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

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

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 (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

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

Photo:  Les Haines, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Printable Writing Prompt ~ October

This month’s printable prompt has students creating a story that illustrates prudence. Take time to discuss what prudence means, along with some examples, before writing. Enjoy!

Free Printable Writing Prompt

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!

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

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.
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