Entries from October 2013 ↓

Expository essay topics for high school

 Expository Essay Topics for High School

INFORMATIVE essays give teens a chance to thoroughly research, understand, and communicate a topic of interest. Let your high schooler choose one of these expository essay prompts, and encourage them to use their best writing organization skills!

1. The Map to Victory

Skilled military leaders carefully adapt their tactics based on battlefield terrain. Choose one war from history, and discuss the role of physical geography in at least two major battles. How did mountains, valleys, rivers, and deserts affect the strategies and outcomes of this particular war?

2. A Curtain Closes

Each culture passes down unique traditions for celebration or mourning when people pass from this life. Research three distinct cultures, and explain how their funeral and burial rites are linked to religious beliefs.

3. The Final Frontier

Less than a century ago, space exploration opened our eyes to incredible new possibilities for science, travel, and communication. Write an essay about either the history of manned space flights or the story of the Hubble Space Telescope.

4. Jingle All the Way

The Christmas season brings many songs, activities, and decorations from countries around the world. Write an informative essay about the origin and development of one Christmas tradition, such as Christmas trees, stockings, or advent wreaths.

If you enjoyed these expository essay topics for high school, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays! Once a month, we feature topics especially suited for teens, such as:

Compare and Contrast Essay Prompts

Persuasive Essay Prompts

Photo: Jenny Poole, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Why do we need to revise writing? {Show, don’t tell!}

Kids who ask "Why do we need to revise?" can discover for themselves how much better their writing sounds when they take time to improve it

Only at Your House?

Picture yourself at the kitchen table with the kids gathered round. Everyone is working on their latest writing projects, scribbling out a story or article, when this conversation happens:

Child: I’m done, Mom.
You: Great! Let’s set it aside for now. You can revise it tomorrow.
Child: Whaaaaat? Why do we need to revise?
You: Because revising is an important part of the writing process. 
Child: But, Mom, I like it the way it is! I don’t want to change anything
You: Every paper can be improved. Did you know even professional authors revise their work?
Child: {scowling} You just don’t like anything I write.
You: {sigh}

Dear homeschool mama, if it makes you feel better, you are not alone. It’s the rare child who actually enjoys revising a paper. When it comes to writing, frankly, many children see Mom as the bad guy, that mean old parent who’s never satisfied.

Let’s take some steps to change that impression, shall we? Read on…and make sure you {and your kids} catch the fun video at the end.

A Call to A.R.M.S.

A story isn’t finished until the writer has read it through and made changes. There’s always a way to improve what we’ve written.

Revising is a call to A.R.M.S.

  • Add description and detail.
  • Remove words, phrases, or sentences that don’t fit or make sense.
  • Move words or sentences that would work better in another spot.
  • Substitute vague words with stronger synonyms, dull words with interesting ones.

Why Do I Need to Revise?

Until kids finally “get” the value of revising, they’ll probably resist—but that doesn’t mean it will always be the case. Though they need to be taught the benefits of self-editing, they must also discover for themselves how much better their writing sounds when they replace dull words or rephrase an awkward sentence.

More importantly, they need to realize you’re in their corner. Like a piano teacher or soccer coach, you can encourage their progress even as you help them hone their developing skills.

Working together to revise a paper gives you a chance to do more than find fault! Start by pointing out things they’ve done well (such as making strong verb choices or writing an especially descriptive phrase).

Believe me, knowing you’re not just looking for their mistakes is highly reassuring.

Show, Don’t Tell

Pinterest is pretty amazing sometimes (okay, all the time) . . . and all the more so when I discover a gem like the little video below, in which two students act out the process of revising a story. This entertaining 5-minute clip will “show” much better than I can “tell.”

I’m sure your own kids could relate to the child who made the shift from “I’m all done” to “Well, maybe there are some things I could fix” to “Wow! It really does sound better now!”

Not only that, now you have some fresh ways to make suggestions that build up your children and encourage their writing efforts. Happy revising!

Copyright 2013 © by Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Image: Denise Krebs, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Holiday help and inspiration in one bundle!

Your family will love crafting, reading, baking, learning, playing, & worshiping together with the creative goodies tucked into this package!

This post contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure policy

Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here before we know it. I hope that makes you feel excited rather than anxious!

  • Do you have some fun activities planned for your family?
  • Need some quiet time printables to keep everyone busy while you bustle about?
  • Want some meaningful devotionals or creative writing games?
  • Could you use some planning inspiration or a few new menu ideas?

Did I hear a yes?

WriteShop Christmas StoryBuilders from the Inspired Holiday BundleThen you’ll want to grab this holiday bundle from Inspired Bloggers Network! I’m part of the network of wonderfully creative women who have contributed to this holiday package.

Your family will love crafting, reading, baking, learning, playing, and worshiping together with the creative goodies tucked into this package!

You’ll find encouraging ebooks, printables, planning pages, holiday treats, Advent activities, and more—including WriteShop’s Christmas StoryBuilders printable card deck of writing prompts.

4 Holiday Planners

1. November Planning Packs for Children

2. December Planning Packs for Children from Stephanie Eidson of The Multi Taskin’ Mom

Two separate Planning Packs for children, one for November and one for December! Each one is full of fun and engaging planning pages for your children, perfect for K and up. Each includes a calendar, daily agenda, writing prompts, and much more.

3. Christmas Countdown Planner from Jill Craft of The Sassy Slow Cooker

This simple but effective Christmas Planner will help you stay sane, on budget, and fully able to enjoy the true reason for the season.

4. Extreme Christmas Savings Ebook and Bonus Planner Pages by Alicia Myers of Extreme Christmas Savings

Put more ho-ho-ho in your holiday without more dough. Includes a 17-page printable holiday planner system.

11 Activity Packs for Children

5. Good Old Days Farm Play Set by AlinaJoy Dubois from Good Old Days Farm

A perfect stocking stuffer! Children will have hours of creative fun acting out farm stories with this downloadable PDF paper farm set! Simply print the pictures on cardstock and cut them out to create your own paper farm. Print as many copies as you like to make your farm as big as you want!

6. Grinn N’ Giggles Halloween Printable Pack from Sarah Warren of The Climbing Tree Academy

A Halloween pack that shows Grinn N’ Giggles counting 10 different spooky items together. From one haunted house to 10 pieces of candy, this cute pack reinforces the theme of the book.

7. A Time for Remembrance: Thank You Notes for Kids from Misty Leask of Simply Helping Him

Thank-you notes kids can use for Sunday school teachers, pastors, military, and many others. There are two different note options, and each note includes penmanship lines plus fun graphics specific for the note to be given.

8. The Adventures of Grinn N’ Giggles: Friends Can Count on Each Other from Sarah Warren of The Climbing Tree Academy

Short, cute story of these two best buds and some of their favorite things to do while hanging out together and having fun. This is a book of counting from 1-10

9. Pearl Harbor Notebooking Pages by Betty Eisenhour of Peace Creek on the Prairie

Help your children remember that right before Christmas many Americans faced a tragedy at Pearl Harbor that should not be forgotten.

10. Christmas Fun for Preschoolers from Monica Pruett of Happy and Blessed Home

A precious bundle of ideas to keep your preschooler delighted during the Christmas season. 

11. 25 Days of Easy Christmas Crafts for Children from Sarah Robinson of Sidetracked Sarah

You don’t have to spend all kinds of time scouring the Internet for the perfect holiday crafts. They’re all right here in this handy little Christmas Crafts e-book, which includes 25 crafts!

12. Sensory Bins from Sharla Kostelyk of The Chaos and the Clutter

Sensory bins are a simple and inexpensive learning tool that can benefit all children. Whether you are interested in incorporating sensory bins into your home, classroom, preschool, Day Care, or homeschool, this guide will provide the necessary knowledge and ideas to get started.

13. Hickory Dickory Doc Holiday Edition from Jennifer Gerlach of Upside Down Kids

This cute set can help keep kids busy and learning on holiday breaks, rainy days, or even car trips. Start with the included e-book for the nursery rhyme Hickory Dickory Doc and follow with the story mat for acting out the story. 

14. Christmas StoryBuilders Writing Prompts from Kim Kautzer of WriteShop and In Our Write Minds

WriteShop Christmas-themed StoryBuilders card decks help to jumpstart a creative writing project by providing kids with the basic elements of a story—character, character trait, setting, and plot—laying a foundation for a joyful writing experience with some clever surprises thrown in along the way.

15. Christmas Memories Notebooking Pages by Betty Eisenhour from Peace Creek on the Prairie

25 pages to help your children record their Family Christmas Celebration Memories through writing, art, coloring, and more.

2 Treats for Hearth and Home

16. Weekend Potluck Fall Favorites by Tabitha Philen & Friends from Frugal Family Favorites

A collaborative effort of all six Weekend Potluck hostesses, this eCookbook contains over 60 recipes found on their blogs (as well as a few unpublished dishes) that will make your tummy smile. From breakfast through dessert, these recipes are simple, yet full of fall flavor.

17. Loving You Long Distance: Tips for Strengthening Long-Distance Family Relationships from Katie Hornor of Paradise Praises

Easy-to-read, 25-page ebook that gives you practical tips and fun activities to keep your family close in spite of the great distances that may separate you.

8 Holiday Devotionals and Inspiration

18. Homeschooling & the Holidays: Giving Thanks MP3 by Felice Gerwitz from Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network

Join our wonderful Expo panel! Listen to moms who have survived the holidays with flying colors share their scheduling, baking, praising, and joyful tips and techniques with you! STRESS BUSTERS! What fun your children will have celebrating and learning about the different seasons of the year.

19. My Book of Thanks: A 25 Day Gratitude Journal for Kids by Heather Bowen from Upside Down Homeschooling

Help develop a spirit of Thanksgiving in your kids with this fun, 29-page printable keepsake book where they can express their gratitude through journaling.

20. Be Thankful: Cultivating Year-Round Thankfulness by Amanda Pelser from Kids in the Word

The Bible is full of references to thankfulness that we can use to teach our kids the whys and hows of developing an attitude of gratitude. This is a Bible study for all ages to help you in your pursuit of instilling thankfulness in your kids.

21Gifts and Celebrations byDaLynn McCoy from For the Display of His Splendor

You will appreciate these thoughts on end-of-year holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas from a Christian homeschooling mom. Unconventional gifts, keeping Christ in Christmas, giving thanks in all seasons of life, and more.

22. Celebrate Jesus: An Advent Celebration for Families by Amy Blevins from Bow of Bronze

Includes daily readings from God’s Word, a daily Christmas carol selection, crafts, recipes, and suggested activities for each day, PLUS a more in-depth devotional study guide for teens and parents. Also includes links to coloring pages, books, and complementary products. Everything you need to make Jesus the heart of your Christmas celebration.

23. Christmas Activity Book for Children: 12 Pages of Christ-Centered Fun from Laura Anne Miller, Children’s Author and Illustrator

This CHRISTmas season, have fun with this activity book and remember that God loved you before you were even born! That’s why he sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth as a baby. These activities remind us of the REAL meaning of CHRISTmas. Print off the pages and have FUN!

24. Everyday Christmas: Helping Your Kids Find Jesus in the Everyday Moments of the Season from Lori Fairchild of Everyday Truth

Take a moment and enjoy this Christmas devotional packed full of great ideas for helping your kids find Jesus in the everyday things of Christmas. Make an object lesson of Christmas lights, cookies, and even decorating the tree. Refresh your own soul with the devotion and share the ideas and conversation tips with your kids.

25. God’s Joy in the Season from KM Logan of Inadequate but Strengthened

A little encouragement for the busiest time of year. Slow down and remember why you’re celebrating. Let this be a Christmas worth remembering—a Christmas where you celebrate God’s love, grace, joy, and greatest gift of all.


This Inspired Holiday Bundle of 25 products is valued at $150, but it’s on sale through November 3. At just $25 for the bundle, that’s a mere $1 per item!

Inspired Holiday Bundle - 25 products for holiday inspiration at only $25 #InspiredBN


Sale ends November 3rd at 11:59 PM Eastern. All sales are final. You will receive the encrypted download links by email after purchase. You will have 24 hours to download the links before they will expire. We will not offer refunds for items not downloaded before the links expiration. Downloads are contained in SIX zipped folders. Please verify that you are able to save the files before downloading as you can only download the links twice before they expire.

Each product is copyrighted by the author as mentioned above and may not be copied unless otherwise noted in the individual product. Additional terms and conditions may apply to individual products. Please read the copyright information contained in each file.

7 Pinterest ideas for high school writing

NOW THAT Pinterest has been around awhile, it’s hard to believe not everyone is on the bandwagon. Are you? For homeschoolers, Pinterest is so much more than a place to gather recipes and decorating ideas . . .  it’s a smorgasbord of teaching tips!

Some time ago, I posted 8 writing ideas from Pinterest. Most of those ideas were directed at elementary grades, so today I’d like to point you toward some terrific Pinterest ideas for high school writing.

1. How to Teach Note Taking Skills 

Part of preparing teens for college is teaching good note taking skills during high school. How to Teach Students Note Taking Skills explains the basics of when and how to take notes and introduces teens to both column-style note-taking and mind-mapping.

7 Pinterest Ideas for High School Writing

2. How to Choose a Topic for a College Application Essay 

If your teen plans to go to college, it’s a given that the various applications will contain essay questions. Typically vague, they give students a lot of leeway. The trick is learning to reword a prompt so the topic feels comfortable and the response can be both powerful and personal. This article will teach your student  How to Choose a Topic for a College Application Essay.

7 Pinterest Ideas for High School Writing

3. Writing Truths for Reluctant Teens

How can you encourage your high schooler when he feels stuck? What should you tell him when he can’t seem to get started writing? How do you help him handle perfectionism? Find encouragement with these 10 Writing Truths for Reluctant Teens.

7 Pinterest Ideas for High School Writing

4. Tips for a Quick Writing Makeover

Ideally, students should thoroughly edit and revise their essays before submitting a final draft. But when there isn’t much time to revise a piece of writing, there are still several easy adjustments they can make to improve a paper. For those crunch times, teach them these 5 tips for a quick writing makeover.

7 Pinterest Ideas for High School Writing

5. Vocabulary Play 

You don’t have to be a little kid to enjoy playing with words! Check out these five fun ways to help students intentionally engage with vocabulary. I especially love the idea of making a word collage. Which is your favorite?

7 Pinterest Ideas for High School Writing

6. Create an Art Journal Page

Do you have an artistic teen? A dreamer? A poet? Here’s a step-by-step tutorial showing the process of creating an art journal page that combines scrapbook-type art, word art, and personal journaling. This is where writing meets art!

7 Pinterest Ideas for High School Writing

7. 119 Journal Prompts for Teens 

This post offers 119 writing prompts that will especially appeal to teens. Even the most reluctant writer is sure to find a journal prompt that motivates or inspires!

7 Pinterest Ideas for High School Writing

Be sure to follow our Writing Ideas: Teens and Writing Prompts boards on Pinterest for more helpful writing activities like these! 


Your Turn: What’s your favorite high school writing activity from Pinterest? 

Copyright 2013 © by Kim Kautzer. 


Pioneer Writing Prompts

Pioneer Writing Prompts @writeshop

PIONEER stories of the wild frontier continue to enchant American children and teachers alike. This week, tempt your kids to sit down and journal with these pioneer writing prompts!

1. Westward Ho!

When pioneer families moved west, they packed only the most important belongings. Imagine your parents just sold your house and bought a covered wagon. You can keep only three outfits, two books, and one toy. Which items will you choose and why?

2. The Oregon Trail

Write a story using at least five of these words: Missouri, prairie, wagon train, dog, sunbonnet, Indians, campfire, thunderstorm, river, Idaho.

3. Little House in the White Snow

After one year on a new homestead, your family has built a sturdy, one-room log cabin. Describe this room on a winter evening, using your senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.

4. The Language of Friendship

After settling into your new prairie home, you learn that your nearest neighbors are immigrants who don’t speak a word of English. Make a list of the first ten words or phrases you will try to teach your new friends. Now, make a list of three to five steps for how to teach these English words.

5. Now and Then

Farm life on the 1870s frontier was quite different from city life in the eastern states, where streets bustled with horses and carriages and homes were lit by kerosene lamps. In a letter to your cousin who lives back east, compare and contrast your old life in the city with your new life on a Nebraska farm.

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

Photo: John Fowler, courtesy of Creative Commons

Apple theme word banks for fall writing

Apple-themed word banks for fun fall writing projects!

EVERY fall, children love collecting leaves, acorns, squash, and especially pumpkins to decorate hearths, mantels, and dining room tables.

It’s the perfect time of year to add seasonal flair to your writing lessons, too! Once your children have finished collecting bits of nature, encourage them to come inside, warm up rosy cheeks and fingers, and collect words for an apple-themed word bank. 

Word lists (such as our popular fall-inspired word bank) can inspire young writers to create seasonal acrostic poems, stories based on outdoor field trips, or other pieces of descriptive writing. This week, help your kids appreciate the richness of autumn harvest time with a word bank of apple theme words. The one we’ve created below should help you get started:

Apple Theme Word Bank

Here’s a list of vocabulary words that focus on apple-picking, hay rides, and fall fun in the orchard! Let this word bank inspire your kids to write poems and stories.

autumn, harvest, farm, orchard, tree, leaves, bag, basket, bushel, crate, wheelbarrow, wagon, hay bale, horse, cart, ladder, barn, farmstand, farmer’s market, cider press, apple peeler

Gala, Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Fuji, McIntosh, Braeburn, Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Winesap, York, Pink Lady, Cortland, Crispin, Empire, Rome Beauty, Honey Crisp, crab apple

skin, peel, core, seeds, stem, slices, juicy, sweet, tart, sour, red, crimson, pink, blush, yellow, gold, green, firm, fresh, crisp, crunchy, soft, mushy, mealy, plump, ripe, round, shiny, smooth, bruised, polished

pie, turnover, tart, cobbler, strudel, crumble, caramel, cinnamon, muffins, apple cider, apple juice, applesauce, apple butter, apple chips, apple-cider vinegar

gather, pick, collect, climb, reach, grasp, peel, cut, slice, bake, simmer, mix, stir, heap, pile, press, scoop, dip

Make Your Own Word Bank

As a writing warm-up, your kids can build their own apple season word banks. This will not only stretch vocabularies and reinforce spelling skills, but also help overcome writer’s block.

Guide younger children to create a word bank collage:

  • Gather glossy photos from fall magazines. (Cooking magazines are an excellent choice.)
  • Set up a fun workspace with cardstock, scissors, and glue sticks.
  • Choose a theme for each collage, such as “Apple Farm,” “Baking with Apples,” or “Apple Desserts.”
  • As you children arrange their collages, help them write several words around each picture—at least one noun, one verb, and one adjective.
  • Display these colorful word banks in a prominent place!

Apple-Themed Writing Days

If you feel inspired, why not spice up fall writing days with apple flavors and activities? The ideas are endless, but here are just a few:

Writing Activities Using the Apple Theme Word Bank

  • Give each child an apple and ask them to describe its appearance, color, and texture. Next, have them take a bite and describe its aroma, flavor, and the texture of its flesh.
  • Describe a real or imagined trip to an apple farm. What will you see and do?
  • Explain the process of making an apple dessert from start to finish.

Apple Basket

Writing Rewards

[Affiliate links in this post are for products we personally use or feel confident recommending for your family.]

  • Let your kids celebrate the end of a writing project by bobbing for apples. If you’re feeling casual, try the old-fashioned method with apples floating in a tub of cold water. For a larger group, tie apples to strings and hang them from a patio cover. Be sure to take lots of pictures while your kids try to get their first bite—it’s harder than it sounds!
  • Play a rousing game of Apples to Apples!
  • Make Laurie’s caramel apples! For a quicker snack option, serve apple slices with a bowl of warm caramel sauce, and let the kiddos dip away.
  • While the family enjoys tasty apple treats, take turns reading aloud the true story of Johnny Appleseed.

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.

Photos:  Jennifer Boyer (orchard), Shane McGraw (first bite), Sarah Hicks (basket), Scot Martin (child’s hand), & bigbirdz (apple basket) courtesy of Creative Commons

Journaling fun with World of Animals StoryBuilders

Journal Prompts: World of Animals StoryBuilders Prompts {via WriteShop}

FROM the littlest storytellers to the most reluctant writers—young or old, resistant or motivated—every child will benefit from mix-and-match writing prompts!

WriteShop StoryBuilders card decks offer hours of fun creative writing projects:

  • World of Animals StoryBuilders Writing Prompts | WriteShopWriteShop offers four different StoryBuilders sets: World of Animals, World of People, World of Sports, and Christmas!
  • Each deck of 192 cards offers endless combinations for wild and wacky stories, with 48 different choices for each story element: character, character trait, setting, and plot.
  • Cards can be randomly picked for silly stories, or carefully chosen for more serious plots.
  • Younger children can dictate their stories, while older or more confident children write their own.
  • Award-winning StoryBuilders are the perfect writing warm-up activity!

This week, why not give your kids a taste of the World of Animals StoryBuilders? To set their creative wheels spinning, we’ve randomly picked the four writing prompt cards pictured below. Write the words on index cards or squares of colored paper. Then pass them out and let the fun begin!

World of Animals StoryBuilders | Printable writing prompts from WriteShop.com

If your children enjoyed this taste of StoryBuilders writing prompts, consider getting a whole pack of them from the WriteShop store. Just download and go! And don’t just take our word for it—check out these reviews:

Finally, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photos: Rick (cat), Rachael (dog), and USDA.gov (chickens) courtesy of Creative Commons

Writing with grace

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

AS WIVES and mothers, daughters and sisters, teachers and friends, our words have immeasurable, long-lasting impact. Yet in our fast-paced world of texts and tweets, how much time do we spend choosing these words?

I remember my old cursive workbook called Writing with Grace. My girlish idea of “grace” evoked images of poised ballet dancers, tea parties where no one slurps or spills, and well-manicured ladies who never say the wrong thing. And that’s certainly one facet of grace.

But true grace is an internal quality. If a woman’s spirit is critical, her words will be harsh and her home uninviting. If her spirit is loving, her words will be gracious and her home (clean or not!) will be a welcoming place.

For most of us, online communication is a daily habit. Together, can we take some time this week to examine our words and practice filling our writing with grace?

Emails Have Wings

“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all….” ~2 Timothy 2:24 (KJV)

It’s good to remember this simple but important truth: Emails can be forwarded–-either intentionally or by accident. With the click of a mouse, your cousins in Texas can read the letter you wrote to a nephew in Idaho. Criticisms of a ministry leader or business colleague can be forwarded tomorrow, creating awkwardness, bad feelings, or embarrassment for all involved.

Harsh judgments and flippant comments have little place in conversation, but even less so in email. It’s always best to review emails for a gentle tone and clear meaning before hitting “send.” Gracious words today can save hours of grief and back-pedaling later.

Do Blogs Have Staying Power?

We don’t know the future of online businesses. Blogspot and WordPress could disappear two years from now (taking our blog posts down into oblivion with them). On the other hand, these forums may thrive another ten, fifteen, or twenty years. By then, our toddlers will be high school graduates, and our teens may be homeschooling parents themselves. Grown children will likely do a little digging, and rediscover the blog archives from 2013.

Will your kids someday realize you wrote humorous posts at a loved one’s expense? Will they see their every youthful flaw exposed, merely so Mom could gain sympathy from acquaintances and strangers? Or, will they find words that make them laugh and cry and stories that bring all the best life lessons and memories flooding back?

Wisdom and discretion are rare jewels in the public journals we know as “blogs.” As women of faith, let’s set an example and leave legacies our children can be proud of. Whether or not we refer to husbands and kids with anonymous nicknames, we can never afford to become complacent as bloggers. Our closest relationships are at stake.

Taming Social Media

“Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” James 3: 4 (NIV)

What’s a little Facebook status? Or 140 characters on Twitter—what harm could that do? Let’s be honest. We’ve all made mistakes on social media: An insensitive comment. An announcement too soon. News shared out-of-turn.

Words shared on social media spread faster than emails. Short bursts of text are more likely to be read than long, rambling blog posts. Yet, how quickly we lose sight of their power to build or tear down! Our words are the sparks that can light a warming fire… but they can just as easily set a forest ablaze.

Etiquette experts may never agree on the rules for “what not to post.” In most cases, our instincts and conscience are better guides, anyway. With a little time and effort, we can use social media to encourage—not to boast. We can spread words of hope and healing and grace.

The words we write can spell JOY in our lives—Jesus first, others second, yourself last.

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 blogs at www.waterlilywriter.com.

Photo: Evan, courtesy of Creative Commons


Writing prompts about games

Writing Prompts about Games @writeshop

FROM board games to word games, fun-filled competitions are a great way to bring friends and family together! This week, inspire your kids to set pen to paper with these writing prompts about games.

1. Three, Four, Count Some More

Describe three things you could do with several boxes full of dominoes.

2. A Royal Brush

A playing card company has asked you to design the artwork for a new deck of cards. Describe the patterns or pictures you would choose. Would you use one style for all fifty-two cards, or thirteen different designs?

3. Game On!

What is your favorite board game? Write a review of this game for other families who might consider buying it. Include parts of the game that impress you or that you particularly enjoy (positive points), and anything that has disappointed you or was not quite as advertised (negative points). Conclude your review with a 1-5 star rating (one is the lowest, five is the best).

4. Bottom of the Ninth, and … Goal?

If you went to school in Nova Scotia, Canada, you might play soccer-baseball with your friends in the gym on Fridays. The infield and four bases would remind you of baseball, but the pitcher would roll the ball and you’d have to kick it to score a home run!

Combine two of your favorite sports, and describe a typical game.

5. A Perfect Pair

Imagine the perfect opponent for your favorite game. Would this person be fiercely competitive, excessively kind and generous, or just plain honest? Would you prefer your playing partner to spend your time together in quiet concentration or hysterical laughter? Explain your answer.

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

Photo: Ishan Manjrekar, courtesy of Creative Commons.

A short {brief, concise} history of synonyms

Did you know American English began as a hybrid of old British dialects? Teach your kids this fascinating history of synonyms!

If you’ve taught writing for awhile, this scene might sound familiar:

Mom: Let’s replace some of those repeated words with interesting synonyms.

Child (grumbling): Why do we have so many words that mean the same thing, anyway?

Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (David Hackett Fischer)Perhaps you’ve wondered about this yourself. If so, make yourself a mug of hot tea or coffee, dust off your copy of The Synonym Finder {the links in this post are my affiliate links because I’m convinced you will love these books}, and let’s have some fun exploring the history of English synonyms!

Although few of us can claim British ancestry, Americans share a cultural inheritance from the speech folkways of Great Britain. United States dialects find their origins in four separate waves of English immigrants, described in David Hacket Fischer’s marvelous cultural history, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. Fischer has much to tell about English speech patterns, including some of the synonyms that emerged in colonial America.

English Puritans (1629-1641)

From the eastern counties of England, middle class Puritan families began a great migration to the New World in the early seventeenth century. Most of these families came from urban areas, and they settled the towns that became New England, New Jersey and New York.

The Puritan ministers and magistrates, trained in Latin at Cambridge University, brought a plethora of multi-syllable words to their New England pulpits. The country members of their congregations naturally adopted some of these formal words. New Englanders also invented words of their own with fancy-sounding Latinate endings, such as:

  • -ize, -ous
  • -ulate, -ticate
  • -ical, -iction
  • -acious, -iferous

When words like rambunctious and splendiferous began appearing for the first time, Boston especially became known for a “florid, pompous” style of speech.

Distressed Cavaliers & Indentured Servants (1642-1675)

The colony of Virginia was a welcome haven for the Royalist and Anglican elite. From the south and west of England they came, bringing the language and manners of London nobility. Quickly, the Virginia colony emerged as a hierarchical society, where upper-class families took pride in rank and reputation.

Most Virginia immigrants were young men who earned a living as poor tenant farmers (75% crossed the Atlantic as indentured servants). If they shared one thing in common with their masters, it was their set of regional speech patterns. For instance, a Virginian might use like instead of “as if” (“he looks like he’s sick”)—a sentence construction not found in New England. Virginians also had a distinct vocabulary:

  • Chomp for chew
  • Flapjack for pancake
  • Howdy for hello
  • Laid off for out of work
  • Skillet  for frying pan
  • Tarry for stay
  • Yonder for distant

These had become archaic words in Britain by late 1700s, but they survived and flourished in the American South.

The Society of Friends (1675-1725)

When William Penn recruited Quakers to settle in the Delaware Valley, thousands would settle in West Jersey, Pennsylvania, and North Delaware. Some of these Quakers came from Holland and Germany, but it was the Irish, Welsh and English Friends who shaped the culture of the middle colonies.

English Quakers largely hailed from the North Midlands of England, a land originally colonized by Viking invaders. Norse-speaking shepherds and farmers were the ancestors of lower middle class Quakers, humble people who valued simplicity and hard work. They spoke in plain and forceful language, with little use for Latin and French.

The dialect of the North Midlands favored thee and thou in place of “you.” Horses whinnied instead of neighed, and farmers commonly exclaimed by golly, by gum, or good grief! Other distinctively northern terms that immigrated to the middle colonies include:

  • Bamboozle for deceive
  • Budge for move
  • Cuddle for caress
  • Dad for father
  • Flabbergasted for extremely surprised
  • Frightened for scared
  • Grub for food
  • Mad for angry
  • Nap for a short sleep
  • Sick for ill
  • Spuds for potatoes
  • Swatch for a fabric sample
  • Wed for married

The Borderland Immigration (1717-1775)

In the early eighteenth century, the first waves of a mass migration swept through the American colonies. Desperately poor and stubbornly proud, these men and women came from the North of Ireland, Scottish lowlands, and northernmost English counties. These borderlands, too accustomed to the wars and violence of competing monarchs, had harbored fighting men with fierce clan loyalties for centuries.

Unlike the other English immigrant groups, the border immigrants came to America in search of material prospects rather than religious freedom. In time, they came to settle in the American backcountry, an untamed wilderness from the Appalachian and Ozark Mountains to the lower Mississippi Valley. There, they introduced the southern highland speech, filled with critters and young-uns and hants (ghosts). The border immigrants brought distinctive vocabulary words from North Britain to America, including:

  • Brickle for brittle
  • Cute for attractive
  • Nigh for near
  • Scoot for slide
  • Honey as a term of endearment

As Albion’s Seed carefully explains, American English began as a wonderful hybrid of old British dialects. New words from the Indians, the Spaniards, and others added to our language over time, until the language emerged as we know it today. Encourage your children to enjoy this cultural heritage as they search for just the right words in their writing.

Happy synonym hunting!

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 blogs at www.waterlilywriter.com.

Photo:  Les Haines, courtesy of Creative Commons.

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