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November 12th, 2014 — Holiday & Seasonal Ideas, Writing & Journal Prompts
As Thanksgiving draws near, it’s natural to turn our thoughts toward gratitude and acts of kindness. These five writing prompts about gratitude will help children and teens focus on contentment as they celebrate the gifts of family, friends, and creation.
1. Because of You
Invent a holiday to celebrate a person you love, such as “Aunt Laura Day” or “Papa Appreciation Day.” Write a paragraph expressing three reasons why you’re thankful for this special person.
2. Count Your Blessings
In what ways are you fortunate? Make a list of 10 things you are grateful for. Include people and things, events and experiences, both past and present. Each day, for the rest of the week, add 10 more items to your list. At the end of the week, you will have written down 70 reasons to be thankful!
3. For the Beauty of the Earth
God’s incredible creation causes gratitude to well up in many a heart. Think of something from nature that makes you feel close to God, and write a haiku poem about it.
4. Thankful Heart
Think about a time when a friend, relative, or total stranger did something incredibly special for you. Write a letter to thank them for that act of kindness. If possible, mail your letter of appreciation to this person.
5. The Secret of Contentment
It’s easy to feel happy when everything is going our way. But what happens when you don’t get everything you want? In Philippians 4:12, the Apostle Paul says:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
Write a paragraph explaining how godly contentment compares to the world’s view of contentment. Use at least five of these words: grateful, selfish, jealous, possessions, loss, attitude, character, faith, friends, family.
Enjoy even more gratitude-themed writing activities!
Also, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
November 26th, 2013 — Holiday & Seasonal Ideas
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.
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.
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.
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.
Keep 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.
- Blog. Record your journal online, if you have a blog.
- Journal Jar. 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 30 Days of Gratitude Challenge? Leave a comment to let me know.
January 20th, 2014 — Encouragement, Homeschooling
By Daniella Dautrich
This post contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure policy.
HOW often we try to measure our homeschooling success by home organization, our outward appearance, or our children’s approval. In truth, the victory that matters is in our hearts, hidden with Christ Jesus.
C.S. Lewis reminded believers that “we battle not against flesh and blood” in his classic The Screwtape Letters. Inspired by his writings, we offer this, the third in a series of Screwtape Letters for the Homeschool Mom. May you be encouraged and blessed on your homeschool journey!
My dear Wormwood,
I was delighted to hear that your patient renewed some desirable acquaintances over the Christmas holidays. Her second cousins are just the sort of people we want her to know—rich, superficial, and skeptical of anything they cannot see with their own eyes. Encourage her to care about what these relatives think. Even if spotless houses and $150 jeans and private schools are not important to her, shame her into hiding her real thoughts and personality.
Has she entered the January doldrums, now that Christmas joy is past? Does she move through the house slowly, in a dull, despondent mood? We must take advantage of the situation. Lose no time making her believe that she is a failure who ought to quit homeschooling altogether.
The Prison of the Senses
Imprison the patient’s mind in the world of the five senses. Let her see her house for what it really is: a dining room table covered with crumbs and playdough, a china cabinet overflowing with bills, and a yard that looks nothing like the tidy school playground down the street.
Take her upstairs, and let her count more children than bedrooms. Let her hear a baby crying; make her watch a preschooler litter the floor with toys and clothes. Whisper to her that it’s her own fault: she never earned a teaching credential or degree in child-rearing. What right has she to trust her own abilities?
Perhaps she feels like giving up now. Perhaps she still hopes to understand and control the situation. In either case, your task is to keep her thoughts and activities in the physical realm. By all possible means, distract her from all invisible aid, and keep her ignorant of the spiritual root of her problems.
Dark Clouds of Guilt
By now, she has probably made a lavishly long list of confident resolutions, of promises to the Enemy and to herself. Encourage this promise-making (for of course she cannot keep them!). When she realizes her failure, overwhelm her with guilt. Let the guilt drive her to more and more busyness.
Guilt is a desirable state, because it may lead the patient to neglect her marriage, her sleep, and even her sanity. Most importantly, a cloud of guilt will make her dread her prayers. Soon, she may open her arms to you, begging for any small distraction to postpone the awful duty of prayer.
Has the mother allowed you to creep into her thought life with visions of fear? Press your advantage, and remember that gratitude looks to the past and love to the present—but fear looks to the future.
The stronghold of fear is paralyzing. She will never be able to clean her house and purge things, in fear that she may need the stuff in the future. She will be unable to discipline her children during the school day, in fear that they will hate her in the future.
Remember, the Enemy wants her to live in the present: loving her children, keeping them safe, meeting their needs, and training their hearts. We want her to be hag-ridden by the future: haunted by visions of angry, illiterate creatures that she failed to properly raise and educate.
Disguise the Troughs
Continually plant and water the idea that her life is an endless uphill battle. Don’t let her expose herself to the Enemy’s mantra that “the battle is already won.”
You see, Wormwood, as distasteful as it seems to us, the Enemy really does love them. We want to feed upon and consume homeschooling mothers, when He wants to give of Himself and fill them up. He allows them to experience spiritual troughs and peaks, because the troughs help them become the creatures He wants them to be. If they will only attempt to walk through the dark valleys, He is pleased—even with their stumbles.
Do not let your patient suspect any of this. Convince her that the trough is permanent, that Heaven is silent, and that her stumbles can never be wiped clean or forgotten.
Your affectionate uncle,
Photo: edillalo, courtesy of Creative Commons.
October 27th, 2013 — Announcements
This post contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure policy.
Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here before we know it. I hope that makes you feel excited rather than anxious!
- Do you have some fun activities planned for your family?
- Need some quiet time printables to keep everyone busy while you bustle about?
- Want some meaningful devotionals or creative writing games?
- Could you use some planning inspiration or a few new menu ideas?
Did I hear a yes?
Then you’ll want to grab this holiday bundle from Inspired Bloggers Network! I’m part of the network of wonderfully creative women who have contributed to this holiday package.
Your family will love crafting, reading, baking, learning, playing, and worshiping together with the creative goodies tucked into this package!
You’ll find encouraging ebooks, printables, planning pages, holiday treats, Advent activities, and more—including WriteShop’s Christmas StoryBuilders printable card deck of writing prompts.
4 Holiday Planners
1. November Planning Packs for Children
2. December Planning Packs for Children from Stephanie Eidson of The Multi Taskin’ Mom
Two separate Planning Packs for children, one for November and one for December! Each one is full of fun and engaging planning pages for your children, perfect for K and up. Each includes a calendar, daily agenda, writing prompts, and much more.
3. Christmas Countdown Planner from Jill Craft of The Sassy Slow Cooker
This simple but effective Christmas Planner will help you stay sane, on budget, and fully able to enjoy the true reason for the season.
4. Extreme Christmas Savings Ebook and Bonus Planner Pages by Alicia Myers of Extreme Christmas Savings
Put more ho-ho-ho in your holiday without more dough. Includes a 17-page printable holiday planner system.
11 Activity Packs for Children
5. Good Old Days Farm Play Set by AlinaJoy Dubois from Good Old Days Farm
A perfect stocking stuffer! Children will have hours of creative fun acting out farm stories with this downloadable PDF paper farm set! Simply print the pictures on cardstock and cut them out to create your own paper farm. Print as many copies as you like to make your farm as big as you want!
6. Grinn N’ Giggles Halloween Printable Pack from Sarah Warren of The Climbing Tree Academy
A Halloween pack that shows Grinn N’ Giggles counting 10 different spooky items together. From one haunted house to 10 pieces of candy, this cute pack reinforces the theme of the book.
7. A Time for Remembrance: Thank You Notes for Kids from Misty Leask of Simply Helping Him
Thank-you notes kids can use for Sunday school teachers, pastors, military, and many others. There are two different note options, and each note includes penmanship lines plus fun graphics specific for the note to be given.
8. The Adventures of Grinn N’ Giggles: Friends Can Count on Each Other from Sarah Warren of The Climbing Tree Academy
Short, cute story of these two best buds and some of their favorite things to do while hanging out together and having fun. This is a book of counting from 1-10.
9. Pearl Harbor Notebooking Pages by Betty Eisenhour of Peace Creek on the Prairie
Help your children remember that right before Christmas many Americans faced a tragedy at Pearl Harbor that should not be forgotten.
10. Christmas Fun for Preschoolers from Monica Pruett of Happy and Blessed Home
A precious bundle of ideas to keep your preschooler delighted during the Christmas season.
11. 25 Days of Easy Christmas Crafts for Children from Sarah Robinson of Sidetracked Sarah
You don’t have to spend all kinds of time scouring the Internet for the perfect holiday crafts. They’re all right here in this handy little Christmas Crafts e-book, which includes 25 crafts!
12. Sensory Bins from Sharla Kostelyk of The Chaos and the Clutter
Sensory bins are a simple and inexpensive learning tool that can benefit all children. Whether you are interested in incorporating sensory bins into your home, classroom, preschool, Day Care, or homeschool, this guide will provide the necessary knowledge and ideas to get started.
13. Hickory Dickory Doc Holiday Edition from Jennifer Gerlach of Upside Down Kids
This cute set can help keep kids busy and learning on holiday breaks, rainy days, or even car trips. Start with the included e-book for the nursery rhyme Hickory Dickory Doc and follow with the story mat for acting out the story.
14. Christmas StoryBuilders Writing Prompts from Kim Kautzer of WriteShop and In Our Write Minds
WriteShop Christmas-themed StoryBuilders card decks help to jumpstart a creative writing project by providing kids with the basic elements of a story—character, character trait, setting, and plot—laying a foundation for a joyful writing experience with some clever surprises thrown in along the way.
15. Christmas Memories Notebooking Pages by Betty Eisenhour from Peace Creek on the Prairie
25 pages to help your children record their Family Christmas Celebration Memories through writing, art, coloring, and more.
2 Treats for Hearth and Home
16. Weekend Potluck Fall Favorites by Tabitha Philen & Friends from Frugal Family Favorites
A collaborative effort of all six Weekend Potluck hostesses, this eCookbook contains over 60 recipes found on their blogs (as well as a few unpublished dishes) that will make your tummy smile. From breakfast through dessert, these recipes are simple, yet full of fall flavor.
17. Loving You Long Distance: Tips for Strengthening Long-Distance Family Relationships from Katie Hornor of Paradise Praises
Easy-to-read, 25-page ebook that gives you practical tips and fun activities to keep your family close in spite of the great distances that may separate you.
8 Holiday Devotionals and Inspiration
18. Homeschooling & the Holidays: Giving Thanks MP3 by Felice Gerwitz from Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network
Join our wonderful Expo panel! Listen to moms who have survived the holidays with flying colors share their scheduling, baking, praising, and joyful tips and techniques with you! STRESS BUSTERS! What fun your children will have celebrating and learning about the different seasons of the year.
19. My Book of Thanks: A 25 Day Gratitude Journal for Kids by Heather Bowen from Upside Down Homeschooling
Help develop a spirit of Thanksgiving in your kids with this fun, 29-page printable keepsake book where they can express their gratitude through journaling.
20. Be Thankful: Cultivating Year-Round Thankfulness by Amanda Pelser from Kids in the Word
The Bible is full of references to thankfulness that we can use to teach our kids the whys and hows of developing an attitude of gratitude. This is a Bible study for all ages to help you in your pursuit of instilling thankfulness in your kids.
21. Gifts and Celebrations byDaLynn McCoy from For the Display of His Splendor
You will appreciate these thoughts on end-of-year holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas from a Christian homeschooling mom. Unconventional gifts, keeping Christ in Christmas, giving thanks in all seasons of life, and more.
22. Celebrate Jesus: An Advent Celebration for Families by Amy Blevins from Bow of Bronze
Includes daily readings from God’s Word, a daily Christmas carol selection, crafts, recipes, and suggested activities for each day, PLUS a more in-depth devotional study guide for teens and parents. Also includes links to coloring pages, books, and complementary products. Everything you need to make Jesus the heart of your Christmas celebration.
23. Christmas Activity Book for Children: 12 Pages of Christ-Centered Fun from Laura Anne Miller, Children’s Author and Illustrator
This CHRISTmas season, have fun with this activity book and remember that God loved you before you were even born! That’s why he sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth as a baby. These activities remind us of the REAL meaning of CHRISTmas. Print off the pages and have FUN!
24. Everyday Christmas: Helping Your Kids Find Jesus in the Everyday Moments of the Season from Lori Fairchild of Everyday Truth
Take a moment and enjoy this Christmas devotional packed full of great ideas for helping your kids find Jesus in the everyday things of Christmas. Make an object lesson of Christmas lights, cookies, and even decorating the tree. Refresh your own soul with the devotion and share the ideas and conversation tips with your kids.
25. God’s Joy in the Season from KM Logan of Inadequate but Strengthened
A little encouragement for the busiest time of year. Slow down and remember why you’re celebrating. Let this be a Christmas worth remembering—a Christmas where you celebrate God’s love, grace, joy, and greatest gift of all.
This Inspired Holiday Bundle of 25 products is valued at $150, but it’s on sale through November 3. At just $25 for the bundle, that’s a mere $1 per item!
Sale ends November 3rd at 11:59 PM Eastern. All sales are final. You will receive the encrypted download links by email after purchase. You will have 24 hours to download the links before they will expire. We will not offer refunds for items not downloaded before the links expiration. Downloads are contained in SIX zipped folders. Please verify that you are able to save the files before downloading as you can only download the links twice before they expire.
Each product is copyrighted by the author as mentioned above and may not be copied unless otherwise noted in the individual product. Additional terms and conditions may apply to individual products. Please read the copyright information contained in each file.
November 22nd, 2011 — Holiday & Seasonal Ideas, Writing & Journal Prompts
Yesterday, I gave some suggestions for cultivating gratitude in children’s hearts in Encourage 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. By cultivating gratitude in your children, everyone will be the better for it.
30 Days of Gratitude
I Am Thankful (Acrostic Poem Activity)
November 21st, 2011 — Encouragement, Holiday & Seasonal Ideas
It’s almost Thanksgiving. Around the country, we’ll soon be 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 the days or weeks preceding Thanksgiving are a great time to start. When the kids begin squabbling, acting selfish, or expressing entitlement, encourage thankfulness! 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.
You can find more ideas at 30 Days of Gratitude. And check back tomorrow for Encourage Thankfulness: Part 2.
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
This article contains affiliate links for products we’re confident your family will love!
Concreteness transports us into a story like nothing else. It’s the key that unlocks the door of the reader’s imagination.
If your teen’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 student’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 students 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 teens 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 kids find synonyms for repeated words that keep cropping up in the writing. It can also help them find more specific words to replace dull words that contribute to boring prose.
And if you’re looking for curriculum to help them write more descriptively, consider WriteShop I for grades 6-10. It offers many lessons on concrete description that will draw out the best in your teen writers and make their prose sparkle with interesting, colorful vocabulary!
Photo: Liz West, courtesy of Creative Commons
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, sit 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 oast and cocoa. 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