Entries Tagged 'Writing Games & Activities' ↓

Story planning game | Character and setting

"Where in the World?" is an oral story planning game that builds confidence as it teaches kids how to plan characters and setting in a fun way.
If your kids have trouble developing story details, they’ll have a boatload of fun playing “Where in the World,” a pre-writing activity that will help them plan characters and place them in exciting settings!

This oral story planning game is perfect for you and your child to play together.

Advance Prep

1. Make the Spinner

Print a world globe map and glue it to a large paper plate. You can either use a blackline globe map or a colored globe map. Map SpinnerDraw lines on the globe to divide it into eight sections. Label the sections desert, ocean, swamp, savanna, tundra, iceberg, mountain, jungle. Poke a hole through the center and insert a paper brad. Slip a large paperclip over the brad and spin it around in a circle.

2. Make Character Cards

Count out 10 or more index cards. Label one side of each card with the word Characters. On the back of each card, write a different character of your child’s choice. Brainstorm together for ideas, such as your child’s name, family member’s name, an occupation, sports hero, military figure, cartoon character, or animal such as a kangaroo or penguin. Add variety by using a combination of common, proper, and plural nouns.

3. Make Problem Cards

Count out 10 or more index cards. Label one side of each card with the word Problem. For the back side of the cards, brainstorm ideas with your child and write down a problem or plot twist of his choice. Here are a few examples:

  • There was an avalanche, so …
  • A volcano erupted, and …
  • When a terrible storm arose, they …
  • There was a stampede, and then …
  • They lost their way, so …
  • They were chased by a bear, and …
  • The plane’s engine caught fire, so …

Also, prepare several Problem cards that simply say “What happened next?”

Play “Where In the World?”

Choosing an exciting setting where the story takes place helps build the thrill of adventure! More importantly, when you encourage kids to tell adventure stories out loud, it boosts their confidence. Later, when it’s time to write a story of their own, they’ll have some tools to use to help them plan the details.

  1. Stack the Character and Problem cards face down in two separate piles. Invite your child to spin the spinner. Wherever it lands will be the setting for the first adventure. If the spinner lands on a line, your child can choose any place in the world as the story setting.
  2. Have him choose a Character card. This will be the main character or characters in his adventure.
  3. Now it’s your turn to choose a Character card. This will be another character in your child’s story.
  4. Invite him to choose a Problem card. Have him read the problem aloud and start telling the adventure story about his characters using this prompt. Encourage him to say at least two or three sentences about the story.
  5. When he has finished, it’s your turn to choose a Problem card. Use it as a prompt and continue telling the story. Take turns choosing Problem cards and continuing the adventure until at least five Problem cards have been used. Wrap up the story with a satisfying ending.

To start a new adventure story, return the cards to their corresponding piles, shuffle them, and place them face down on the table. Spin the wheel to discover where in the world the new adventure will take place!

. . . . .

WriteShop Junior Book D This “Where in the World?” game appears in WriteShop Junior Book D. It’s just one of the many fun and creative activities that WriteShop Primary (gr. K-3) and WriteShop Junior (gr. 3-6) use to reinforce simple writing skills at the elementary level. 

3 ways to keep kids writing this summer

Keep kids writing this summer! Set them loose to journal about favorite books, write to a pen pal, or use imaginative story starters!

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

Whether you school year-round or take a long break over the summer, it’s always a good idea to include activities that involve writing. Consider an out-of-the-box book report, dabble in writing across the curriculum, or try one of the following ways to keep kids writing during these hot and sultry months.

1. Book Journals

Since reading and writing go hand-in-hand, I hope reading activities are on your family’s list of summertime priorities! From time to time, invite your kids to reflect on a book (or chapter) they just read. This activity isn’t meant to be a book report. Rather, encourage them to choose one of these book journal prompts and run with it!

  • I can’t believe ­­­­­­­­­______ (character) ­­­­­­­­­______ (did what). I think that was a ­­­­­­­­­______ idea because …
  • When ­­­­­­­­­______ happened, it made me feel ­­­­­­­­­______ because …
  • My favorite character is ­­­­­­­­­______ because …
  • I have three questions about what I just read. First, I wonder why ­­­­­­­­­______ .
  • I would / wouldn’t like to visit the setting where this book takes place because …
  • I would / would not recommend this book to ­­­­­­­­­______ (name of friend) because …
  • My favorite part of the story happened when …
  • I didn’t like the part where ­­­­­­­­­______ because …

2. Pen Pals

Help keep those letter-writing skills sharp with real-life pen pal practice! If your kids can’t think of someone to correspond with, consider these ideas:

  • Does your child have cousins or grandparents who live in another state or country? Encourage them to develop a stronger relationship through letter-writing.
  • Homesick soldiers love to receive and send mail! Do you know a family whose son or daughter is deployed overseas?
  • Does your family sponsor a child through an organization like Compassion or World Vision? These sponsored children may not be able to write back often, but nothing brings them more joy than getting a letter from your kids!
  • Does your church support a missionary family? Their kids would love to hear from home.
  • Are you friends online with a homeschooling family in another part of the country? Find out if her children would be interested in becoming pen pals.

3. Writing Prompts and Story Starters

Summer is a great time for writing lighthearted, imaginative stories you may not get to during the traditional school year. When children have a terrific writing prompt, or the basic story elements are in place—such as character, setting, and some sort of storyline or plot—they’ll enthusiastically jump right in!


WriteShop StoryBuilders are perfect for this! The printable cards make great writing prompts and set kids off on a story-writing adventure with humorous or inspiring ideas like these:

  • A reluctant moose travels deep into the jungle in a time machine.
  • Everything goes wrong for the competitive gymnast on the miniature golf course.
  • Disaster strikes while a nervous explorer is in a cave.

This should be a low-pressure writing experience for most children, but younger or reluctant writers may get stressed at the thought of “all that writing.” To keep things relaxing and enjoyable, let them dictate their stories to you as you write or type.

Round Robins

Story starters are even more fun when you write round-robin style! You can use any writing prompt, or you can try a different kind of round robin by downloading this free Round Robin Adventure printable.

How do you write a round robin? Start by giving each child his or her own prompt and set the timer. Every three minutes, everyone passes papers to the left and continues adding to the story in front of them.

When you think they’ve had enough time, announce the last round and have them wrap up the story they’re holding. Take turns reading the stories aloud and laughing over the silly plot twists each one takes!

Story Cubes

Not every writing activity needs to involve physical writing! My granddaughters and I love creating oral stories using Rory’s Story Cubes. This activity encourages storytelling skills and artistic expression—and keeps everyone laughing as the plot takes silly turns. Voyages Story Cubes is a fun variation, and the Actions Story Cubes set adds 54 everyday verbs to the mix.

A bonus? Story Cubes are small and portable, making them perfect to tote along on vacation—and are especially ideal for occupying children on airplanes, where space is at a premium.

Writing Prompt Ideas

Finally, don’t forget that every week, on Writing Prompt Wednesday, we add another set of clever journaling and writing prompts for kids. You’ll find loads of fresh story ideas just waiting for summer picking!

Photo Credits: João Pedro (letter from pen pal), Marin (writing), myaccountnice (girl and girls reading), courtesy of Creative Commons

Easter writing activities

Kids (and teens) can write testimonies and prayers or make a Scripture collage with these Easter writing activities

EACH YEAR, Easter brings wonderful reminders of God’s love and redemption, and the promise of new life and hope. Take some time this week to help your kids reflect on these themes with our list of Easter writing activities.

Write a Prayer


Help your child start a prayer journal. Perhaps the two of you can pick out a new notebook from the office supply store. Maybe your crafty kid would rather make her own journal from paper, cardstock, and cloth she finds lying around the house. When the little book is ready, ask her to write her name and a favorite Bible verse on the first page.

Encourage your child to write an entry in her prayer journal every day. (Quiet times first thing in the morning or in the afternoon may work best.) These prayers can include specific requests or short lists of things she’s thankful for. During Holy Week, you might ask her to write different prayers that begin, “Dear Jesus, I love you because….”

High School

Ask your teen to write a heartfelt prayer that follows the model of the Lord’s Prayer. Begin with praise and adoration; continue with humble requests for physical or spiritual needs. Move into confession of sins, and thank the Lord for His forgiveness, strength, and guidance. End with a final expression of praise (“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen”).

Reassure your older child that no one else will read this prayer unless he wants to share it. If he feels comfortable, allow him to read or paraphrase his special prayer at the family table on Easter Sunday.

Write a Testimony


Ask your child to interview an older Christian, perhaps a sibling, parent, or neighbor. The child should ask to hear this person’s testimony—the story of how they gave their life to Christ. When, where, and why did this person become a Christian? When your child is finished listening and taking notes, he should neatly and concisely write the story down.

High School

Ask your teen to write his own testimony. Beside the basic facts such as when and where he gave his life to Christ, he should include other details that express the heart of his faith.

  • How my life has changed because of my relationship with Jesus Christ
  • Ways my life is set apart from the world and devoted to my Savior
  • How God has helped me endure ridicule or persecution for my faith

Make a “Good Seed” Collage

After a long, cheerless winter, the fresh buds and greenery of spring remind us how the Lord Jesus died and was buried and came back to life. Bursting with color, spring reminds us that a heart touched by grace can always be reborn.

Ask your kids to gather verses and stories from the Bible about seeds and plants. After they work on their lists individually, they can work together to create a poster collage of verses and pictures. This would make a beautiful decoration for Easter, and a wonderful surprise to send home with grandparents, aunts, or uncles!

The Bible abounds with verses and parables about things that grow! Here are a few to get you started:

  • David’s song about the man who is like a tree by rivers of water (Psalm 1)
  • The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13)
  • Jesus’ teaching about the vine and the branches (John 15)

From our families to yours, may you have a blessed, joyful Easter!

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: Daren, courtesy of Creative Commons

Fun with palindromes

Palindromes (the "mirror image" words and phrases) are fun to read and write with kids!

WORDPLAY and word games can reenergize kids who feel bogged down with school work. If you need a break from formal writing activities this week, gather the family together for some fun with palindromes!

A palindrome is any word or phrase that reads the same either forward or backward. A few single-word examples are bib, civic, radar, level, and mom. The challenge of creating longer, multi-word palindromes (such as a nut for a jar of tuna) often produces hilarious results!

The ancient Greeks and Romans quite enjoyed this kind of wordplay. Archeologists discovered a palindrome on a stone tablet in the ruins of Pompeii, a Roman city destroyed in 79 AD. The stone reads: “Sator Arepo tenet opera rotas” (roughly translated as “sower Arepo works with the help of a wheel”). 2000 years later, people like Leigh Mercer were still playing with palindromes—he published this famous phrase in 1948: “A man, a plan, a canal: Panama!”

Did You Know?

  • The longest single-word English palindrome—according to the Oxford English Dictionary—is tattarrattat (an onomatopoeia-type word for knocking on the door).
  • According to the Guinness Book of World records, the longest single-word English palindrome is detartrated (past tense for removing tartrates).
  • One of the world’s longest palindromes was generated by a computer program in 2007. It contains 17,826 words!

A Palindrome Writing Game

  1. Give each family member a piece of paper, and ask everyone to write down a 3-letter palindrome (such as eye).
  2. Now pass the papers to the left, and ask everyone to write down a 4-letter palindrome (such as noon).
  3. Pass the papers to the left again, and ask everyone to write down a palindromic proper name (such as Lil or Bob).
  4. Pass the papers to the left again. Ask each person to use all three words in a sentence. (Example: Take LIL to the EYE doctor at NOON.)
  5. Start a new round, or continue adding single-word palindromes to your existing sentences. (WOW! LIL SEES the EYE doctor at NOON!)

For an extra challenge, older students can try their hands at writing multi-word palindromes. Remember, the phrase or sentence must sound the same whether you read the letters forward or backward. For tips on getting started, read more about the original “Panama” palindrome.

Remember that with longer palindromes, punctuation and word spaces don’t matter—just the actual letters.

For More Reading…

Photo: Steven Depolo, courtesy of Creative Commons

Rhymes for sale! A rhyming poetry game for kids

A fun game to help kids learn rhyme patterns and build rhyming poems

FROM read-aloud books to television jingles to crazy tongue twisters, rhyming words can instruct or entertain kids of all ages. Let your kids try this rhyming poetry game, and see how much they learn while they’re busy playing with words!

In this game, children become beggar poets who earn their living by creating clever word pairs and short rhyming poems. If one of your youngsters has a hard time finding words, don’t wait until he’s frustrated—let him think for a few minutes, then help him choose from a word list in a rhyming dictionary.


You need currency for this game, so pick something you have plenty of on hand. You could use:

  • Pennies and nickels
  • Monopoly money
  • Bright buttons, beads, dried beans, or even paperclips!

Now, prepare a list of words your children must rhyme—at least four words for each child. Take age into consideration when writing your word list:

  • One-syllable words for kindergarteners and first graders (see, cry, bug, light)
  • Two-syllable words for second and third graders (raccoon, singing, couches, cuddle)
  • Three-syllable words for fourth, fifth, and sixth graders (lemonade, telescope, underground, evergreen)

A Penny, Please: Rhyming Words

The game begins with a lively conversation. Feel free to catch up on washing dishes or folding laundry while you recite your pairt:

Children: Rhymes for sale! Rhymes for sale!

Mom: Little beggars, what do you want today?

Children: We’re selling rhymes! Haven’t you heard? Do you need a rhyme for your favorite word?

Mom: Let me see…. I do need a rhyme for “bug.”

Children: Rug! Snug! Plug! Pug!

Mom: Thank you, that’s just what I needed today. Here are pennies for everyone.

A Dollar Earned: Rhyming Poems

Now, ask each child to write a short rhyming poem with the word pairs they just created. Suggest one of these simple rhyme patterns:



I open my eyes and suddenly see (A)

A creature staring back at me. (A)

Six tiny legs make others cry (B)

But I am brave–my eyes are dry. (B)

Before I catch this tiny bug, (C)

It starts to run across the rug. (C)

Then I flip on the amber light (D)

And, oh! That gives my bug a fright! (D)



I dreamed I was a silly raccoon (A)

In moonlit branches singing. (B)

I laughed at lightning, thunder, monsoon, (A)

And in the trees kept swinging. (B)

My raccoon house had comfy couches (C)

Where little raccoons could cuddle. (D)

Our blankets were in sturdy pouches, (C)

Until I dropped them in a puddle. (D)



I bought a pint of lemonade– (A)

Just before the big parade– (A)

And hid it underground. (B)

You looked into your telescope (C)

And watched for deals on cantaloupe (C)

But fruit was nowhere to be found. (B)

We climbed a sturdy evergreen (D)

And shared the milk from my canteen (D)

With chocolate to go around. (B)

A Poet’s Reward

When a child completes his rhyming poem, pay a “dollar” in return. It doesn’t matter if the poems are silly or fanciful. The goal of this poetry game is to teach a love for words and a better grasp of syllables and meter.

Finally, your beggar poets have earned their day’s wages. Let them buy lunch, snacks, or desserts from your kitchen. And, while they’re busy munching away, encourage them to think of words for Mom to rhyme tomorrow!

Discover Other Poetry Lessons

How to Write a Cinquain Poem

How to Write a Diamante Poem

How to Write Haiku

How to Write a Cento (Patchwork) Poem

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: Oliver Quinlan, courtesy of Creative Commons

What’s in my bag? Intro to writing a descriptive narrative

Play this fun game to introduce children to writing a descriptive narrative using 5 paragraphs.

WHEN TEACHING a new writing skill or genre such as writing a descriptive narrative, it often helps to play a game to introduce the concept. I love these prewriting games because kids learn important writing skills through play. At the same time, there’s no pressure to write everything down.

To introduce a 5-paragraph descriptive narrative, try this entertaining prewriting activity.

Gather Your Supplies

1. Tell your children to pretend they’re going to spend the night at a cousin’s, grandparent’s, or best friend’s house. Ask each child to gather three favorite things to take along, and put them in their own tote bag or backpack. For now, they should keep the items a secret.

2. While they’re collecting their treasures, gather three of your own favorite things you might pack for a trip. Place your items in a tote bag, too. Remember: Don’t show each other your objects until you do this activity together.

Play the Game

You will go first. As you take your turn, you’ll be explaining the format of a 5-paragraph descriptive narrative.

1. First, tell your kids that your tote bag contains three favorite things you might bring along on an imaginary trip. But don’t take them out yet! For now, just name your three items. This represents the opening paragraph, or introduction, of the 5-paragraph narrative.

2. Next, open your tote and take out one item. Give its name and describe three details about it, such as what it looks like, what it is used for, or why you like it. This represents the first paragraph in the body.

3. Now take out the second item. Name and describe it with three details. This represents the second paragraph in the body.

4. Repeat with the third item, which represents the third paragraph in the body.

5. Return all three items to your tote bag and close it. Finish your turn by explaining why you would choose those items to take on an imaginary trip. This represents the last paragraph, or closing.

Now it’s your children’s turn. One at a time, have them:

  • Name the three items inside their backpack.
  • Pull out and show one item, tell its name, and describe three details about it.
  • Repeat with the second and third items.
  • Return all three items to their tote and explain why they would choose to take them on an imaginary trip.

Application: Write a Descriptive Narrative

If you want to take this activity further, invite your children to write a descriptive narrative about their imaginary trip. Though the “What’s in My Bag?” game may also be played with younger children, the writing project itself is more suited to 4th grade and up.

Remind students how a 5-paragraph composition is structured:

  • The first paragraph will be the Introduction. In this paragraph, your student will introduce the three objects.
  • The next three paragraphs will be the Body. They will describe one object in each paragraph by telling three details about it.
  • The last paragraph will be the Closing. This is where students will wrap up the descriptive narrative and explain why they would take these three objects on their trip.

Even if your kids aren’t quite ready for 5-paragraph writing, I’m sure your whole family will have fun playing the game!

Copyright 2013 © by Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

. . . . .

WriteShop Junior Book EThe “What’s in My Bag” game is one of the many pre-writing exercises found in WriteShop Junior Book E (coming early 2014). All WriteShop levels include fun games to teach new concepts!

Take a look at WriteShop Primary for early-elementary ages, WriteShop Junior for upper elementary, and WriteShop I for 6th – 10th grade. You’ll love the writing games and brainstorming worksheets that equip and inspire successful writers.

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Let’s write family stories!

 writing family stories, writing your family history

SUMMER IS a time of family get-togethers. After graduations and Father’s Day, we look forward to barbecues, beach days, and birthday parties. From camping trips with the cousins to week-long visits with grandparents, your kids will find plenty of opportunities to ask relatives about their childhoods and life experiences. Now is the perfect time to start writing family stories down!

Most kids don’t have the desire (or stamina!) to compile a thick notebook of family history. Instead, try these three strategies to gather a few gold nuggets of Grandma’s storytelling—without overtiring your young writers!

Questions and Answers

Before a family gathering, ask your child to write down five to ten questions for an uncle, aunt, or grandparent. Tote this list to the gathering on a clipboard or in a notebook so your child can easily record the family member’s answers in person.

For added fun, make it a group activity!

  • Pair off participants, assigning one older family member to a younger one.
  • Supply younger members with a list of questions and let the interviews begin!

Questions can be silly or serious, long or short. When writing family stories, the most important thing is to write down a relative’s thoughts and memories now, before time and distance present too many challenges.

Questions could include:

  • Where were you born?
  • What did you do for fun as a child?
  • When did you get your first car?
  • Can you describe your favorite jobs over the years?
  • How did you meet your husband or wife?

These childhood memories writing prompts will give you even more ideas.

Ready, Set, Record

If your family is fortunate enough to enjoy an extended visit with an older relative this summer, don’t lose this golden opportunity! Using any digital recorder (perhaps your phone or iPod), record their voice as they reminisce about the “good old days.” Later, ask your child to transcribe (listen to and write down) one or two paragraphs from the recording. This is an excellent way for your child to learn about inserting punctuation and deleting “filler” words such as um, uh, and hmm.

If your interviewee runs short of things to talk about, try prompting them with questions like these:

  • How was the world different when you were a child / young adult / college student?
  • What was it like growing up on the farm / in Italy / in a house with eight siblings?
  • Are there things in your life that you wish you’ d done differently?

Tell Me a Story

Have you ever told your children a story about your early life? Has anyone ever written this story down? Stories are a powerful way to link generations, understand world history, and pass down moral truths. This summer, make time to tell your child a story, and ask her to write it down. She doesn’t need to write more than a paragraph; just make sure it includes a beginning, middle, and end.

Kids want to hear all kinds of stories from Mom and Dad:

  • Tell me about your first trip on an airplane / bus / train.
  • Were you ever punished for something you did wrong? Were you ever punished for something you didn’t do?
  • Tell me about the first time you were home alone / spent a night away from home.
  • Why do you believe in God?

I hope you and your family enjoy drawing closer through stories this summer. Remind your children that writing family stories can keep the voices of loved ones alive . . . for years and years and years to come.

Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella blogs at www.waterlilywriter.wordpress.com.

Photo: Diane Gregg, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Summer writing activities to keep skills sharp

Summer Writing Activities, birthday cards, pen-pal letters

If you don’t school year-round, what sorts of summer writing activities will you do to keep your kids’ skills sharp? This time of year, many moms are wondering just that.

For one, you don’t want to plan too much formal writing. After all, summer vacation should feel like a break. But you don’t want to throw writing to the wind, either; that could doom you and your children to repeating last year’s lessons in September!

You can try some fun incentives from the blog archives to keep kids writing, like getting published in a magazine or winning prizes from a contest. Or if your family wants to write time capsule letters, summer is a great time to start hiding those buried treasures!

But today, let’s look at some fresh summer writing activities to motivate and inspire your children and hone their writing skills at the same time.

Design Birthday Cards

Will your children be invited to birthday parties this summer? Plan ahead and gather supplies so they can write and decorate homemade birthday cards.

Younger children need little more than construction paper, markers, and your encouragement to write a sentence or two. Older children who prefer pens and cardstock can be challenged to write a paragraph about why the birthday kid is such a special friend. Or, help them use their imagination to write about “My Birthday Wish for You.”

Write a Play

When I think of childhood summers, I remember long play dates that never seemed to end. These all-day get-togethers were the perfect opportunity for creative activities.

One year, when two sisters came to visit, I decided to write a silly play—and what fun we had! A short play can be a non-threatening writing activity, because the pieces of dialogue are usually just one or two sentences. If you have three children, they might enjoy working together.

Have each child choose a character name (“King,” “Court Jester,” “Royal Pet Parrot”), and let someone decide on a corresponding story line. Then, they can take turns writing the lines for their characters. Younger children may prefer to dictate to you or an older child. When the script is finished, make copies for each child and let the play-acting begin!

Mail Pen-Pal Letters

My younger brother and I both experienced the fun of sending and receiving pen-pal letters. I spent hours in our shady backyard, writing to my heart’s content on colorful Lisa Frank stationary. I don’t think my brother enjoyed writing for its own sake, but the hope of getting his very own mail spurred him to keep sending letters. Neither of us realized that out-of-state pen-pal friends were helping us sharpen our language skills. We were just having fun, and isn’t that what summer is all about?

You have more contacts and acquaintances than your children do, so don’t be afraid to suggest a pen-pal.

  • Remember the bridesmaid who moved cross-country? She might have kids just the right age!
  • Do you have a blogging friend or Facebook pal who lives in another state or country? Maybe her children would enjoy exchanging letters with yours.
  • If someone in your family sponsors an international child through World Vision or Compassion International, perhaps one of your children can start writing to that faraway boy or girl.

A Note about Email

Every family has a different policy on email privileges. I personally did not have a web account until I was fifteen years old, and by then my habit of letter writing was firmly established. If you do allow your children to use email, I suggest you set writing guidelines and read their correspondence from time to time. One-line, “texting style” messages will not sharpen your child’s writing skills. One- to two-paragraph “letter style” emails will!

In Love with Literature

Reading from the classics is one of the best ways to develop strong vocabularies. It’s not enough to constantly nag your twelve-year-old, “Stop saying like.” Inevitably, she will keep mimicking the girls in youth group until she finds a better role model (Jane Austen marathon, anyone?).

My family loved read-aloud time, and the summer I was eight years old was no exception. My cousin spent her vacation with us, and my mom had planned a surprise. Each of us girls received a bright spiral notebook with our name on the cover. Every afternoon, Mom would read aloud from Marguerite Henry’s Benjamin West and his Cat Grimalkin. The next morning, we opened our notebooks and wrote a paragraph summarizing the chapter from the day before. Sometimes, we were told to illustrate our summaries with the aid of freshly sharpened colored pencils.

Wait, you might be thinking. This sounds like summer school! Perhaps so, but it didn’t require much time, effort, or planning. It gave us a reason to stick with a schedule of reading aloud. It also gave two energetic little girls something to do in the morning while Mom enjoyed quiet time or started on the day’s chores.

The Right Focus

No matter what activities you plan this summer, remember that you set the tone for attitudes about writing. If your kids only hear you talk about reading and writing as “schoolwork,” they will learn to see these activities as burdens and chores. If, on the other hand, a love of words is built into your way of life, your children will be comfortable with books, pens, and paper for the rest of their lives.

What are you waiting for? It’s time to play some word games, and let the summer begin!

Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella blogs at www.waterlilywriter.wordpress.com.

 Photo: Alan Sung, courtesy of Creative Commons.


How to write time capsule letters

time capsule letters, time capsule letter

April is nearly over, but our celebration of National Card and Letter Writing month is still going strong. This week, why not help your children write time capsule letters? Then, let them enjoy the fun of hiding their time capsule in your yard or neighborhood!

A time capsule is like buried treasure for someone in the future. Imagine that 200 years from now an archaeologist is digging through the ruins of your neighborhood. The items and letters in your time capsule will give him valuable clues about what life was like in the twenty-first century.

Items for Your Time Capsule

Enthusiastic children may want the choice to make their own time capsules. But if your family decides to work together on one time capsule, each child should still write his own letter.

First, find a strong, sealed container for each time capsule. A coffee can or cookie tin would be an excellent choice. Next, gather items to fill the container, such as:

  • Family photo
  • Favorite recipe
  • Handmade item crafted by the child, friend, or relative
  • Favorite poem (do you have an extra copy from Poem in Your Pocket Day?)
  • Business cards from local restaurants, stores, dentists, doctors, etc.
  • Ticket stubs from an amusement park, movie, concert, or play
  • Cover of a current magazine showing political, social, sports, or health news OR entertainment, fashion, or decorating trends

Write Your Time Capsule Letter

A time capsule letter should highlight the habits and language of everyday life. What vocabulary words have your children learned lately? Ask them to use these in their letters.

What would your child want a new friend to know about your house, family, weekend activities, and schooldays? A few topics should be more than enough for a three-paragraph letter.

Topic Ideas

If your child experiences writer’s block, use the items in the time capsule to prompt paragraph topics:

1. Write about photography. Describe the camera, phone, or tablet your family uses to take pictures. Do you print photos at home or at a store? Does your family Christmas picture go in a frame or photo album? Do you share it with friends through email, social networks, or Christmas cards?

2. Write about food. Describe a new food that each member of your family has tried in last year. Did they like it or not? What is your funniest memory at the dinner table? What is your favorite memory in the kitchen?

3. Write about do-it-yourself projects. What have Mom and Dad been doing around the house, yard, or garage lately? What is your favorite thing to make? (A tower made of Legos? An original song for your instrument? A bike ramp? A pencil drawing?)

4. Write about transportation. How does your family get around town? How do your parents pay for services when they run errands (cash, checks, credit cards, debit cards, gift cards)?

Ending the Time Capsule Letters

Finally, ask your children to end their time capsule letters by answering two very important questions. Someday, their own children or grandchildren may be the “archaeologists” who open the time capsule. The answers to these questions will be treasured for years to come.

What is one thing you wish you had known or understood five years ago?

What is one thing you hope to learn about, discover, or experience in the next five years?

Now that your time capsule is finished, hide or bury it for someone to find in the future. You might:

  • Tuck it away in a corner of your basement or attic
  • Bury it between the shrubs in your backyard planter
  • Place it high in the rafters of your garage

What did your children write about in their time capsule letters? Leave a comment to share your time capsule adventure!

Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella blogs at www.waterlilywriter.wordpress.com.

Photo: Erik Hersman, courtesy of Creative Commons.


Christmas writing prompt…with a compassionate twist

Unique Christmas writing prompt gets kids thinking about what it would be like to receive a gift when you have nothing of your own

AT THIS time of year, my husband and I always look forward to poring through the gift catalogs that come in the mail.

Not the “gimmee” catalogs from Macy’s or Target or Pottery Barn, but the catalogs that come from such worthy organizations as World Vision, Compassion, and Samaritan’s Purse, offering us a chance to buy a really special, greatly appreciated gift for a child or family in need.

In the past, we’ve given chickens and ducks, a goat, and even the gift of clean drinking water for life.

Compassionate Giving

As a family, look through one of these online catalogs, and prayerfully consider giving a unique Christmas gift:

  • Domestic animals not only provide a steady stream of eggs or milk, but also bring a bit of income from selling the extras.
  • 5 fruit trees can give a poverty-stricken family a fresh start in fruit-tree farming.
  • A new soccer ball can replace the rounded wad of trash used as a makeshift ball by barefoot boys.
  • Just $35 can buy 10 times that amount in life-saving medicines.
  • Garden seeds will grow into a harvest that can sustain a family.

Compassionate Writing

As you look for ways to stir compassion in your children’s hearts, here’s a related writing activity to try. Whether or not you’re able to participate in compassionate giving, this Christmas writing prompt will get your kids thinking about what it would be like to receive a gift when you have little or nothing of your own.

  1. Visit the Compassion or World Vision website and read about several children who need sponsors. Choose one as the basis for your story.
  2. Browse through one of their online catalogs and choose a gift you think this child’s family would like to receive.
  3. Write two paragraphs. In the first paragraph, describe what daily life is like for this child in your own words. You may write in first person (imagining yourself to be the child) or in third person (as an outside observer or narrator).
  4. In the second paragraph, describe the child’s reaction to receiving their special gift.

The very best gift of all would be to actually sponsor one of these sweet children as a family! We’ve sponsored children both through Compassion and World Vision, and it has been a tremendous experience for us. Once you’ve become sponsors, you and your children can develop and foster a warm relationship with your sponsored child (and build important writing skills!) through regular letter-writing.

Do you already sponsor a child? Share your experience in the comments!

Photo: Erik Hersman, courtesy of Creative Commons.
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