Entries from November 2013 ↓

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

Rhymes for sale! A rhyming poetry game for kids

A fun game to help kids learn rhyme patterns and build rhyming poems

FROM read-aloud books to television jingles to crazy tongue twisters, rhyming words can instruct or entertain kids of all ages. Let your kids try this rhyming poetry game, and see how much they learn while they’re busy playing with words!

In this game, children become beggar poets who earn their living by creating clever word pairs and short rhyming poems. If one of your youngsters has a hard time finding words, don’t wait until he’s frustrated—let him think for a few minutes, then help him choose from a word list in a rhyming dictionary.


You need currency for this game, so pick something you have plenty of on hand. You could use:

  • Pennies and nickels
  • Monopoly money
  • Bright buttons, beads, dried beans, or even paperclips!

Now, prepare a list of words your children must rhyme—at least four words for each child. Take age into consideration when writing your word list:

  • One-syllable words for kindergarteners and first graders (see, cry, bug, light)
  • Two-syllable words for second and third graders (raccoon, singing, couches, cuddle)
  • Three-syllable words for fourth, fifth, and sixth graders (lemonade, telescope, underground, evergreen)

A Penny, Please: Rhyming Words

The game begins with a lively conversation. Feel free to catch up on washing dishes or folding laundry while you recite your pairt:

Children: Rhymes for sale! Rhymes for sale!

Mom: Little beggars, what do you want today?

Children: We’re selling rhymes! Haven’t you heard? Do you need a rhyme for your favorite word?

Mom: Let me see…. I do need a rhyme for “bug.”

Children: Rug! Snug! Plug! Pug!

Mom: Thank you, that’s just what I needed today. Here are pennies for everyone.

A Dollar Earned: Rhyming Poems

Now, ask each child to write a short rhyming poem with the word pairs they just created. Suggest one of these simple rhyme patterns:



I open my eyes and suddenly see (A)

A creature staring back at me. (A)

Six tiny legs make others cry (B)

But I am brave–my eyes are dry. (B)

Before I catch this tiny bug, (C)

It starts to run across the rug. (C)

Then I flip on the amber light (D)

And, oh! That gives my bug a fright! (D)



I dreamed I was a silly raccoon (A)

In moonlit branches singing. (B)

I laughed at lightning, thunder, monsoon, (A)

And in the trees kept swinging. (B)

My raccoon house had comfy couches (C)

Where little raccoons could cuddle. (D)

Our blankets were in sturdy pouches, (C)

Until I dropped them in a puddle. (D)



I bought a pint of lemonade– (A)

Just before the big parade– (A)

And hid it underground. (B)

You looked into your telescope (C)

And watched for deals on cantaloupe (C)

But fruit was nowhere to be found. (B)

We climbed a sturdy evergreen (D)

And shared the milk from my canteen (D)

With chocolate to go around. (B)

A Poet’s Reward

When a child completes his rhyming poem, pay a “dollar” in return. It doesn’t matter if the poems are silly or fanciful. The goal of this poetry game is to teach a love for words and a better grasp of syllables and meter.

Finally, your beggar poets have earned their day’s wages. Let them buy lunch, snacks, or desserts from your kitchen. And, while they’re busy munching away, encourage them to think of words for Mom to rhyme tomorrow!

Discover Other Poetry Lessons

How to Write a Cinquain Poem

How to Write a Diamante Poem

How to Write Haiku

How to Write a Cento (Patchwork) Poem

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: Oliver Quinlan, courtesy of Creative Commons

We love dogs! Canine writing prompts

From German shepherds to poodles, chihuahuas to beagles, kids will love these dog writing prompts!

FROM the deck of the Mayflower to the White House lawn, dogs have rightfully earned their titles as “man’s best friend.” Encourage your kids to try their hand at these fun writing prompts for dog lovers!

1. I Will Always Find You

Search and rescue (SAR) dogs work alongside their handlers to track missing humans. With their acute sense of smell, SAR dogs can work in most kinds of weather and environments, whether day or night. Write a story about a search and rescue German Shepherd who is called to action after a large earthquake hits Los Angeles.

2. Child’s Play

You are a friendly chihuahua who just met the poodle who lives next door. The two of you quickly discover how much you have in common, including a history of embarrassing Halloween costumes. Describe the fairy costume your family made you wear this October, and explain how you really feel about playing dress-up.

3. That’s a Strange Dog, Charlie Brown

Poor Charlie Brown wants to train his dog to play fetch, but once again Snoopy won’t cooperate. Describe the steps Charlie Brown must take to convince Snoopy to play, and insert as many onomatopoeic (sound) words as possible.

4. King of the Hill

Who says a night in the dog house is cold and lonely? You’ve designed plans for a luxury dog house, so write a persuasive paragraph to convince your parents that Fido deserves a posh, two-story pad. (If you want to take the opposite side, write a letter to the editor about why people should stop spoiling their pets.)

5. Puppy Love

Raising puppies for profit is no small task when you consider the time and energy involved (not to mention possible damage to your home and yard). Prepare a list of six questions for someone who specializes in raising and selling Black Labrador Retrievers. You want to know if this could be a successful and fulfilling business for you.

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

Photo: Lee Coursey, courtesy of Creative Commons

What’s in my bag? Intro to writing a descriptive narrative

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

WHEN TEACHING a new writing skill or genre such as writing a descriptive narrative, it often helps to play a game to introduce the concept. I love these prewriting games because kids learn important writing skills through play. At the same time, there’s no pressure to write everything down.

To introduce a 5-paragraph descriptive narrative, try this entertaining prewriting activity.

Gather Your Supplies

1. Tell your children to pretend they’re going to spend the night at a cousin’s, grandparent’s, or best friend’s house. Ask each child to gather three favorite things to take along, and put them in their own tote bag or backpack. For now, they should keep the items a secret.

2. While they’re collecting their treasures, gather three of your own favorite things you might pack for a trip. Place your items in a tote bag, too. Remember: Don’t show each other your objects until you do this activity together.

Play the Game

You will go first. As you take your turn, you’ll be explaining the format of a 5-paragraph descriptive narrative.

1. First, tell your kids that your tote bag contains three favorite things you might bring along on an imaginary trip. But don’t take them out yet! For now, just name your three items. This represents the opening paragraph, or introduction, of the 5-paragraph narrative.

2. Next, open your tote and take out one item. Give its name and describe three details about it, such as what it looks like, what it is used for, or why you like it. This represents the first paragraph in the body.

3. Now take out the second item. Name and describe it with three details. This represents the second paragraph in the body.

4. Repeat with the third item, which represents the third paragraph in the body.

5. Return all three items to your tote bag and close it. Finish your turn by explaining why you would choose those items to take on an imaginary trip. This represents the last paragraph, or closing.

Now it’s your children’s turn. One at a time, have them:

  • Name the three items inside their backpack.
  • Pull out and show one item, tell its name, and describe three details about it.
  • Repeat with the second and third items.
  • Return all three items to their tote and explain why they would choose to take them on an imaginary trip.

Application: Write a Descriptive Narrative

If you want to take this activity further, invite your children to write a descriptive narrative about their imaginary trip. Though the “What’s in My Bag?” game may also be played with younger children, the writing project itself is more suited to 4th grade and up.

Remind students how a 5-paragraph composition is structured:

  • The first paragraph will be the Introduction. In this paragraph, your student will introduce the three objects.
  • The next three paragraphs will be the Body. They will describe one object in each paragraph by telling three details about it.
  • The last paragraph will be the Closing. This is where students will wrap up the descriptive narrative and explain why they would take these three objects on their trip.

Even if your kids aren’t quite ready for 5-paragraph writing, I’m sure your whole family will have fun playing the game!

Copyright 2013 © by Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

. . . . .

WriteShop Junior Book EThe “What’s in My Bag” game is one of the many pre-writing exercises found in WriteShop Junior Book E (coming early 2014). All WriteShop levels include fun games to teach new concepts!

Take a look at WriteShop Primary for early-elementary ages, WriteShop Junior for upper elementary, and WriteShop I for 6th – 10th grade. You’ll love the writing games and brainstorming worksheets that equip and inspire successful writers.

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Printable Writing Prompt for November

Leaving the only home you have ever known and arriving in a new land is sure to be overwhelming! As a passenger on the Mayflower, what do you miss from home? What do you hope your new life holds?

What would it be like to journey across the ocean on the Mayflower? Free Printable Writing Prompt for November

Click the image above to download the printable Mayflower 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!

You Can’t Teach Writing: Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom

Why read the latest "Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom"? Because we have an enemy who likes to remind us of our fears and failures.

By Daniella Dautrich

PERHAPS you’ve heard whispers of lies such as this one: “You can’t teach writing.” Doubts about your schedule, curriculum, ability to grade, or your own writing background might tempt you to believe these problems are the measure of your homeschooling abilities. This loss of perspective can quickly take a homeschool mom captive.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis If “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), remember that your adversary will stop at nothing to blind you from the truth. In his classic The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis imaginatively portrays this epic battle.

I hope you find encouragement in this Screwtape Letter for today’s homeschool mom, adapted from the fifth, sixth, and seventh letters in Lewis’s book.

My dear Wormwood, 

Your last letter gives me much cause for disappointment, except where you mention the patient’s frustrations with teaching writing. This brings to mind all sorts of possibilities. In this unbalanced era of homeschooling, intense feelings about curriculum and extreme self-consciousness (or self-righteousness!) about writing abilities have often produced desirable results.

If She Lacks the Time…

If your patient is the type who loves writing, but has “no time to teach writing,” you will find your task quite amusing. Build the most unrealistic expectations in her head about the perfect writing lesson. Let her believe that her child’s peers in conventional schools spend hours each day on brilliant essay compositions. Prey on her dreams of perfectionism, and you will paralyze her greatest talents.

Let her believe that she will never have enough time, so she dare not even try. Do not let it occur to her that vocabulary skills can be taught in the kitchen while she fixes dinner, or that sentence building can become a game in the family car. Keep her in this state of ignorance, and you may enjoy the hilarious spectacle of a mother who loves writing, yet whose children hate words!

If She Lacks the Patience…

If you are going to tell me that your patient won’t teach writing because she “lacks the patience,” I know very well what state of mind you’re in. You take credit for an emotional crisis in the middle of a school day, do you? You have tasted the intoxicating anguish and bewilderment of a human soul. But remember, Wormwood, that duty comes before pleasure.

Do not allow your temporary excitement to distract you from the real business of undermining her faith. This tired mother has doubtless heard the Enemy’s adage that “patience is a virtue.” By no means let this saying—or any other Proverb or Beatitude—enter her mind.

You must guard against the attitude which treats homeschooling as a means for obedience to the Enemy. Never let your patient suspect that unpleasant writing lessons with her reluctant little ones might actually please Him. You want her to feel like a lamb at the slaughter—never like a willing servant offering up her time and talents.

If She Can’t Write…

If, on the other hand, your patient suffers from an actual oversight in her own early education and believes that she “cannot write,” your strategy will somewhat differ.

We want her to remain in the maximum uncertainty and confusion about how to teach writing and how to grade it. Fear and self-deprecation must immobilize her. Let her belittle herself.

Let her thoughts overflow with contradictory pictures of online tutorials and workbook exercises, long handwritten essays and oral narrations, letter grades and point systems. Lead her to think she should do it all, and that each one must find room in her daily homeschooling routine.

Most importantly, watch for any signs that your patient is willing to bear her daily cross. It doesn’t matter if this burden is relearning grammar late at night, or preparing from a teacher’s manual early each morning. If she overcomes her distaste or insecurity about these things for the sake of her child, we will lose valuable ground.

That is why you must always encourage a shadowy, overwhelming terror of something they call “teaching writing.” This vague notion will make her lose sight of any small, achievable goals in her own education or that of her children.

If She Prefers Math and Science…

In the final case, your patient may simply excel in math and science. By her Enemy-bestowed nature, she craves that which is measurable and quantifiable. She hesitates about writing because she perceives the subject is too fluid to teach and too subjective to grade. Prey upon this! Remind her often that teaching and evaluating writing rely too much upon guesswork

She may say she “hates writing,” but the results of such a melodramatic hatred are often most disappointing. Redirect the abstract malice in her soul toward proficient writers in her own social circle. The Enemy desires your patient to appreciate the talents of other homeschool moms. Whenever possible, He wants her to offer her talents in return. In this way the humans participate in a disgusting allegory of “the Body.” I have often witnessed this irritating arrangement in homeschool co-ops.

You may even lead the patient to believe that math and science are the only really important subjects—that writing nowadays has no worth at allThis will lead to a great deal of pride. Your patient will feel not only superior, but fashionably modern. 

Finally, whatever your patient’s particular strengths and struggles may be, you must not forget our ultimate goal. We want these dear little homeschooling mothers to downplay or ignore the written word, until they finally learn to reject the incarnate Word Himself.

Your affectionate uncle,


Read the original Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom.


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Photo: Elne (Neighya), courtesy of Creative Commons.
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