Entries Tagged 'Holiday & Seasonal Ideas' ↓
December 13th, 2011 — Holiday & Seasonal Ideas, Writing & Journal Prompts
Write Christmas Stories with a Twist!
What’s this? A ragged fir tree helps a stranger on a cold night? A weary homeless man discovers a wallet full of money outside a bakery? A bad-tempered candy maker finds a magic candy cane and disappears into a snow globe?
What kid wouldn’t love to write a holiday story filled with such hope, whimsy, or intrigue?
Award-winning WriteShop StoryBuilders card decks help to jumpstart a creative writing project by providing children 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.
During the holidays, use the Christmas Mini-Builder to occupy bored or antsy kids and teens with these fun Christmas writing prompts. For only $3.95, you get 96 cards to download and print, along with lots of suggestions for writing games and activities.
A Mom’s Story
Don’t just take it from me! Here’s a snippet from an email I got just this morning!
I just wanted to write a quick thank-you note for the Christmas Mini-Builder! My daughter, who is 11, is dyslexic and she tends to write as little as she can get away with when assigned a task. I printed out the story cards today and let her loose and she has written three short stories so far — and it’s only 8:20 a.m.! ~Erin
So what are you waiting for? Enjoy some stress-free holiday writing! Gather the family around, pass out the Christmas StoryBuilders cards, and let the writing fun begin!
December 5th, 2011 — Holiday & Seasonal Ideas, Teaching Writing, Writing Lessons
As holiday decorations come out and the tree or menorah takes center stage, children can become increasingly distracted, sidetracked, and fidgety in anticipation of upcoming seasonal celebrations.
Homeschooling doesn’t need to fall by the wayside during December! The holidays can be a great time to assign writing activities that focus on the festivities, allowing children to immerse themselves in the fun while encouraging productivity. This month, have your kids write a paragraph describing a holiday-themed process where they explain, in a step-by-step manner, how something is done.
Process Paragraph: Choosing a Topic
Help them pick a process that isn’t too involved or complicated. With younger or reluctant writers, it’s especially important to keep the number of steps to a minimum. Also, the more familiar children are with the process, the easier it will be to write about it.
Here are some ideas to get them started. They can explain how to:
- Wrap a present
- Make latkes
- Decorate the tree
- Bake gingerbread cookies
- Build a snowman
- Be a “Secret Santa”
- Set the table for dinner
- Create a handmade greeting card
- Make a holiday craft project
- Play the dreidel game
- String popcorn
- Make a paper “countdown” chain
Process Paragraph: Writing the Rough Draft
Once your kids have chosen a topic (and narrowed it down to a specific task, if necessary), walk them through a few simple steps to guide and direct them.
- If possible, have them go through the process themselves before beginning to write. Take digital photos of them as they complete each step.
- Provide a graphic organizer to help them break down the steps of the process and plan the composition. Here’s a simple one that’s especially good for elementary ages. Here’s one can be filled in on the computer. Or download a free lesson sample from WriteShop I (grades 6+) that includes a Process Planning Worksheet.
- Next, have them begin to write the rough draft, explaining the most important steps first.
- Teach them to use transition words such as first, second, third, next, then, finally, or last.
- If the paper isn’t too long, or if the steps are too vague, they can expand each step by adding sub-steps, more detail, or colorful description.
Process Paragraph: Making an Instruction Manual
Edit the rough draft together to ensure the steps are logical and easy to follow, and check for spelling and punctuation errors.
To publish their how-to composition in a fun way, have your children create an instruction manual. Here’s how:
- Invite them to choose the photos they want to use to illustrate the process. They will need to print out 4-6 pictures. Let them tape or glue each picture to the top half of a sheet of notebook paper, using a separate sheet for each photo.
- Next, have them copy their corrected composition onto the sheets of notebook paper, writing the sentence or sentences that each photo illustrates.
- Finally, encourage them to design and decorate a colorful cover, including a catchy title. Assemble the instruction manual and share with family members.
Activities like this will keep your children happily writing, even during the busiest time of year!
Copyright © 2010 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
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.
July 21st, 2011 — Holiday & Seasonal Ideas, Writing Lessons
Summer is a season of travel, a time of sandy beaches, hypnotic sunshine, stamped tickets, and the excited laughter of children visiting out-of-the-ordinary places.
Summer vacations—and the summer months—fill our minds with those moments of wonder and imagination so natural to childhood and keep us connected to our own children.
But sometimes the household budget doesn’t stretch quite far enough for exotic adventures.
What to do?
Start with a Map
- Gather your family around the kitchen table with paper, pencils, pens, and an atlas. Better yet, pull out a road map of your state. As these maps are more detailed for the traveler, interstate road maps usually have the richer place names.
- Study some maps, reading place names aloud. Listen for those syllables and sounds that tickle and tempt your ear, hinting at the exotic. Where I live, nearby towns, rivers, and ancient mountain ranges honor the first Americans who dwelled here. Names like “Uwharrie,” “Oconeechi,” “Saponi,” “Lumbee,” “Saxapahaw,” and “Eno” dot the landscape and tease my heart and mind.
- Make a list of place names you like.
- Begin to imagine an island or a country or a planet where you’d like to visit.
Set Your Imagination Loose
Begin to paint this place with words and phrases.
What color is the sky? Are there cliffs, rivers, canyons, or mountains?
Name the landforms. Are there trees or flowering plants? What do they look like? Describe and name the flowers.
Place yourself there. What does the ground feel like under your feet? Stony? Sandy?
What kind of person, or wonderful being, could you allow yourself to be there?
Create Your World
As ideas shape themselves around your kitchen table, have your children create colorful maps and illustrated “travel guides” of their visionary worlds.
Don’t forget rich descriptions, helping your kids write and edit for an imaginary audience of would-be adventurers or vacationers. This is the magic of writing! In the creative power of words, our children are free to journey through the realms of their own sacred and unique imaginations.
As adults, what a wonderful gift we can give our kids: a love of adventure enhanced with the tools of creative writing.
Enjoy your magical travels this summer!
. . . . .
Janet Wagner is a regular contributor to In Our Write Minds. For over two decades, Janet was an elementary and middle school teacher in two Christian academies, a public district school, and a public charter school. She also had the honor of helping to homeschool her two nieces. Janet and her husband Dean live on the family farm in the Piedmont region of north central North Carolina. Currently, she enjoys a flexible life of homemaking, volunteering, reading, writing, tutoring students and training dogs, and learning how to build websites. You can view her web work-in-progress at www.creative-writing-ideas-and-activities.com.
July 19th, 2011 — Holiday & Seasonal Ideas, Writing Games & Activities
Has the boredom bug bitten your brood? Are you looking for a few ways to keep your kids writing while school’s out? Try these ideas for some summer writing fun.
1. Snapshot Storyboard
Take pictures of your child engaged in a fun activity such as swimming, making a craft, or climbing a tree. Print out the photos and have your child glue them on paper. Beneath each photo, your child can write a caption or sentence that explains what she’s doing (“I had so much fun sliding into the pool”) or adds an interjection (“Splash!”). Pre-writers can dictate their ideas to you while you write them down.
2. The Story within the Painting
With your children and teens, look through an art book, visit an art museum, or browse an online art collection such as the one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In particular, look for a painting that seems to tell a story. Once they find one they especially love, have them brainstorm a list of words, phrases, or ideas that the painting suggests. Then invite them to write a story that imagines what’s happening in the picture.
3. Best Memories
Sort through family photos with your children and have them choose a favorite that has lots of good memories associated with it. For some summer writing fun, invite them to write a story, reflection, or journal about the photo, focusing as much as possible on the sensory details—sights, sounds, smells, flavors, and textures—that made the day or event so meaningful.
4. New Endings
Gather a few picture books and read them aloud together—but don’t read the last few pages that reveal the ending. Instead, have the children write new endings. Pre-writers can dictate their ideas to you while you write them down. If your child is familiar with the story and can’t seem to think of new ways to end it, try reading a book that’s new to him. After he writes a new ending, compare the two versions over cookies and milk.
Older children and motivated writers might enjoy writing a new final chapter to a favorite novel.
5. Travel Brochure
Are you taking a vacation this summer? Have your children and teens design a travel brochure that highlights a favorite city, tourist spot, or other destination. Encourage them to use photos, illustrations, and maps. Make sure they include text to write details about the highlights or features of the place. What a great lasting souvenir!
Copyright 2011 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
July 5th, 2011 — Holiday & Seasonal Ideas, Word Banks
Don’t let summer melt into autumn without assigning a little writing to keep those important skills sharp. If you’re looking for some writing activities to occupy your children this summer, this jam-packed, colorful, patriotic word list is sure to inspire some great stories.
For starters, they can use the word banks this very week as they journal or write stories about that great family reunion or how they spent their 4th of July. But there are also plenty of words they can use to write about summer events in general.
So what are you waiting for? Break out the paper and pencils. And when your writing session is finished, serve up some sliced watermelon or a plate of brownies!
America, United States, Founding Fathers, Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Philadelphia, independence, July, fourth, holiday, republic, democracy, land, country, nation, states, thirteen, original colonies, government, citizen, patriot, freedom, history, liberty, ideals, truth, beliefs, justice, heart, foundation, war, revolution, battle, army, soldier, veteran, musket, gun, fight
Yankee Doodle, red, white, blue, statue, monument, band, banner, bunting, balloons, confetti, parade, grand marshal, flag, stars, stripes, fly, wave, snap pledge, salute, patriotic, loyal, free, brave, proud, grand, honor, defend, respect, march, cheer, clap, celebration, speech, poem, national anthem, song, hymn, play, baseball game, fans, stands
Fireworks, display, show, firecracker, sparkler, ground flower, pinwheel, Roman candle, rocket, skyrocket, flare, fountain, black snake, explode, pop, bang, hiss, sputter, burst, twinkle, sparkle
Family, reunion, town, neighborhood, babies, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, neighbors, friends
Picnic, beach, park, patio, porch, deck, pier, lawn, grass, pool, sand, lake, ocean, shore, waves, folding chairs, lawn chairs, umbrella, bench, picnic table, swings, tablecloth, barbecue, grill, charcoal, smoke, spatula, tongs, platter, pitcher, cups, glasses, forks, knives, skewers, grilling, sizzling, dripping, melting, burning, swimming
Steak, ribs, chicken, kabob, hamburger, hot dog, frank, wiener, bun, mustard, ketchup, catsup, lettuce, tomatoes, bread-and-butter pickles, dill pickles, relish, sauerkraut, onion, cheese, chili, cornbread, biscuits, corn on the cob, butter, salt, pepper, potato salad, pasta salad, cole slaw, baked beans, chips, dip, watermelon, peach, fruit salad, apple pie, cherry pie, chocolate cake, cupcakes, frosting, brownies, cookies, popsicles, homemade ice cream, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, sundaes, hot fudge, sprinkles, nuts, toasted, marshmallows, s’mores, peanuts, popcorn, drinks, ice, fresh-squeezed lemonade, iced tea, soda, pop, cola, juice, ice
Lightning bug, firefly, mosquito, fly, ant, bee, wasp, butterfly, moth, cricket, grasshopper, hummingbird, frog, tadpole, thunderstorm, lightning, rain, cloud, hot, humid, bright, clear, sun, sunny, breeze, dew, sky, stars, starry, moon
Reprinted from the archives.
Copyright 2011 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
. . . . .
Have you seen our other great word lists? Click the Word Banks link under Categories in the right sidebar and scroll through. We’ve got word banks for every season of the year as well as for several different holidays.
December 20th, 2010 — Holiday & Seasonal Ideas
It’s December 20th, and I still haven’t written my Christmas letter for 2010. But hope springs eternal! If you’re in the same boat, you might appreciate a few ideas to inspire you.
Creative Christmas Letters
1. Use a newspaper format with major events written as “articles.”
2. Ask one of your older children or teens to write the letter.
3. Make a quiz about the year’s family events. Include multiple choice, true/false, and short-answer questions.
4. Create a Year in Pictures collage, letting the photos and brief captions do the talking.
5. Write your letter from your pet’s point of view.
6. Or, write one from your toddler’s perspective.
7. Invent your own MadLibs Christmas story featuring your family.
8. Write a Top 10 List.
9. Mail a digital Christmas letter.
10. Ask each person to contribute his or her own year in review to a family letter. Either a paragraph or bullet points will work.
11. How about a Year of Favorites? Share about favorite events, places visited, books read, etc.
12. Write a rhyming letter or poem.
13. Christmas by the numbers (such as 1 cruise, 3 trips to the emergency room, etc.)
14. If you completely run out of time, write a Happy New Year letter recapping the year, and mail it in January.
Do you send out Christmas letters? What have you done in the past to make yours stand out from the rest? Post your ideas in the comments!
November 30th, 2010 — Holiday & Seasonal Ideas, Poetry
Haiku poems may be short in length, but they’re long on vivid
description and imagery that make the most of every word.
Though there are variations, the typical haiku poem contains three lines with a specific syllabic pattern:
Line 1 = 5 syllables
Line 2 = 7 syllables
Line 3 = 5 syllables
For a special holiday twist on the traditional nature-themed haiku, invite your children to pattern a haiku poem after a Christmas carol. This can be challenging, making it a good activity for teens, but younger children might also enjoy giving it a try.
Since it’s rare for the lines of a carol to match the requirement of 5-7-5 syllables, they’ll need to do some creative rearranging of words and lines. Just make sure they stay true to the message of the original song.
Tips for Turning a Carol into a Haiku
Add or remove words to create an accurate syllable count.
O what Child is this (5)
On His mother’s lap, sleeping? (7)
He’s the King of Kings. (5)
Silent, holy night (5)
The Virgin Mother and Child (7)
Sleep in perfect peace. (5)
Hint: If the line has too many or too few syllables, find a synonym or replacement for one of the words. Sleep in heavenly peace contains 6 syllables, but by changing heavenly to perfect, the line now has 5 syllables. Sometimes a thesaurus will be useful in helping your child find an alternate word.
Swap the order of the lines.
Earth receives her King (5)
Ev’ry heart prepares Him room (7)
Joy to the world. Joy! (5)
Pick and choose lines from the carol.
Hark! The angels sing (5)
Glory to the newborn King (7)
Join in the triumph. (5)
Babe in a manger (5)
Jesus lay down His sweet head (7)
Asleep in the hay. (5)
Combine ideas from several lines of the carol.
Town of Bethlehem… (5)
Tonight, everlasting light (7)
Shines in your dark streets (5)
O red-nosed Rudolph (5)
It’s a foggy Christmas Eve (7)
Drive my sleigh tonight. (5)
Dashing through the snow (5)
In a one-horse open sleigh (7)
O’er the fields, laughing. (5)
Choose a lesser-known verse from the carol.
Come to Bethlehem (5)
Worship Christ on bended knee (7)
He whom angels laud. (5)
(based on “Angels We Have Heard on High”)
. . . . .
Need some ideas to get you started? Ambleside Online’s Holiday Carol Book and Caroling Corner list dozens of popular (as well as lesser-known) Christmas songs, along with lyrics, to inspire your young poets.
Copyright 2010 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
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.