Entries from May 2014 ↓

4 story starters to inspire young writers

These story starters will inspire young writers to imagine tales of outdoor adventure, mystery, and discovery!

SUNLIT beaches, grassy hillsides, and old-fashioned gardens have inspired plenty of stories over the years. Give young writers a chance to craft their own outdoor adventure tales with these four story starters. We provide the first line of each paragraph. A child’s imagination will fill in the rest!

1. Secret of the Blue Cocoon

Wherever the butterfly landed, strange events seemed to follow.

2. A Kite’s Quest

“Where are you going?” the wind asked the runaway kite.

3. High Tea Mystery

The garden party invitation was clear: Bring your own teacup and your own fingerprint kit.

4. Clue at the Picnic

When I sliced the watermelon open, I never expected to find a secret message inside.

Did you enjoy these writing ideas? If so, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photo: Piotr P, courtesy of Creative Commons

Garden of Rhyming Words

Reinforce spelling and reading skills with rhyming word activities.

All year, you’ve watched your child’s vocabulary grow like a garden of wildflowers. You’ve watered, weeded, and spread plenty of sunshine with family read-aloud times, spelling lessons, and writing games. This week, help your child display what she’s learned with a colorful “garden” of rhyming words!

Kindergarten or First Grade: Word Family Flowers

A word family is a set of words with similar sounds and spelling patterns, such as set, jet, bet, and met. To help your child make a word family flower, you’ll need to gather a few supplies:

  • A blank sheet of white copy paper
  • A stem and leaves cut from green paper, and a circular flower center cut from yellow paper
  • Flower petals cut from bright or pastel paper
  • Glue sticks

Together, write a word family ending in the middle of the flower, such as -at. Now, choose simple rhyming words like rat and cat that will fit in this family. (Rhyming picture books are a great place to help your child find words!) Help her write one word on each flower petal. Finally, help your child arrange the pieces into a beautiful flower on the white paper, and glue it all in place.

The -at word family flower is now ready for display! Wouldn’t this be a pretty addition to your schoolroom or writing center? I’m confident your little gardeners won’t want to stop with just one flower. Make more flowers with word endings such as –en,–ot, –ike, and–ill.

When the flowers are completed, display them on the wall. Alternatively, three-hole punch each page (or slip pages into sheet protectors) and store them together in a notebook. Let your child decorate a notebook cover page with the title “My Garden of Rhyming Words.”

First, Second, or Third Grade: Rhyme Gardens

As your children develop their reading and spelling skills, they might start to notice that some rhyming words are spelled very differently. Help them visualize the relationship between these homophones with a rhyme garden. First, gather:

  • A sheet of white paper
  • Tulip flowers cut from brightly-colored paper
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils to draw stems and leaves
  • Glue sticks

Your child will enjoy arranging the tulips and adding greenery on the white paper. For this first rhyme garden, choose a familiar ending sound, such as –ate. Help your child write a variety of rhyming words in the garden, one word on each tulip, such as late, eight, great, straight, and wait. Other word families include –o (go, row, hoe, though, and sew) and –air (hair, where, bear, stare, and their). Remind your kids to practice pronouncing these words out loud while they are writing or coloring.

These rhyme gardens can be added to the child’s three-ring notebook, or used to decorate the refrigerator and bedroom closet doors!


Give your kids a long sheet of white butcher paper. Every twelve inches or so, start a new rhyme garden with different color flowers. For instance, use

  • yellow tulips for show, go, and toe;
  • orange tulips for score, roar, and door;
  • purple tulips for bird, word, and herd; and
  • blue tulips for threw, blue, and do.

Encourage your children to keep adding to their “flower field” as they encounter and master new words.

WriteShop Primary Book BThese rhyming word activities come from WriteShop Primary A and B by Nancy I. Sanders. If you like what you see, be sure check out the entire WriteShop Primary series. Complete with Teacher’s Manuals and Activity Packs, this writing curriculum is full of kid-friendly activities that will leave your youngsters asking for more!

If you’re considering WriteShop Primary as part of your homeschool curriculum for next year, find out what other parents are saying. As always, we would love to hear your feedback as well!

“I Spy” writing prompts

Kid-friendly writing prompts that celebrate the little things under our feet!

From rocks to beads to LEGO bricks, little things pop up everywhere when there are kids in the house! Encourage your youngsters to journal about their tiny treasures and other bits and pieces with these seven “I Spy” writing prompts.

Tiny Treasures

1. Make a list of things you might find under the couch or between the cushions. Draw a picture of something you could create with these objects.

2. Hide a pile of pennies, nickels, and dimes somewhere in your house. Write three to five clues to help your siblings find the coins, and send them on a treasure hunt.

3. This morning, you opened a freshwater oyster and found a diamond ring instead of a pearl. Will you keep the ring, sell it, or try to find its original owner? Explain your answer.

Bits and Pieces

1. You just received a box in the mail filled with bags of chocolate chips, raisins, and sunflower seeds. Invent a new recipe that includes these ingredients, and describe the taste and appearance of the finished product.

2. During World War II, kids collected scrap metal and rubber to help the war effort. Imagine you and your friends spent the last four hours collecting rubber bands, foil candy wrappers, hairpins, bits of wire, and empty toothpaste tubes. Write a journal entry about your day.

3. Some people claim that humans should eat more insects, which are good little sources of protein and vitamins. Do you think this is a wise idea? Why or why not?

4. Did you know that May 29 is National Paperclip Day? Write about three unusual ways you could use a paperclip next week. (In case you’re wondering, the world record for the longest paperclip chain created by one person in one day is 54,030 paperclips.)

Did you enjoy these writing ideas? If so, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photo: Robert Couse-Baker, courtesy of Creative Commons

How writing is like cooking

I love writing analogies! This post explains how writing is like cooking.

By Daniella Dautrich

In many ways, writing is like cooking or decorating: the key elements are variety, beauty, organization, and harmony.

Stop and take a good look around your home. Savor the aroma of rich stew simmering on the stove, and admire the colorful pillows piled on the sofa. The keys to teaching and practicing fantastic writing might be hiding right under your nose.

Writing Is like Cooking: It’s All about Variety

Whether we’re planning weekly menus or a special holiday feast, variety is the magic word. We try to alternate hot and cold dishes. We aim to please our family’s palates by pairing blander, starchy items with spicier foods. We excite the taste buds with sweet and savory combinations while serving a variety of colors for the sake of beauty and nutrition. And, of course, we include different textures—few people can stand an all-squishy diet of oatmeal, yogurt, mashed potatoes, and Jell-O!

Writing is a lot like cooking. A colorful sentence or crisp new word can increase the flavor of any composition.

A well-planned paragraph displays a wide range of sentence structures. Clearly, adverbs, present participles, and past participles used as sentence-starters can lend an aura of spice and surprise. Beginning sentences with prepositions adds interest and appeal. Short sentences add punch.

Writers should also stir in delicious new words for flavorful, concrete writing. Instead of repeating the same old words in their paragraphs, your kids can find synonyms for a fresh sound every time!

Writing Activity
The next time you serve a new dish for lunch or dinner, ask your kids to describe it in as many ways as possible. How many adjectives can they come up with?

Explain one step of the preparation/cooking process to them. Challenge them to rephrase what you told them in several different ways. Can they explain it back to you using both short and long sentences?

Writing Is like Decorating: Embrace the Limits

Writing can also be compared to decorating. I like to think of decorating as the art of embracing limitations. The size and purpose of a room—as well as the family budget—present limits. Within these boundaries, we aim for organization, balance, and harmony.

We choose colors to create the desired mood. If you want a relaxing bathroom, you might choose creams or blues, but probably not bright orange. If you want an energetic, cheerful kitchen, you might opt for green or yellow curtains, but probably not a black floor or gray walls.

Writing demands similar judgment calls. Consider the scope and purpose of a paragraph. Is it organized around one topic? If a particular sentence doesn’t belong, take it out. Over-eager children sometimes clutter their writing with too many thoughts. Encourage your son or daughter to remove a few ideas, saving them for new paragraphs later.

Teach your kids to “decorate” their writing to suit the mood. If they’re writing about a serious topic, silly stories and examples probably don’t belong. If they’re writing to a casual audience, keep the flowery words to a minimum.

Writing Activity
The next time you edit a piece of your child’s writing, look for an idea, phrase, or sentence that just doesn’t seem to belong. Prompt your child: “Wouldn’t this be a great topic for another paper?”

Keep the atmosphere light rather than critical by asking your child to look around the room: “Is there something in here, like a knick-knack or a picture on the wall, that doesn’t quite belong? Can you think of a better place in the house where we could put it?” Similarly, if a shelf or tabletop looks especially bare, talk about ways an interesting photo, pretty candle, or other decorative detail might make the space more complete.

If it’s all the same to you, make your child’s day by taking her suggestions!

If you love cooking and decorating, let your hobbies and expertise influence the way you teach writing. Your enthusiasm will spill over to your children, and maybe—just maybe—they’ll never see writing the same way again.

Photo: Thor, courtesy of Creative Commons

Writing prompts about flight

Kids will love journaling about adventures through space!

Do your kids dream of skydiving, piloting jet aircraft, or orbiting the earth in astronaut suits? Then these writing prompts about flight will help them take wing!

1. Mile-High Celebration

A skywriting pilot wants to create a message in the sky for a new high school graduate. Make a list of five short sentences (two to three words each) the pilot could choose from.

2. Not in Kansas Anymore

You and a friend just won a free trip on hot air balloon. Where will you go? What will you see and do when you get there?

3. Free Fall

In 2012, Felix Baumgartner made a skydive jump from an altitude of 128,097 feet—about 24 miles above the Earth. After four minutes in the air, he deployed his parachute and drifted safely down. Imagine you watched the jump from the Roswell, New Mexico mission control. What concerns and thoughts would have entered your mind? What would you have asked Felix when he landed?

4. I’m an Earth Orbiter

You are an astronaut living and working in the International Space Station. Journal about a day in your life. Do you feel isolated up in space, or exhilarated by your scientific projects? How do you feel about sharing tight living spaces with five other crew members? How do you fill your free time?

5. The Sky’s the Limit

From the Wright Brothers to the Tuskegee Airmen, from Charles Lindbergh to James Doolittle, the history of aviation is filled with ingenious inventors, expert engineers, and courageous heroes. Write about one aspect of aviation that you would like to learn more about. Be creative: military reconnaissance, jet design, control tower operation, and airline customer service are all excellent topics.

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

Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, courtesy of Creative Commons

Adventures Await during Children’s Book Week

Your kids will be thrilled to read some of these classic and new adventure stories for Children's Book Week!

This article contains affiliate links for books we’re  confident your family will love!

Today marks the beginning of Children’s Book Week (May 12-18). Since 1919, this annual celebration has been the perfect time for adults and youngsters to enjoy new authors and books together. This week, take the time to rediscover old classics and find some new favorites as you read aloud with your kids!

The look and sound of English books for children may have changed over the last 150 years, but one thing never changes: stories of heroism and courage in the face of mystery and danger have always been in high demand! This list of juvenile novels and chapter books—while by no means complete—gives a snapshot of children’s books about adventure over the years.

The American Revolution

With rebels and soldiers, patriots and spies, the American Revolution has long provided the perfect backdrop for historical fiction aimed at kids. Of course, the stories weren’t always written from the American perspective. In True to the Old Flag: A Tale of the American War of Independence (1885), British scholar George Alfred Henty presented the war from the Redcoat point of view. Known as “The Boy’s Own Historian,” Henty wrote over 100 books that entertained and instructed readers on both sides of the pond in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A Little Maid

The historical fiction was aimed at young ladies when Alice Turner Curtis wrote A Little Maid of Bunker Hill (1916). In this now-forgotten chapter of the “A Little Maid” series, Millicent Austin of Charles Town, Massachusetts celebrates her tenth birthday, learns lessons about friendship, and becomes a role model to her younger brother and sister. Sound familiar? That’s because the beloved American Girl doll “Felicity” taught similar lessons to little girls of the 90s. In Felicity Learns a Lesson (1991), author Valerie Tripp delights readers with Felicity Merriman, a heroine caught between loyalists and patriots in Williamsburg, Virginia.

If you’re looking for a beginning chapter book for boys, don’t miss a new release called The Redcoats are Coming! (2014) by WriteShop’s own Nancy I. Sanders. This exciting installment of “The Imagination Station” series—based on the popular Adventures in Odyssey radio drama—follows curious cousins Patrick and Beth as they travel back in time to the world of John Hancock and Paul Revere.

There Be Pirates Here

Ever since the debut of Treasure Island (1883), young readers have dreamed of treasure maps and tropical islands, with relentless one-legged pirates ever on the pursuit. Boys especially sympathize with the narrator Jim Hawkins, who comes of age on the high seas of the 18th century. When Robert Louis Stevenson first serialized this story for a children’s magazine, could he have imagined the scores of movie and television versions his story would inspire? One thing is certain: this story that began as a scribbled map to amuse a child has become classic junior-high reading material.

Peter&WendyIf your kids prefer pirates with a more fantastical flair, find a reprint of the original Peter and Wendy (1911). J. M. Barrie adapted the story from his 1904 stage play, and the characters of Peter Pan and Captain Hook have ever since been engraved on our memories. Nothing compares to reading this classic aloud by candlelight at dusk. Tonight, step aboard the pirate ship Jolly Roger in the blue waters of Neverland!

In the 20th century, children’s authors created plenty of mysterious pirate ships to haunt and enthrall young readers. Clyde Robert Bulla’s Pirate’s Promise (1958) tells the tale of an orphan sold into slavery and later captured by pirates. Avi’s Captain Grey (1976) has held more than a few readers spellbound with the story of Kevin Cartwright, a prisoner of pirates. More recently, pirate novels for children ages 8-12 have focused on the adventure-laden War of 1812.

Want to read about twin brothers who also happen to be escaped slaves? Check out The Twins, the Pirates, and the Battle of New Orleans (1997) by Harriette Gillem Robinet. Interested in the British side of the story? You’re sure to enjoy Gerald Hausman’s Tom Cringle: The Pirate and the Patriot (2001). Following the exploits of a fourteen-year-old naval lieutenant, this book was crafted by an author who has spent many summers on the tropical island of Jamaica.

We hope you and your children will share many more adventures through the pages of books! If you read any good American Revolution or pirate stories this week, won’t you leave a comment and let us know?

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: Tim Pierce, courtesy of Creative Commons

Pick a Prompt! Free writing printable for kids

Pick a Prompt: Free Printable Writing Prompts!

May is a great month for picking flowers … or for picking fun writing prompts for children! So this month we’re offering a printable with not just one, but 6 different journal prompts to choose from!

Kids can cut apart the printable and draw a new prompt each week, or pick one each day and color the square after it is completed.

May Free Printable Writing Prompts

Click the image above to download the “Pick a Prompt” free writing printable. If you would like to share this poetry printable 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.

Have you visited our huge archive of writing prompts? New prompts added every Wednesday!

WriteShop at Homeschool Conventions | May 2014

WriteShop is exhibiting at three homeschool conferences in May 2014: Arlington Homeschool Book Fair, NICHE, and NCHE! Come see us!

May 2014 WriteShop conventions

May 9-10

Homeschool Book Fair
Arlington, TX

Kim Kautzer | WriteShop

Do you have elementary-aged children? Kim Kautzer will encourage you in her featured workshop:

Gone Fishing: Tips and Ideas to Motivate Young Writers

May 15-17

IA Conference (NICHE) – Network of Iowa Christian Homeschool Educators
Des Moines, IA,

May 22-24

NCHE – North Carolinians for Home Education
Winston-Salem, NC

Visit the vendor booth

As you begin looking toward the next school year, it’s also the perfect time to stop by the WriteShop booth to ask questions, see what’s new, or browse through our full line of WriteShop products in person.

WriteShop Products

  • WriteShop Junior Book EPurchase BEFORE the June 1 price increase takes effect
  • Thumb through the exciting new WriteShop Junior Book E materials –>
  • Learn how you can teach a WriteShop co-op class in your area
  • Receive much-needed encouragement about teaching writing

We are looking forward to meeting you!

Mother’s Day writing projects fit for a queen

Kids can treat Mom like royalty with these Mother's Day writing ideas!

MOTHER’S DAY is the perfect time for children to show Mom that she is the family’s cherished queen. This year, why not give your kids some gentle hints that you’re hoping for the royal treatment? Start by making paper crowns to stash away for Sunday (and don’t be afraid to use felt or silk flowers if you’re feeling fancy!).

When it comes to handmade gifts, your kids are sure to love our palace-perfect Mother’s Day writing projects. Older children will need little more than supplies and ideas to create their original Mother’s Day surprises. If you still have small children, pass along these ideas to a grandparent, Dad, or older sibling.

Write a Royal Proclamation

One hundred years ago, President Wilson signed his Mother’s Day Proclamation to announce a new national holiday. Your children can write their own Mother’s Day proclamation with a fun medieval twist!

Begin by gathering a large sheet of paper, at least 11×17 inches. White butcher paper or light-colored, non-shiny wrapping paper would work well. Your kids will also need a thick black or brown marker.

The proclamations can include several items:

  • Official opening such as Hear ye, hear ye! Let it be known throughout (street / city / state) that today is hereby proclaimed a celebration in honor of (Mom’s full name)
  • List of ways the family will celebrate Mom
  • List of gifts the family must present (hugs, kisses, kind words, cheerful obedience, cards, flowers, hour of alone time)
  • List of things Mom is not allowed to do (specific chores, cooking, errands)

Attach wooden dowels or paper-towel tubes to the top and bottom of the finished proclamation (for easier reading by the town herald). Then roll it up like a scroll and tie it with a pretty ribbon.

Write a “Real-Life” Fairy Tale

Mother’s Day is a day to remember that fairy tales do come true! Encourage your artistic child to write and illustrate a story especially for Mom.

Provide your little storyteller with plenty of blank sheets of white paper or cardstock. Use a three-hole punch on these pages ahead of time. Also, use a ruler to draw several lines at the bottom of each page where the text will go.

For the illustrations, make sure your child has access to family photos, scissors, glue sticks, and plenty of crayons or sharpened colored pencils.

The story can go in any direction. Ideas could include:

  • Traditional opening such as: Once upon a time…
  • Wedding where the princess (Mom) marries her prince (Dad)
  • Sparkling castle built just for the new queen
  • Wardrobe full of beautiful outfits for the queen to wear

When the story is finished, tie ribbons through the three sets of punched holes to keep the pages together. Or, display the story in a small binder with a decorated cover.

Write a Royal Menu

Every Mom looks forward to Mother’s Day tea, brunch, or breakfast in bed. Encourage your family to set the table or breakfast tray with a custom menu that adds the royal touch! Here are some ideas to get them started:

  • Use a rectangular piece of heavy cardstock for the menu.
  • Write a fancy title, such as: Blissful Mother’s Day Breakfast.
  • Write creative titles for each of the menu items, such as: Golden Nugget Breakfast Potatoes, Melodious Melon Salad, Enchanted Meadows Spinach Quiche, & Carefree Creamed Coffee.
  • Design a decorative border around the menu with markers and stickers.

Whatever your royal celebration looks like, we hope you have a beautifully blessed Mother’s Day!

Find more Mother’s Day writing ideas here:

Daniella Dautrich enjoys writing, crafting, cooking, and making memories with her Mother.

Photo: jcookfisher, courtesy of Creative Commons


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