”

 

A

Tree

So tall

Strung with lights

Branches sag

Ornaments dance

A mountain of pine needles

Fills our home with forest fragrance

Children gaze at the angel above

Cats snuggle in piles of presents below

Purr

Poetic Devices

Without relying on rhymes, writers can enhance their free verse poems using a few other tricks of the trade. Help your child understand and apply the three poetic devices below:

Alliteration

Ask your kids to include at least one or two instances of alliteration in their shape poems. Adjacent nouns can create alliteration (“piles of presents”), or a noun and an adjective can achieve a similar effect (“forest fragrance”). If a completed poem contains no alliteration, help your child go back and find alliterative synonyms for existing words.

Contrast

Through careful word choices, free verse poetry can leave strong impressions on the reader. Help young writers create a memorable poem with careful contrast:

  • Contrast light and dark colors (flaming star / ebony sky)
  • Contrast small and large items (pea-sized button / floppy felt hat)
  • Contrast opposite actions (sag / dance; gaze above / snuggle below)

Onomatopoeia

Sound words can make any piece of writing come alive! Encourage your children to insert onomatopoeia into their free verse poems whenever possible. When it comes to a snowy gust of wind, a shy forest animal, or a melting icicle, sound words are a wonderful way to “show—don’t tell.”

I hope you and your children enjoy creating your Christmas shape poems! Who knows … maybe one will end up on next year’s family Christmas card.

WriteShop Blog--In Our Write MindsDaniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella also blogs at www.waterlilywriter.com.

Photo: Dan McKay, courtesy of Creative Commons

Christmas music writing prompts

Children will enjoy writing stories, creating their own carols, and more using these fun Christmas music writing prompts!

This post contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure policy.

THE joyful sounds of Christmas swirl through streets and homes each December. Church choirs, car radios, piano recitals, and holiday musicals will surely inspire your children as they respond to these music writing prompts!

1. All I Want for Christmas

Gregory E. Turbine wants only one thing for Christmas: a song. Where does Gregory live, and what does he look like? Why does he want a song, and who will bring it to him on Christmas morning?

2. The Little Drummer Boy

Imagine you are the little drummer boy who played a special song for baby Jesus. Write a letter to an old friend, describing your feelings as you approached the stable and met the Christ child for the first time.

3. Christmas Bells

Write a story about a silver bell named Jingle. Begin with this sentence: After five years in a stuffy old box, Jingle knew this Christmas would be different.

4. Write Your Own Carol

You have been invited to enter the “Create Your Own Christmas Carol” contest. The rules are simple: Choose a favorite Christmas carol tune and write new lyrics. If you need help thinking of words that rhyme, try RhymeZone, a free online rhyming dictionary. When you are finished, invite others to sing this new carol with you.

5. The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Miss Patsy Sweetwater has just received a remarkable delivery from her true love: twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords-a-leaping, and nine ladies dancing. Write the speech Miss Patsy will give to her new holiday helpers, expressing her delight and her grand expectations.

Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays, and check out our Holiday and Seasonal Ideas for more Christmas-themed writing activities.

Photos: Mike (bell), Carlos Madrigal (drum), David Skinner (youth orchestra), and Prayitno Photography (Southern belle), courtesy of Creative Commons

Write letters to Santa, or make birthday cards for Jesus

Writing letters to Santa, Baby Jesus, and family members helps children appreciate the wonder of giving—and receiving—handwritten letters.

NOW that the Christmas season is here, postal workers and volunteers around the world are busy answering letters to Santa. Every year, these widespread efforts encourage children to appreciate the wonder of reading and writing handwritten letters.

Did you know? This year:

  • About 30,000 letters to Santa will be answered with a postmark from “Santa Claus, Indiana.” Children should send their letters by December 21 (be sure to include a return address) to “Santa Claus, PO Box 1, Santa Claus, IN 47579”
  • Over one million letters in more than thirty different languages will be sent to “Santa Claus, North Pole, H0H 0H0, Canada.” Each letter mailed by December 17 (with a return address) will receive a reply!
  • Santa Claus’s Main Post Office in Finland receives about 32,000 letters a day around Christmas. Letters from nearly 200 countries have found their way to Santa’s Village in the Arctic Circle:

Santa Claus’ Main Post Office
Santa Claus Village Rovaniemi
Tähtikuja 1
FI-96930 Napapiiri, Arctic Circle
FINLAND

  • In Germany, eight Christmas post offices in cities such as Himmelsthür (“heaven’s door”) and Himmelpfort (“heaven’s gate”) receive letters to the Christkind (Christ child). Other cities will receive letters addressed to Father Christmas and Saint Nicolaus. More than 600,000 replies are written each year!

This week, set aside time to help your children write their own Christmas letters.

If your family doesn’t encourage letters to Santa, one of the following Christmas traditions might be a better fit:

“Happy Birthday, Jesus!” Cards

Elementary-age children will enjoy decorating and writing special birthday cards for Jesus. To start, give each child a folded piece of green, red, or gold paper. Offer them different supplies to decorate the front:

  • Crayons and markers
  • Glue sticks and pictures cut from magazines or old Christmas cards
  • Stickers and glitter (boys usually steer clear of these, but girls love them!)
  • Pipe cleaners and cellophane tape to create tree, cross, or star shapes

When your children write the inside, encourage them to include:

  • A reason they’re thankful that Jesus came to earth
  • A gift they would like to give Jesus this year (being kind to a sister, spending more time praying, helping a neighbor, etc.)
  • A favorite Bible verse

Display the finished cards in your home to remind guests and family members about the true meaning of Christmas.

Family Christmas Cards

In olden days, large families and churches often hung Christmas gifts from the branches of Christmas trees. (Laura Ingalls Wilder recalls such a scene in her novel On the Banks of Plum Creek.)

Today, most of us prefer to keep wrapped packages safely below the decorated boughs. But my family still likes to surprise each other with something else in the tree branches on Christmas morning—handwritten Christmas cards.

Set aside an afternoon when your children can write secret cards or friendly letters for each of their parents and siblings. Make sure they write the recipients’ names on the envelopes. On Christmas Eve, allow them to place these little tokens of love around the tree. Our family liked to open cards on Christmas morning, before the flurry of presents began.

If your kids need ideas for what to write, offer one of these suggestions:

  • Write about your favorite Christmas memory with this person.
  • Write about something you admire in this person.
  • Write about the gifts you would buy for this person if you had a thousand dollars.
  • Write about your plans for New Year’s Eve.
  • Thank this person for the cookies they have baked, the lights they have hung, or the stories they have read aloud to you this Christmas!

Christmas cards and letters give children a chance to practice their hard-earned writing skills, from brainstorming to final drafts, from salutations to closings, from capital letter formation to paragraph indents. Help them discover that Christmas letters aren’t just an activity for moms this joyful time of year!

WriteShop Blog--In Our Write Minds

Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella also blogs at www.waterlilywriter.com.

Photo: Zechariah Judy, courtesy of Creative Commons

 

Printable Writing Prompt for December

Use this free Christmas printable writing prompt to help stretch your writing muscles as you compose a story about generosity. How many of the focus words can you include in your story?

Printable Writing Prompt for December - Compose a story about generosity!

Click the image above to download the printable Christmas writing prompt. If you would like to share this prompt with others, link to this post. Do not link directly to the PDF file. Feel free to print this PDF file for your own personal use. Please do not sell or host these files anywhere else.

Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

10 gifts for grammar geeks and writers

Gifts for grammar geeks, writers, and literary buffs! From dining room to game room, there's something clever for everyone on your list.

This post contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure policy.

As the holidays draw near, have you begun fretting about what to buy for that special someone? Well, if that person happens to be a writer, grammar geek, or literary enthusiast, you’re sure to appreciate these fabulous finds. From game room to dining room, there’s something for everyone on your list, so get comfy at your desk or settle into a cozy armchair and discover some fresh new gift ideas for the “wordies” in your life.

1. You’ve Been Sentenced!

10 Gifts for Grammar Geeks, Writers, and Literary Buffs

If you’re looking for a fun new offering for game-lovers on your list, look no further than You’ve Been Sentenced. Adults, kids, word nerds, and grammar geeks will all enjoy this hilarious, imaginative game where creating grammatically correct sentences is the object. The result? Absurdly funny sentences and laughter galore!

2. Serve Up Some Grammar

10 Gifts for Grammar Geeks and Writers

Grab this adorably graphic Gourmet Grammarian Dish Set for your geekiest grammar friend—the one who corrects restaurant menus, store signs, Facebook posts, and even total strangers.

3. “I Get My Best Ideas in the Shower”

10 Gifts for Grammar Geeks and Writers

Writers get those “Aha!” moments at the most inconvenient times, such as in the middle of the night or while driving on the highway. But if the muse should strike while they’re in the shower, they can jot that perfect phrase or inspired thought on this ingenious waterproof notepad, thanks to your thoughtful gift of Aqua Notes!

4. Mug Shots

Here’s an amusing assortment of mugs that make great gifts for the writers and grammar-loving friends on your holiday gift list.

10 Gifts for Grammar Geeks and Writers

Perfect for the quiet grammarian, this Cafe Press mug proclaims, “I’m silently correcting your grammar.”

10 Gifts for Grammar Geeks and Writers

I’m especially fond of these six Grammar Grumbles mugs, an original design by The Literary Gift Company.

10 Gifts for Grammar Geeks and WritersThis one is pretty awesome, too. I’d love to give an “I write, therefore I revise” mug to every student who exclaims, “But I like it the way it is!

5. For the Wordsmith

10 Gifts for Grammar Geeks and Writers

Sometimes, the hardest part of writing is coming up with ideas. This thoughtful gift opens the door to possibility with an endless combination of story starters. Everyone will love this cool Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the “Write” Side of Your Brain. As your writer friends spin the “Protagonist Wheel” or choose a “First Sentence” or “Last Straw” stick, they’ll give a boost to their creative writing project.

6. Creative Writing for Creative Kids

10 Gifts for Grammar Geeks and Writers

Let’s not forget the children on your list. Young writers will love Rip the Page!: Adventures in Creative Writing, with its wide variety of fun writing exercises and open-ended writing experiments. The book invites children to get curious, try something new, stretch their imaginations, get creative, and yes . . . rip the pages right out of the book! There’s no right or wrong, so even the most reluctant writers will find freedom and encouragement.

7. Are You Puzzled?

10 Gifts for Grammar Geeks and Writers

Everyone needs a break from the mundane now and then—including the book lovers and writers on your gift list! Working a jigsaw puzzle can help their minds to focus, so they’ll especially appreciate the diversion this Best-Selling Books Puzzle offers.

Can you spot your favorite novels in this puzzle? From The Cat in the Hat and Charlotte’s Web to Oliver Twist and To Kill a Mockingbird, the puzzle features over 50 classic titles from adult and children’s literature.

8. Seasoning with a Twist

10 Gifts for Grammar Geeks and Writers

I love these striking, color-coded salt and pepper grinders. Made of wood with metal ferrules, they’re even topped with iconic pink plastic erasers. Wouldn’t the pair make a great conversation piece on any writer’s table? After all, they’d add plenty of “twists” to the dinner plot!

9. A Word by Any Other Name . . .

10 Gifts for Grammar Geeks and WritersYour favorite writer can never get enough of words, so what better way to stoke the creative fire than with a new thesaurus? Delight the wordsmith who has everything with a unique gift of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression. 10 Gifts for Grammar Geeks and Writers

The best all-purpose thesaurus for anyone on your gift list is by far The Synonym Finder. My own dog-eared paperback copy split in half and has long since been replaced. This durable hardback edition will make a smart statement on desk or bookshelf, where the perfect word is always within reach. The crown jewel of thesauri, The Synonym Finder is that single, indispensable tool everyone should own.

10. You Can Take It With You

10 Gifts for Grammar Geeks and Writers

What does a writer do when she feels stuck? Sometimes, a change of scenery is all that’s needed to get those creative juices flowing again. This cute Eat, Sleep, Write tote bag is perfect for taking along a notebook or laptop to the local cafe for an afternoon of uninterrupted wordsmithing.

10 Gifts for Grammar Geeks and WritersTurn this into a complete writer’s gift package by filling the tote with a paperback thesaurus, spiral notebook or Moleskine journalpens, and sticky notes. Tuck in a Starbucks gift card and top it all off with a pack of cinnamon-chocolate almonds.

You’ll be good to go . . . and so will she!

CHEERS!

 

 

Gratitude lists for kids

Help your children count their blessings with these Thanksgiving-inspired gratitude lists for kids - In Our Write Minds

THE Thanksgiving holiday is fast approaching. Are your kids getting stir-crazy while you finish your lists of ingredients to buy, food to prepare, and relatives to seat at the dining room table?

Help them feel included in the bustling preparations. Give each one a pad of paper, and encourage them to make their own gratitude lists.

10 Reasons I’m Thankful for You

Invite your daughter to choose one family member on the Thanksgiving guest list. Now, ask her to write down ten reasons she’s thankful for this person. Some items on her gratitude list might be one-word character or personality traits (cheerful, musical, trustworthy). Other entries could be short phrases or full sentences (She takes the time to listen; prays for me a lot).

If your daughter is too shy to give her list to that special person this Thursday, save it to mail in a Christmas card!

On Adventures We Will Go

Let your son choose a different family member from the master guest list. Ask your fun-loving boy to make a list of ten activities he enjoys sharing with this special relative. Challenge him to begin each entry with an “-ing” word (present participle), followed by a prepositional phrase:

  • Running at the park
  • Hiking in the woods
  • Fishing at the lake
  • Playing board games on Sunday afternoons

When he finishes his list, help him write a gratitude-filled title, such as “I’m Thankful We Can Spend Time Together.”

The Blessing of Food

Encourage your children to peek inside the refrigerator or pantry so they can count their many blessings related to food! With such a variety of tastes and smells—not to mention the plethora of grocery stores in town and kitchen gadgets at home—our families have so much to be thankful for.

Favorite Foods

Help your littlest writers make a list of five or six foods they’re thankful for. Ask them to include at least one item from each food group.

Kitchen Memories

Ask your daughter to make a list of her favorite memories related to food. If she draws a blank, jog her memory by reviewing the four seasons:

  • You baked pumpkin muffins with Grandma last winter.
  • We decorated an amazing birthday cake last spring.
  • You picked lemons and made real lemonade last summer.
  • We visited a farmer’s market in July.
  • You and your brother made raisin faces on peanut butter sandwiches this fall.

Thankful for Farmers (and Truckers and Grocers!)

Ask you son to make a list of all the people who help provide the food we eat. If your son loves cereal, remind him of…

  • Farmers who grow the grain
  • Workers who repair farm tractors and sprinklers
  • Harvesters and cereal-factory workers
  • Truck drivers and warehouse managers
  • Grocery store checkers and baggers…
  • …and don’t forget the people who help produce the milk!

Whether your youngsters write lists about people or food, remind them to give thanks for each blessing in their life. Who knows? You might feel inspired to write one more list of your own.

Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna who loves real food, plush pets, and large family gatherings.

Photo: LearningLark, courtesy of Creative Commons

{the first Thanksgiving} writing prompts

Fun writing prompts for kids about Pilgrim food and the first Thanksgiving!

WHEN the Plymouth colonists shared their first autumn feast, they had much to be thankful for. They had survived an Atlantic crossing in a cramped, smelly ship and lived through a harsh New England winter that claimed many lives. As they ate and celebrated that first Thanksgiving, their hearts overflowed with memories and hopes for the future.

Let these Thanksgiving writing prompts transport your family back to 1620, when the Pilgrims set sail from Holland for a new life in America.

1. Mayflower Meals

One hundred and two passengers lived below deck on the Mayflower for months on end. Meals on ship usually included crunchy biscuits (“hard tack”) or salted meat. Throughout the week, families took turns using an iron “firebox” to cook hot meals. Describe the smell, taste, and texture of a hot stew after two long days of chewing on hard tack.

2. Just in Time

When the Mayflower landed in Massachusetts, the Pilgrim men set out on exploring parties. They soon discovered Corn Hill, an empty Indian village with piles of seed corn buried in the ground. Because their winter food supplies were low, the explorers took the corn and decided to repay it later. Explain how you would have handled the same situation.

3. A Feast is Planted

In the spring of 1621, an English-speaking Indian named Squanto befriended the hungry Pilgrims. He taught them how to plant corn with fish as a fertilizer, which promised a plentiful crop a few months later. Write a list of three questions about farming you would have asked Squanto if you were a Pilgrim.

4. Pilgrim Kitchens

Small and sturdy, cabins in the Plymouth colony had just enough room for cooking, eating, and sleeping. Pots and kettles hung from a green wooden “lugpole” across the hearth, and tables were set with spoons, “trenchers” (dishes), and large napkins. Pilgrims usually shared their cups, and they had no forks. Compare and contrast a Pilgrim kitchen to your kitchen today.

5. The First Thanksgiving

Governor Bradford called for a Thanksgiving feast in the fall of 1621. Only four women had survived the previous winter, so Pilgrim children helped prepare the food. They gathered mussels from the rocks along the shore and salad greens from the gardens of their little town. Imagine you have worked all week to prepare the feast. How do you feel when it’s finally your turn to sit down and eat?

Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays, and check out our Holiday and Seasonal Ideas for more Thanksgiving-themed writing activities.

Photos: VaMedia (kettle), Joy (corn souffle), John B. (turkey), and Annie (girl’s dress), courtesy of Creative Commons
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