October 8th, 2014 — Writing & Journal Prompts
Proverbs are short phrases that provide godly wisdom for life. In the Bible, the Book of Proverbs was written mostly by King Solomon as a way to teach his son to fear the Lord and live according to God’s commands.
This week, encourage your children—and teens—to respond to Scripture and apply it to their own lives. These journal prompts from Proverbs will invite them to do so as they think about virtues such as wisdom, patience, and hard work.
1. A Foolish King
How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver! ~Proverbs 16:16
Write a story about a king who had piles of gold and silver, but no wisdom or understanding.
2. Watch Those Words
When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. ~Proverbs 10:19
Have you ever made someone angry or hurt their feelings because of something you said? Write about a time you wish you had been more careful with your words.
3. Patience Is a Virtue
A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel. ~Proverbs 15:18
Write about a situation in which patient words could prevent or end an argument.
4. Talk Is Cheap
All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. ~Proverbs 14:23
Write a story about a hard-working young man who hardly ever speaks a word, and his loud but lazy older brother.
5. Take My Advice
The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. ~Proverbs 12:15
Without using the words listen or listening, explain some of the things “listening” might mean in this verse. Include a personal example about a time you chose to listen to wise advice.
Looking for more writing prompts? Check out our extensive collection on Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
October 6th, 2014 — Writing Games & Activities
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.
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. Draw 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.
- 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.
- Have him choose a Character card. This will be the main character or characters in his adventure.
- Now it’s your turn to choose a Character card. This will be another character in your child’s story.
- 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.
- 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!
. . . . .
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.
October 1st, 2014 — Writing & Journal Prompts
The cooler temperatures and changing leaves beckon you to take a hike in the woods. While on your stroll, you hear something—or someone—making quite a racket. Glancing toward the voice, you cannot believe your eyes: a chipmunk is standing on a rock, and it’s shouting a warning!
What is this chattering chipmunk saying? It’s up to you to finish this story using your imagination.
Click the image above to download the “The Furry Messenger” writing prompt. If you would like to share this free writing printable with others, please link to this post. Do not link directly to the PDF file.
Looking for more writing prompts? We have an extensive collection on Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
September 29th, 2014 — Grammar & Spelling
I’m not sure I can argue for a single worst writing mistake. I have a pet peeve or two, but overall, I’m simply on a mission to educate my readers.
From popular blogs to tweets and Facebook comments, the web is littered with bad grammar and punctuation. In schools and workplaces, student and employee writing skills are called into question every day. Errors are pervasive enough to inspire articles that hope to shed light on common grammar, writing, and punctuation mistakes.
Today, let’s go on a little Internet scavenger hunt to discover some of the most common errors to avoid in writing.
At each stop, take time to read about those errors and their solutions. While you’re there, look for the answers to the five questions or problems below.
1. Maniacal Rage
Maniacal Rage lists eight common errors. For example:
He reminds us not to ____________ after periods.
2. Pasnau’s Top Ten
Robert Pasnau, PhD (Professor of Philosophy, University of Colorado) brings us Pasnau’s Top Ten. Almost every paper he receives has at least one grammatical error from his list.
Dr. Pasnau says: “You will be judged, for your entire life, on the basis of ___________________.”
3. Grammatical Errors That Make You Look Dumb
Brian Clark at Copyblogger gives us Five Grammatical Errors That Make You Look Dumb. Among them, Brian includes four pairs of words writers often confuse.
Name one pair: _______ vs. _______
4. Common Punctuation Errors
Even though this article is called Six Common Punctuation Errors That Bedevil Bloggers, it’s not just bloggers who have trouble with punctuation. According to the article, which one of these sentences is correctly punctuated?
a. On Friday, Sam is coming home from boot camp!!!
b. Kayla said, “Put it in the small box.”
c. Grandma will serve “breakfast” on the patio.
d. None of the above is punctuated correctly.
e. All of the above are punctuated correctly.
5. The Comma Splice
The comma splice is a common punctuation error. According to this article, which of the following solutions will not fix a comma splice?
a. Replacing the comma with a period
b. Replacing the comma with a semicolon
c. Removing the comma
d. Following the comma with a conjunction
If you’re serious about brushing up on your grammar, here are a few other articles you can explore:
Apostrophes and Plural Family Names
Grammar Tips: Is It I or Me?
Do You Misuse or Misspell These 5 Words or Phrases?
Answers: (1) double-space; (2) how well you write; (3) answers will vary; (4) b; (5) c
Here on the blog, you’ll find lots of help with grammar and punctuation. Other available resources include The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation and All About Homophones, both of which can help you teach and reinforce basic but important grammar and spelling conventions. Check them out!
September 24th, 2014 — Writing & Journal Prompts
This article contains affiliate links for books we’re confident your family will love!
When children step into the world of books, the characters they encounter can seem as real as their own friends and family.
These writing prompts about fictional characters will help them use their imaginations to engage with literary friends who live inside the pages of their favorite novels!
1. What Would Frodo Do?
What fictional character do you most admire? Is it spunky Anne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables series? Wise Aslan from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? Optimistic Sara Crewe from A Little Princess? Frodo, the selfless hobbit from The Lord of the Rings? How about Freckles, that young man of such high integrity?
When we face challenges, it often helps to seek advice from someone we look up to. Think of a book character who has earned your respect, and write a letter to him or her asking for advice.
2. You Were There
If you could be friends with a character in one of your favorite books, whose friend would you be? Choose an experience from the book and rewrite it in your own words as if the two of you had been there together.
3. Let’s Talk
Imagine a conversation between a fictional character and a member of your family, such as your mom or little brother. Write this conversation in dialog form.
4. Inquiring Minds Want to Know
You are a journalist for a newspaper. For a future article, your editor has assigned you to interview a fictional character from one of your favorite novels. Which character will you choose to interview? What would you like to learn about him or her? Come up with three questions to ask, and then write down this character’s answers.
Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
September 22nd, 2014 — Reluctant Writers, Writing & Journal Prompts
This article contains affiliate links for products we think your family will enjoy.
Mom, I don’t know what to write about! Who among us hasn’t heard one of our kids make that complaint?
If you’re between writing lessons, need a pre-writing warm-up, hope to propel your children out of the doldrums, or simply want to mix things up a bit, look no further than this list of clever and creative writing ideas. Some offer topics that will coax stories or reports out of a reluctant writer. Several of our ideas encourage children to think outside the box, while others are simply vocabulary-building tools or lists that aren’t meant to become works of prose at all!
Do you have younger children, reluctant writers, or kids with special needs? Don’t hesitate to let them narrate their ideas if they’re not able to write independently. After all, writing is much more about the thinking process than about who actually puts pencil to paper!
26 Writing Ideas for Kids
1. Rewrite a familiar story. For example, change the setting or the create new characters.
2. Write a cento poem.
3. Copy a paragraph from either a fiction or nonfiction book. Replace weak or boring words with strong, more descriptive ones.
4. Use guided writing to draw out ideas.
5. Make a bucket list of places you want to see and things you want to do before you’re old.
6. Write about a time you needed stitches, broke your arm, crashed your bike, or experienced a similarly exciting or hair-raising event.
7. Write your own math word problems.
8. Write a letter to your mom explaining why writing is hard for you.
9. Write a 100-word story.
10. Pretend you are an animal and journal about some of your activities.
11. Make a comic strip. Write speech bubbles for the characters in the strip.
12. Make or build something and explain the steps you followed to make your creation.
13. Invent and write about new uses for familiar items such as pool noodles, buckets, duct tape, or popsicle sticks.
14. Play sentence-building games.
15. Become pen pals with Grandma. Everyone loves getting “real” letters in the mail!
16. Act out a story using a variety of plastic toys and figurines while someone writes it down.
17. Think of one aisle or section of the local grocery or department store, such as Electronics, Sporting Goods, Produce, Health Care, Toys, or Garden Center. Make a list of things you might find in that section. See how many items you can add to your list!
18. Create a short report or story and turn it into a PowerPoint presentation.
19. When pictures replace certain words in a story, it’s called a rebus. Write a story, but replace some of the words with pictures to make your own rebus. You can use stickers, clipart, or your own drawings. You can find rebus examples at ABC Teach.
20. Instead of a written nonfiction report, make a diagram, scrapbook, brochure, mobile, flap book, or display board about your topic.
21. Make lists of items in different categories, such as vegetables, toys, or things found at the park or zoo. The list should include 5-10 items, depending on the child’s age.
22. Tell a story about one of your baby pictures.
23. Write a summary of a short book.
24. Use a story-prompting activity such as Rory’s Story Cubes or WriteShop’s StoryBuilders.
25. Tell about a place you visited recently. Explain where you went and what happened while you were there.
26. Have fun inventing silly or serious stories using a magnetic story-making kit.
Which of these ideas will appeal to your restless writers?
September 17th, 2014 — Holiday & Seasonal Ideas, Writing & Journal Prompts
Each season brings the opportunity for fresh new writing experiences. These four creative writing prompts for autumn invite kids to imagine what it would be like to wake up in the future, write an autumn acrostic poem, create a fall wish list, or devise a plan to keep winter from coming!
1. A Long Nap
In the famous story by Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle escapes to the mountains. While there, he has a strange encounter with a group of ancient, bearded men who are playing a game of ninepins (bowling). Rip falls asleep, but when he wakes up, he finds that 20 years have passed! Write a story in which you wake up in a pile of autumn leaves. How much time has gone by? What is your last memory? How has the world changed?
2. Autumn Wish List
A bucket list is a wish list of things you would like to experience in your lifetime. What parts of the country (or world) would be spectacular at this time of year? Where would you like to visit? What sorts of fall activities would you like to do? Make an autumn bucket list that includes 5-10 things you want to do in the fall at some point in your life.
3. No Winter for Me
Last winter was bitter and harsh across much of the United States, and many people are not at all looking forward to this coming winter. Write a funny story telling about three things your main character will do to try to keep winter from arriving.
4. A is for Autumn
Write an acrostic poem about autumn:
- Vertically on your paper, write the word “AUTUMN.” (Younger children can write “FALL.”) For an extra challenge, write “FALL SEASON” or “AUTUMN DAYS.”
- Next to each letter, write a word, phrase, or sentence related to the season. Think about weather, colors, holidays, and family activities. (For example, “A” could be Autumn, Apple picking, or Acorns drop from mighty oak trees.)
If your children have enjoyed these, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
September 15th, 2014 — Teaching Writing
Most kids are familiar with fairy-tale stories like Rapunzel, Beauty and the Beast, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rumpelstiltskin and Cinderella.
Usually written for children, fairy tales tell about the adventures of imaginary beings in faraway lands. This activity will help you teach your kids how to write a fairy tale.
What Is a Fairy Tale?
The fairy tale genre needs to include certain basic elements. Otherwise, it may not be a fairy tale at all! These characteristics mark a story as a fairy tale:
- It usually begins with Once upon a time, Long ago, or Once there was a.…
- The story takes place in a distant or make-believe land.
- It features imaginary characters such as dragons, fairies, elves, and giants.
- Things happen in threes and sevens (three bears, three wishes, seven brothers).
- Wishes are often granted.
- A difficult problem is solved at the end of the story.
- Good triumphs over evil.
- The story has a happy ending.
In addition, a fairy tale will often include:
- Royal characters such as kings and princesses
- Talking animals
- Magical elements such as magic beans, fairy dust, enchanted castle
How to Write a Fairy Tale
1. Who is the hero or heroine?
Children naturally want to see the main character succeed against the odds! Help your child pick a likeable character for her story. Usually it is someone who is an underdog—mistreated or misunderstood. This character is often humble, innocent, or kind-hearted.
As you talk about familiar fairy tales, point out how the “good” character is someone the reader cares about—the hero of the story. Examples: Snow White, Rapunzel, Aladdin, the Three Little Pigs
2. Who is the villain?
Every fairy tale has a villain, someone who has evil intentions toward the main character. This evil character wants to control or harm the main character, sometimes using magic powers to do so. Examples: Big bad wolf, evil queen, Cinderella’s stepmother
3. What is the magical element of the story?
Most fairy tales include a magical ingredient. Guide your child to choose a friend, guardian, or magic element that helps the hero and adds enchantment to the story. This is a good place to include those magic numbers of three or seven. Examples: Fairy godmother, genie in a magic lamp, three gifts
4. Where will the story take place?
The setting can affect the mood of the story. For example, a forest can be filled with friendly critters and patches of sunlight, or it can be dark, gloomy, and scary. Often, the setting will start out dark and foreboding and become cheerful at the end. Other times, the setting will start with a friendly feeling, but when the main character first encounters evil, the mood of the setting will change.
Ask your child to choose a setting and decide what the mood (or moods) will be. Examples: woods, castle, tower, cottage, garden
5. What lesson will the story teach?
A fairy tale usually teaches a lesson about excellence in conduct or character. Help your child decide on the lesson her fairy tale will teach. Examples: loyalty, bravery, kindness, integrity, hard work, sacrifice
6. What is the story plot?
Our hero needs to face a challenge. The obstacle might be a destination the character must reach. There may be a person to rescue or a spell to break, or the main character may need to find true love. Examples: Snow White must stay safe from the evil queen, true love will break the Beast’s spell, Hansel and Gretel need to escape from the gingerbread house
7. What is the happy ending?
It isn’t a fairy tale without a happy ending! How is the challenge resolved? What leads to happily ever after? How does the villain get what is coming to him? Examples: The glass slipper fits Cinderella’s foot, the Beast turns back into a prince, the Ugly Duckling becomes a lovely swan
Variation for Younger Children
If you’re just beginning to explore this genre with your child, and she’s not quite ready to write a fairy tale on her own, encourage her to rewrite a favorite story instead. Changing some of the elements in a familiar story is a great way to learn more about how to write a fairy tale!
Are you looking for a more formal approach to teaching writing? Among other engaging activities, WriteShop Primary Book B includes a step-by-step lesson on how to write a fairy tale. Level B is especially suited to grades 1-3.
Copyright © 2014 by Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
September 10th, 2014 — Writing & Journal Prompts
Writing isn’t always full sentences and paragraphs! This month’s free writing printable has students drawing their story and only using sound words. This might not be as easy as it seems! When done, we’d love if you shared your cat comic creation on our WriteShop Facebook page!
Click the image above to download the Cat Comic Strip free writing printable. If you would like to share this free writing prompt with others, link to this post. Do not link directly to the PDF file.
Check out our huge archive of prompts from Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
September 8th, 2014 — Reluctant Writers
How to help a child with writer’s block … It’s a common concern for many homeschooling parents.
- Some kids identify writer’s block as those fleeting thoughts and ideas that tease around the edge of the mind but never find their way to paper.
- Others know it as the panic that wells up any time pencil and paper are involved.
Though many stumbling blocks litter the road to writing success, perfectionism—the biggest contributor to writer’s block—is the mother of them all. Perfectionism can hold kids back from doing their best by seizing them with fear. The ideas they scratch out on paper just don’t seem good enough.
Your Kids Are Not Alone
Once asked about the most frightening thing he had ever encountered, novelist Ernest Hemingway replied, “A blank sheet of paper.”
When kids are in a stare-down with that blank page—and the page is winning—it’s easy for them to believe they’re the only ones who ever wrestle with writing down a thought. I hope they can take comfort knowing that everyone—even Hemingway—has suffered from writer’s block at some point.
I love these quotes from other famous authors who really understand!
“Don’t get it right, just get it written.” ~James Thurber
“People have writer’s block not because they can’t write, but because they despair of writing eloquently.”
“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”
When perfectionism or writer’s block grinds your kids to a halt, one of these suggestions may help them gain their footing again.
1. Start Small
When you bake a cake, it doesn’t pop out of the oven ready to serve to the birthday girl! You have to begin with a plain cake and build from there, adding frosting and decorating with icing flourishes and colorful sprinkles.
It’s just as unrealistic for your child to expect a brilliant composition to appear on paper the minute he starts forming words. As with the cake, it helps to start with a few plain sentences he can add to and embellish later.
For example, he can start with something like this:
I am on a baseball team.
Yesterday we played our best game.
I drove in two runs.
Gabriel scored the winning run.
It was a close game.
Our coach took us out for pizza.
Later, he can ask who, what, when, where, and why questions to help him add descriptive details and sentence variety:
I am on the Red Rockets baseball team with my friend Gabriel. Yesterday we played our best game of the season against the Mud Ducks. In the bottom of the sixth, I hammered the ball and drove in two runs to tie up the score. During the last inning, Gabriel slid into home plate and scored the winning run. What a close game! Afterwards, Coach Dan took the whole team to Sammy’s Pizza to celebrate our victory.
2. Write Now, Revise Later
A rough draft is a place to test out ideas and play with words. Getting those unpolished ideas onto paper is an important part of the process.
If your child realizes this sloppy copy gives him permission to be imperfect, he’ll be more willing to allow himself the freedom to make mistakes. Urge him not to do any editing at all during the rough-draft stage.
The first draft will eventually need some tweaking; there’s always room for improvement. Even revered authors such as Steinbeck, Tolkien, and Rowling have faced the task of revising their work! This is the time to encourage your kids to rework their paper so it shines.
3. Write Out of Order
If the “perfect” introduction eludes your student, let him start writing a different section of the paper. He can always come back and add a topic sentence or develop an introductory paragraph.
4. Write to Music
Put on some music during writing time. It could be lively or calm, jazzy or symphonic, classical or contemporary—as long as it’s instrumental. Poke around Pandora till you find a station that appeals to your child, and then encourage him write as the music inspires!
Even if you’re assigning a specific topic, background music can focus your writer, helping him to get “unstuck.”
5. Use a Writing Prompt
When ideas languish in the corner of your student’s mind, a writing prompt could be the very thing that blows him out of the writing doldrums. A text prompt is a word, phrase, or short paragraph that provides a springboard to writing about a specific topic.
As an alternative, an interesting or unusual photo—with or without accompanying text—might be all the inspiration your child needs to break out of his slump.
No one is immune to writer’s block. Which of these ideas will inspire your reluctant writer?