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November 22nd, 2011 — Holiday & Seasonal Ideas, Writing & Journal Prompts
Yesterday, I gave some suggestions for ways to cultivate gratitude in your children’s hearts in Encouraging Thankfulness: Part 1. Here are a few more ideas to try.
A joyful and pleasant thing it is to be thankful. ~Book of Common Prayer (1892)
Give your child a small spiral notebook or special journal in which to write prayers. Encourage her to express gratitude and thanksgiving as part of each prayer she writes. She can thank God for:
- Creation. I’m thankful for crisp snow, pink sunsets, autumn colors, grass and flowers, giraffes and snapping turtles.
- Provision. Thank You for our house, food, clothing, toys, books, pets, family and friends; for Daddy’s job; that Mom can stay home and teach us; for hot water, warm blankets, and comfortable beds.
- Gifts and talents. Thank You that I’m musical, athletic, smart. I’m a talented photographer. I’m good at building Legos, mowing the grass, baking. I know how to raise goats and plant a garden. I’m kind, loyal, faithful. I’m a hard worker. I can dance. I excel at computers, math, science. I love reading, writing, drawing, building with my hands.
Every day, help her look for ways to be thankful for big and little things. Find more ideas for keeping a Gratitude Journal.
Do Unto Others
Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. ~William Arthur Ward
Invite your children to make a list of things they can do to express gratitude to someone who has been kind to them or to show kindness to someone who needs it. Once the list is complete, have them act on at least one of them. Their list can include things like:
- Bake cookies.
- Make a handmade card.
- Mow the neighbor’s lawn.
- Obey the first time Mom or Dad asks me to do something.
- Do a favor without being asked.
- Do one of my brother’s chores just because.
- Invite Grandma over and make breakfast for her.
- Write a poem for my auntie because she’s so kind to me.
- Sponsor a child because I’m thankful I have a family.
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or food bank because I’m thankful I have food and a roof over my head.
- Fill a Christmas shoebox for a child who doesn’t have toys and treats, because I’m blessed to have so much.
- Be kind to someone who doesn’t deserve it because God does that for me.
All that we behold is full of blessings. ~William Wordsworth
Gratitude doesn’t always mean saying “thank you.” Simply stepping out of self-centeredness and considering others’ needs and feelings is a form of gratitude, too.
Your child can make people smile or feel better about themselves by placing a sticky note somewhere random. Write uplifting thoughts, kind words, and encouraging quotes. I love Operation Beautiful for this!
Finally, don’t just save gratitude for Thanksgiving. Help your children look for ways throughout the year to express thanks, turning the focus outward. Everyone will be the better for it.
November 21st, 2011 — Encouragement, Holiday & Seasonal Ideas, Writing Games & Activities
It’s Thanksgiving week. Around the country, we’re picking up our turkeys, baking pies, chopping aromatic vegetables for stuffing, and setting our prettiest table.
Even still, it’s hard to forget that we’re about to careen around the corner and crash right into December—that most
commercial wonderful time of the year.
Do you feel like you’re walking on the edge of a knife, trying to maintain a thankful spirit in your home during the season of the “gimmees”?
You can cultivate an attitude of gratitude in your children, and Thanksgiving week is a great time to start. When the kids begin squabbling, acting selfish, or expressing entitlement, help them do a 180 and refocus, using one of these activities as a springboard.
Thank You For…
Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. ~Marcel Proust
Writing a note of appreciation for a gift received seems obvious, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Who has made an impact on your children’s lives? Provide stationery and writing tools and have your kids think of deeper reasons they can express their thanks.
- Dad. Thank him for making you feel safe and loved, for working hard for your family, for playing football in the yard, for showing you how to fix a flat on your bike, for teaching you about God, for playing Monopoly with you.
- Mom. Thank her for being your teacher, for driving you to all your activities, for cooking tasty meals for your family, for showing you how to bake a chocolate cake, for helping you become kind and compassionate, for setting a good example.
- Grandparents. Thank them for things you often take for granted, such as coming to your soccer games or school performances. Thank them for holding a special place in your life, for encouraging, supporting, and loving you.
- Sunday school teacher. Thank her for caring about you, for teaching you about Jesus, for bringing donuts each week.
- Newspaper deliverer or postman. Thank him for delivering your mail or paper every day, no matter how hot or cold or rainy or snowy. Thank him for being a dependable worker.
- Pet. Thank your dog or cat for being faithful, friendly, loyal; for being a playmate; for providing companionship, entertainment, and smiles.
It’s Been Said
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Encourage your children to copy favorite quotes about gratitude and thanksgiving and pin them to a wall or bulletin board in their room. For starters, find gratitude quotes here and here. Then, have your kids try one of these ideas:
- Copy each saying using neatest penmanship.
- Write the quote on fancy paper using calligraphy or italic handwriting.
- Type it on the computer, choose an appropriate font, enlarge the text to fill the page, and print it on pretty paper.
Count Your Blessings
Who does not thank for little will not thank for much. ~Estonian Proverb
Mount a large sheet of posterboard on the wall of your kitchen or family room, and keep a jar of colored markers nearby. Encourage your children to write things they’re thankful for, no matter how small. Pre-writers can simply draw pictures on the posterboard.
Alternatively, make a stack of sticky notes available on which they can record their words of gratitude. Provide a centralized spot for these thankful thoughts, or simply let the kids pepper the house with notes.
. . . . .
Gratitude is an amazing thing. It’s good for our health and well-being; it helps us choose contentment over want, self-centeredness, and entitlement; and it makes us easier to please. We can indeed be purposeful about helping our kids ditch their “me” mentality and become more others-focused.
Tomorrow I’ll share more ideas in Encouraging Thankfulness: Part 2.
November 4th, 2010 — Holiday & Seasonal Ideas, Writing & Journal Prompts
The word “writing” can strike fear in young hearts because children tend to associate it with lengthy and often-painful tasks such as essays and stories.
But as I’ve frequently shared here on my blog, writing can truly be as simple as making lists, playing word games, or publishing a story as a craft. By offering your children a varied writing diet, they learn to enjoy appetizers and desserts along with the main meal.
One way to inspire writing is through focused journals such as a diary of a vacation, a memory book about a special friend or family member, or reflections on a season or holiday. Today, I’d like to encourage you and your family to focus your journaling on 30 days of gratitude.
Keeping a Gratitude Journal
Does your home more closely resemble Grumbletown? Is everyone wearing you down with their bickering and squabbling? Are tempers flaring? Do you find yourself long on complaints and short on compliments?
Sounds like you or your children may be in need of an attitude makeover, and November—this most “thankful” of months—makes a perfect time to cultivate gratitude in your family.
Many people (myself included) are taking the opportunity to journal every day about the things we’re thankful for. These journalings go by different names, but they all serve the same purpose: To count our blessings and record them. It’s a way to purposefully acknowledge our gratitude for those things, both large and small.
Plan Your Journal
When I say “journal,” don’t break into a cold sweat on me, OK? For this little project, I’m only asking for a sentence (or two or three).
Are you breathing easier now? Good. Then let’s talk about how to actually do this!
First, everyone needs to decide where and how to record their thoughts. Each person needs an outlet—and the choices are many!
- Notebook. Keep a daily journal in a something as elegant as a leather diary or as simple as a spiral notebook.
- Record your journal online, if you blog.
- Scribble your thanks on scraps of paper and store them in a mason jar or small box.
It’s very possible that you might have four family members journaling their thankful thoughts in four different ways. Yay for diversity!
Next, choose a name for your Thanksgiving gratitude project. Here are a few ideas:
- Gratitude Journal
- 30 Days of Gratitude
- Thankful Project
- My Thankful Box
- I Am Thankful
Count Your Blessings
Ponder a bit. What makes you thankful? At first, the obvious will pop into your minds: Food, family, friends, faith. But encourage your children to look for hidden, unexpected, or less obvious things too, such as the smell of clean hair, hugs from Nana, a warm bed, a kind deed.
Write Them Down
Younger children can write one thing every day. Older children and adults can write five things you’re grateful for. Whether each note is brief or lengthy, it should be personally meaningful.
Make It Personal
If you wish, you and your children can make your journal or box even more personal by including quotations, Bible verses, or photographs.
Keep your gratitude journals for the entire month of November—or at least through Thanksgiving. As a special Thanksgiving Day activity, invite each family member to share one or two excerpts from their journals.
With everyone’s hearts and minds turned toward giving thanks and recording blessings, I know that renewed attitudes and more pleasant temperaments will be the refreshing outcome.
I hope you’ll join me! Will you take the Gratitude Challenge? Leave a comment to let me know.
April 8th, 2010 — Teaching Writing, Writing Lessons
“One of the cornerstones of powerful writing is the use of concrete details that can tell your story for you. I don’t care if you’re writing a sales letter, a blog post or a short story for The New Yorker, you need details.” ~Sonia Simone, Copyblogger.com
Concreteness transports us into a story like nothing else. It’s the key that unlocks the door of the reader’s imagination. If your child’s paper is vague and sketchy, what happens? She loses her readers and they come away without a clear understanding of the characters, setting, or event. Instead, her writing should contain specific, concrete details to hold her readers’ attention and give them a mental picture of the topics she’s discussing.
Choose Words Wisely
Concrete writing engages the senses. Your child’s descriptive and narrative writing should employ strong, colorful word choices that allow readers to experience an object, setting or situation through sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.
Robust nouns and active verbs always pack more punch than weak ones that are simply preceded by a string of adjectives or adverbs. Not to say they don’t have their place, but adjectives and adverbs should boost—rather than define—the words they modify.
Search for Word Pictures
It’s fun to ask your children to search for descriptive, concrete passages in the books they’re reading, such as this excerpt from The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Down the face of the precipice, sheer and almost smooth it seemed in the pale moonlight, a small black shape was moving with its thin limbs splayed out. Maybe its soft clinging hands and toes were finding crevices and holds that no hobbit could ever have seen or used, but it looked as if it was just creeping down on sticky pads, like some large prowling thing of insect-kind. And it was coming down head first, as if it was smelling its way. Now and again it lifted its head slowly, turning it right back on its long skinny neck, and the hobbits caught a glimpse of the two small pale gleaming lights, its eyes that blinked at the moon for a moment and then were quickly lidded again.
Notice how Tolkien paints a haunting image of Gollum as he makes his wily approach. Can’t you just imagine that scene in your mind’s eye? Can you see the thin padded fingers and toes and feel the cool smoothness of the rocks in the weak moonlight? Can you picture the secretive, insect-like prowler with the luminous eyes?
This passage from The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith describes a different scene altogether:
Two days passed—two days in which more rain fell, great cloudbursts of rain, drenching the length and breadth of Botswana. People held their breath in gratitude, hardly daring to speak of the deluge, lest it should suddenly stop and the dryness return. The rivers, for long months little more than dusty beds of rust-coloured sand, appeared again, filled to overflowing in some cases, twisting snakes of mud-brown water moving across the plains…. The bush, a dessicated brown before the storms, turned green overnight, as the shoots of dormant plants thrust their way through the soil. Flowers followed, tiny yellow flowers, spreading like a dusting of gold across the land.
Powerful verbs—drenching, thrust, spreading—propel this passage along. Imagery of the river as a snake and flowers as gold dust appeal to the senses. The reader feels the quench of thirst and drought. Such is the power of concrete writing.
Your children can learn to write more vividly too. For starters, encourage them to:
- Recognize the importance of using specific vocabulary.
- Pay attention to detail.
- Add more description.
- Replace tired, vague words.
Introduce the Thesaurus
A thesaurus is a writer’s best friend (my all-time favorite is The Synonym Finder by Rodale). A thesaurus will help your child find synonyms for repeated words that keep cropping up in the writing. It can also help her find more specific words to replace dull words that contribute to boring prose.
And if you’re looking for curriculum to help your students write more descriptively, consider WriteShop Primary Book C for grades 2-4 (or even older) and WriteShop I for grades 6-10. Both offer several lessons on concrete description that will draw out the best in your young writers and make their writing sparkle with interesting, colorful vocabulary!
November 25th, 2009 — Holiday & Seasonal Ideas, Poetry, Writing Games & Activities
Last year at this time, I showed you how to create a Thanksgiving acrostic poem. Here’s a variation that helps your kids focus on reasons to be thankful.
When you’re scrambling around the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day and the children are underfoot, set them down at the kitchen table with this activity.
Write the words I AM THANKFUL vertically on a sheet of lined paper. Using each of the letters, make an acrostic
- Each line can be one word, a phrase, or a sentence. There’s no right or wrong, as you can see from the examples below.
- If children are having trouble thinking of words, use tools like magazines, catalogs, a thesaurus, or word lists to prompt ideas.
- Poems can be left-aligned or centered.
- Afterwards, illustrate your acrostics or decorate the page with photos cut from a magazine.
I want to thank God for
A ll His wonderful blessings, like His
M ercy and grace and compassion. For simple things like
T ea with toast. For big things like
H ope in a dark world. For
A warm, cozy home filled with love. For
N ine fun cousins! For
K eeping me safe. For
F riends that are closer than brothers. I want to always lift
U p praise to You with a thankful heart, knowing how much You
L ove me.
A Thankful Heart
I am thankful for . . .
A ll my clothes and toys . . .
M y mom, dad, and brothers . . .
T rue friends . . .
H ome and health . . .
A back yard to run and play . . .
N ana and Papa . . .
K nowing God loves me . . .
F ood on our table . . .
U ncles, aunts, and cousins . . .
L iving in a free country.
I Am Thankful
I am thankful for
A pples and pears
M y red hair
H ot dogs
A irplanes and cars
N ew crayons
K ittens and puppies
F lowers and stars
U nited States of America