Entries from September 2013 ↓

Punctuation Quotes

Punctuation Quotes @writeshop

TEACHING students to use proper punctuation requires much time and patience—and sometimes, a little creativity! Last week, we celebrated National Punctuation Day, but the fun doesn’t have to end there. Surprise your kids in the coming weeks by posting fun quotes about punctuation all around the house.

  • Do your kids use special notebooks for grammar and language arts studies? Decorate the covers with a few of these quotes.
  • Copy several quotes onto colorful index cards, and stick them to the refrigerator.
  • Choose large pieces of bright paper, and make “punctuation posters” to mount on bedroom closet doors or kitchen cupboards.

Punctuation Quotes for 1st-6th Graders

“Punctuation marks are the traffic signals of language: they tell us to slow down, notice this, take a detour, and stop.”

~ Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves:
The Zero-Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

“A period is a stop sign. A semicolon is a rolling stop sign; a comma is merely an amber light.”

~ Andrew Offutt

“No iron can pierce the heart with such force as a period put just at the right place.”

~ Isaac Babel

“Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own jokes.”

~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Punctuation Quotes for 7th-12th Graders

“When speaking aloud, you punctuate constantly — with body language. Your listener hears commas, dashes, question marks, exclamation points, quotation marks as you shout, whisper, pause, wave your arms, roll your eyes, wrinkle your brow. In writing, punctuation plays the role of body language. It helps readers hear the way you want to be heard.”

~ Russell Baker

“Sometimes you get a glimpse of a semicolon coming, a few lines farther on, and it is like climbing a steep path through woods and seeing a wooden bench just at a bend in the road ahead, a place where you can expect to sit for a moment, catching your breath.”

~ Lewis Thomas, “Notes on Punctuation”

“We have a language that is full of ambiguities … all our thoughts can be rendered with absolute clarity if we bother to put the right dots and squiggles between the words in the right places. Proper punctuation is both the sign and the cause of clear thinking.”

~ Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves:
The Zero-Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

“My attitude toward punctuation is that it ought to be as conventional as possible. The game of golf would lose a good deal if croquet mallets and billiard cues were allowed on the putting green. You ought to be able to show that you can do it a good deal better than anyone else with the regular tools before you have a license to bring in your own improvements.”

~ Ernest Hemingway, letter, May 15, 1925

Photo: Eirien, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Persuasive essay prompts

Persuasive Essay Prompts: Help your teens to develop clear opinions and supporting arguments.

PERSUASIVE writing provides high schoolers with opportunities to articulate a main point (thesis statement) and to build supporting arguments. Use these persuasive essay prompts for research paper assignments, timed writing practice, or formal discussions with your teen.

When choosing examples for their persuasive papers, high school students should draw from their studies, reading, and personal experience. Remember, this is excellent practice for the SAT!

1. Into the Woods

For centuries, men obtained valuable food sources by raising livestock or hunting in the wild. Today, however, many Americans have chosen vegetarian or vegan lifestyles, proving that our industrialized society provides plenty of alternate food options. Where do you stand on the issue of consuming animal meat? Write an essay to support your point of view.

2. All My Brothers and Sisters

International adoptions have become more and more popular in recent years. In light of both glowing reports and horror stories, should we encourage or discourage international adoptions? Take a stance on this issue, and back up your assertions with compelling narratives and facts.

3. A State of Emergency

When natural disasters strike, victims often need immediate emergency relief—including water, food, shelter, and medical services—as well as long-term help rebuilding communities and rebuilding lives. Some say the responsibility to send financial aid lies exclusively with private individuals and charitable organizations, while others believe this is a proper use of tax dollars by the federal government. Develop your opinion with persuasive facts and arguments.

4. True Education

We’ve all heard the old phrase, “Actions speak louder than words.” Is this true when it comes to academic, sports, or music teachers? Develop your thoughts into one key point with persuasive arguments.

If you enjoyed these essay prompts, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays! Once a month, we feature topics especially suited for high schoolers, including:

Cause and Effect Writing Prompts

Book Review Writing Prompts

 

Photo: Charles Knowles, courtesy of Creative Commons.

SAT essay tips: Part 2

SAT Essay Tips | Ways to Practice SAT Prompts at Home

THE idea of a timed essay can strike fear into the heart of any student. If your homeschooled teens plan to take the SAT in the next year or so, don’t wait to prepare for the writing section. Help your high schoolers become familiar with the SAT essay format and scoring well in advance. Then, guide them through writing lessons and extra-curricular activities that will build their skills and boost their confidence.

Start with a writing curriculum that incorporates practice with timed essays. WriteShop II is an excellent choice for your 9th and 10th graders. The program encourages a mastery of writing mechanics, and instills strong instincts for organized, concise writing.

Next, let your high schooler read the SAT essay tips below. Remind them to try a few this week!

Express Yourself

Developing an interesting vocabulary requires time and discipline. Don’t allow yourself to rush through daily conversations, emails, and texts with ambiguous word choices and the poor excuse, “You should know what I mean.” Stop and think about what you’re trying to say. Rephrase confusing statements, and find the words that best express your thoughts. On the flip-side, ask others to clarify their meanings and explain unfamiliar vocabulary words to you.

Practice Handwriting

If you’re used to doing all your writing at the computer, you may be in for a rude awakening when it’s time to write your SAT essay in longhand. With that in mind, make sure you’re comfortable writing by hand.

Practice by writing out the first draft of a school assignment in pencil. Is your handwriting legible? Are your paragraph indents overtly clear? Is your spelling reasonably error-free? If one of these areas needs attention, don’t wait until the night before the SAT to address the issue.

Overcome Perfectionism

Writing two pages in twenty-five minutes won’t give you time to erase and redo large blocks of text. At best, you’ll have a minute or so to quickly re-read your essay, crossing out poor word choices and fixing misplaced commas. Always keep in mind that the SAT essay is a first draft. You should write intelligently and neatly, but no one expects you to be brilliant or perfect.

If you struggle with perfectionism, try this valuable exercise: Sit down with a pencil, a blank sheet of paper, and a simple object like a coffee mug or teaspoon. Draw the object without using an eraser. You will probably have to re-draw some of curves and lines, making the best ones darker so they stand out. The old, imperfect lines remain in the background, but the finished picture will still be beautiful.

Learn the Art of Persuasion

Read an SAT essay prompt each night at the dinner table. Take turns expressing an opinion and offering supporting evidence (no more than five minutes per person).

Practice persuasive writing by sending letters to the editor. Choose a newspaper/magazine/blog article, and explain why you agree or disagree with the author. Explain your point of view and lay out personal reasons for your position.

The Road to Success

“There are no shortcuts to success on the SAT essay,” the College Board declares. When it comes to trained instincts for grammar, vocabulary, and organization, they are certainly right. Prepare now, and when test day comes, you’ll have nothing to fear.

SAT Essay Tips: Part 1

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 blogs at www.waterlilywriter.com.

Photo: Andrew Mason, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Fall picture writing prompts

These fall picture writing prompts will stir your kids' imagination!

GATHER ’round the table and let creativity bubble over with our fall picture writing prompts! For a change of pace, these journal prompts are inspired by interesting photos that will stir your child’s soul or spark flights of literary fancy!

Autumn Walk

Is this an ordinary walk in the woods, or does an adventure await you over the crest of the hill? Who (or what) is watching you from the trees?

These fall picture writing prompts will stir your kids' imagination!

The Furry Messenger

You’re exploring in the woods with your best friend when a chipmunk suddenly jumps up on a rock and starts shouting a warning! What is it saying? Are you in danger? What will you do? What will you discover? What will happen to you?

These fall picture writing prompts will stir your kids' imagination!

Fairy Secrets

Use at least four of these words to tell a story about this photo: forest, explore, mushroom, fairies, fog, door, stairs, secret, ancient, lock, book

These fall picture writing prompts will stir your kids' imagination!

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

Photos: davharuk, Nina Stawski, & Brenda Clarke, courtesy of Creative Commons.

SAT essay tips: Part 1

SAT Essay Tips: Help your teens understand the SAT essay and write clear, persuasive essays

IF your teen hopes to enter a four-year college or university straight out of high school, he will probably take the SAT. This four-hour test offers one guarantee: the 25-minute essay-writing section always comes first. To score well on the essay, your student needs to understand both the test objectives and scoring criteria.

What is the SAT?

Offered seven times per year, the SAT is the most popular college admission test. Many high schoolers take the test once in the spring of their junior year, and again in the fall of their senior year. At the official website, you will find online registration (including helpful registration hints for homeschoolers), and a test-day checklist (no cell phones are allowed, so bring a watch).

To familiarize yourself with the SAT format, take a practice test well in advance. The Princeton Review suggests taking these practice tests quite seriously: time yourself, take short breaks between sections, and don’t even think about stopping for lunch!

How the SAT Essay Is Scored

The essay component of the SAT is scored on a scale of 1-6. Two readers will assign independent scores, giving you a total between 2 and 12. The essay counts for one-third of your overall Writing score, or one-ninth of your total SAT score. Familiarize yourself with the official scoring guidelines and sample essays.

All the directions and strategies boil down to one thing: the SAT essay is a persuasive essay. You must choose a point of view and support it with logical reasoning and examples. The best scores will reflect several essay components:

  • an understanding of English grammar
  • a variety of sentence structures
  • a well-rounded vocabulary (no weak words)
  • a focused and coherent main thought
  • an organized progression of ideas (the five-paragraph essay format usually works best)

Use Your Time Well

Remember, you only have twenty-five minutes for essay writing. The test materials include a bit of blank space—about a quarter of a page—to “plan” your essay. Don’t get bogged down with full sentences while brainstorming. Just outline your thoughts for the thesis, two or three strong examples in a logical order, and a few key words for the conclusion. Then quickly move on to the writing. (By the way, this is also excellent practice for essay exams in college!)

Length alone will not guarantee a good score; however, the Princeton Review and others confirm that high-scoring SAT essays are long. You have almost two pages to work with, about 40-45 lines. Fill the space if you can, and write at least a page and a half. (Note: you cannot go over the space provided.)

Know Your Audience

The SAT is prepared by an organization called the College Board. You should know several things about them:

  • They avoid highly controversial subjects, such as religion and politics. Words like “Republican” and “salvation” won’t appear on your SAT essay question, although you might see words like “leadership” and “hope.” Write your essay accordingly.
  • The College Board is not elitist and will not mark you down for using examples from your humble personal life. If you can’t draw from heroes of British literature and American history, your parents’ high school stories or an example of a community hero might provide the perfect illustrations for your main point.
  • The College Board does not fact-check essays. If you think you have your stories right, be confident and keep writing. Just be aware that any college you apply to has the right to review your SAT writing sample and compare it to your admissions essay (according to SparkNotes.com).

Collectively, the individuals who read SAT essays must grade an estimated 2 million essays per year. Write with these readers in mind:

  • They are paid to read your entire essay, so you’re not obligated to “hook” or “entertain” them. In this setting, tangents are never cute: “When you think ‘SAT essay,’ think of a well-organized nightly news segment, not a convoluted soap opera plot.” ~ SparkNotes.com
  • They read quickly and assign scores based on a first general impression. Make your thesis statement simple and direct so your essay will be easy to follow. (Mike at AceTheSAT.com suggests you place the thesis in the first sentence.)
  • They are probably tired, so make sure your essay is overwhelmingly readable. If you include a phrase about counter-arguments or opposing views, be very clear about which side you’re on. Don’t confuse your readers!

Of course, when it comes to timed essay tests, the best advice is to start early. WriteShop II teaches many essential skills for timed essays in 9th and 10th grade. In addition, other extra-curricular activities and habits can encourage college-level vocabulary, speed writing, and persuasive arguments. Next week, I’ll share SAT essay tips and ideas for developing these abilities at home.

Tips for Writing SAT Essays: Part 2

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 blogs at www.waterlilywriter.com.

Photo: Andrew Mason, courtesy of Creative Commons.

 

Writing prompts about explorers

Writing Prompts about Explorers @writeshop

A new school year is an exciting time of discovery. If your history studies this fall include the “Age of Exploration” (15th-17th centuries), try a few of these writing prompts about explorers with your kids!

1. The Great Race

When Columbus claimed the New World for Spain, navigator John Cabot believed he could find a faster route across the northern Atlantic. Imagine you are John Cabot. Write a letter to King Henry VII, explaining why England should explore the “East Indies,” and why you are just the man for the job.

2. A Sight for Sore Eyes

Vasco Nunez de Balboa led the first European expedition from Spain’s colonies in the New World to the Pacific Ocean in the west. Describe his feelings and reactions after traveling three weeks, surviving battles with the Panama natives, crossing a jungle, and climbing a mountain range to finally discover the mysterious “South Sea.”

3. Uncharted Territory

The first European to explore the coasts of Florida, Spanish governor Juan Ponce de Leon was surrounded by legends after his death. Many people claimed he had searched for the Fountain of Youth in Florida, only to find giant sea turtles and Caribbean Monk Seals instead. Write about a time when life turned out differently than you expected. Were you pleased or disappointed in the end?

4. The Long Winter

When French explorer Jacques Cartier made his second spring voyage to Canada, he probably didn’t expect to spend a winter on the banks of the icy cold St. Charles River. For five months, his fleet of three ships would lay frozen in the water, while his men fell sick in their snow-covered fort. Describe Cartier’s frozen wooden ships as they would have appeared to a visiting Iroquois Indian.

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

Photo: KitAy, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom

Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom @writeshop

By Daniella Dautrich

YOUR calling as a homeschooling mom flows out of your calling to live a life hidden in Christ Jesus (Colossians 3:3). If you experience homeschool doubts at some point this school year, don’t try to overcome them on your own strength, feelings, or goodness. Recognize the spiritual battle that is being waged for your child’s soul, get on your knees, and pray!

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis wrote about our sometimes-invisible but ever-present struggle in his classic The Screwtape Letters. Thirty-one fictional letters from the elder demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood describe the process of tempting human “patients” and foiling their efforts to live the Christian life.

If you are unfamiliar with this literary gem, find a copy and read it for yourself! Until then, enjoy this modern-day “Screwtape Letter” for the homeschool mom, adapted from the second, third, and fourth letters in Lewis’s book.

I leave you with Lewis’s own caution from his preface:

“Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle.”

My dear Wormwood,

I see with great displeasure that your patient has become a homeschooler. There is no need to despair; hundreds of these well-meaning mothers have been recovered after just a few months of school. Meanwhile, we must make the best of the situation.

Our greatest ally at the present moment is the homeschooled child itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the high-achieving youngsters your patient reads about in magazines, or the eager, tidy, and respectful children raised by her veteran homeschool friends. 

I mean her real child, that stubborn and noisy human being who worries and interrupts his mother at every waking hour. When your patient corrects a lesson, she finds deliciously scribbled and misspelled words. When she begins to teach, the child cries and argues. Take advantage of this by leaning heavily on those foolish mistakes and childish tears.  

Bait Her with Perfection

At this stage, you see, your patient holds to an ideal of “homeschooling” that she believes to be practical but which, in fact, is merely a fabrication. Look no further than Pinterest if you have any doubts on this useful subject of comparison traps.

I get positively giddy when other homeschool moms make her feel badThe patient’s mind entertains visions of a violin prodigy, picture-perfect schoolroom, and future college scholarships. The fact that her awkward, left-handed child can’t read or write yet is a real—though not verbally acknowledged—difficulty to her.

Here lies our opportunity. Work hard on the cloud of disappointment which will certainly descend on your patient. This anticlimax will fuel her homeschool doubts.

Keep Her Mind on Academics

Always keep the patient’s mind on her flashcards and worksheets. Remind her to dwell on multiplication tables and spelling tests. She thinks homeschooling is something “academic,” and her attention is therefore focused on lesson plans and physical curriculum. (If the textbooks were expensive, so much the better.)

Keep her mind off the most elementary teaching tools—conversation and parent modeling—and direct her mind to the more prestigious academic duties of the homeschool mother. Fill her day with such busyness that there is no time to reflect on the Enemy. If home life becomes strained, let her think that her talents are unappreciated and could be put to more profitable use elsewhere.

Distract and Mislead Her

Do not forget that the best thing, whenever possible, is to keep the patient from serious prayer. Whenever she listens to the Enemy Himself, we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing this. Simply turn her gaze away from Him towards herself.

When she kneels to pray for wisdom or gentleness, let her really try to reassure herself that she is wise compared to other parents, and far more gentle than her misbehaving child deserves.

Train her to estimate the value of a prayer by its success in producing these desired feelings. By no means let her suspect that this kind of success will often depend on whether she is well or ill, fresh or tired, at that particular moment. This is where you want her.

Your affectionate uncle,

SCREWTAPE

Related Post - You Can’t Write: Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom

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Photo: Ian.Kobylanski, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Printable Writing Prompt ~ September

Take a walk outside and observe your surroundings! What hidden things do you walk past without even noticing? This month’s writing prompt encourages you to sharpen your observation skills and practice your descriptive writing!

September's Printable Writing Prompt from Writeshop

Click the image above to download the 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!

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