Geography journal prompts

Jump into geography with your kids using these journal prompts about children around the world!

EXPLORE foreign cultures with your kids as they write about children around the world! These fun geography journal prompts will help jumpstart your adventures.

1. My Own Little Corner

If you lived in the Russian city of Moscow, your family might share an apartment kitchen with two other families, and you might fold up your bed every morning to save space! Imagine how your life would be different in Russia, and journal your thoughts.

2. School Days

If you attended school in Morocco, you would probably go home for a two-hour lunch break each day and return to school for classes until 5:00 p.m. Compare and contrast this schedule with a typical school day in your home.

3. Fiesta Dreams

If you lived in Mexico, you would probably celebrate El Día de los Niños (Children’s Day) on April 30. On this day each year, schools and streets overflow with colorful candies and piñatas, while music and laughter fill the air. Make a list of ten activities you would include in a “Children’s Day” celebration.

4. The Family Table

If you lived in Armenia, you might enjoy eating sarma—grape leaves stuffed with rice and meat. Don’t forget to try some tomato sauce and plain yogurt on top! Write an appealing description of this dish for a restaurant menu.

5. Cheers, Mate!

If you lived in the remote Australian outback, you might attend the School of the Air. A  satellite network would allow you to view real-time classes on your computer, while web cameras and email would help you interact with your teacher. What would you like most about attending the school of the air? What would you like the least?

Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photo: woodleywonderworks (globe) and Juan Antonio Capó Alonso (stone wall), courtesy of Creative Commons


Why does writing matter, Mom?

Yes! Writing matters--because the freedom to think and persuade will always matter.

By Daniella Dautrich

DO your efforts to teach writing feel like an ongoing tragedy (or comedy)? Perhaps you slog through the lessons and tell the kids it’s important, when you’ve never cared much for writing yourself. Now they look at you with that awful question on the tip of their tongues:

Why does writing matter, Mom?

If you’re not quite sure how to answer them, it may help to remember this: to teach writing is to set a mind free. When you press on week after week, you help preserve the freedom to think and critique—the liberty to spread ideas and inspire hope.

The goal of education is true understanding. Hearing and reading add up to half of the equation. Writing makes up the other half.

  • Once we’ve heard or read something, writing lets us reflect and respond.
  • Memory drills rehearse facts; writing lets us compare those bits of information, see distinctions, and form judgments.
  • Culture bombards young people with cookie-cutter thoughts; writing helps them form their own ideas, shaping them into something orderly and beautiful.

When you teach your kids to write, you give them the power to share their own experiences and to persuade others. These tools will become invaluable as they step into their adult roles in the world.

Words from the Pulpit

If your son is called into ministry one day, he may find himself speaking to an audience every week. While sermons begin with prayer and study, they take their full shape on paper. The writing skills your kids learn today—such as brainstorming, research, and organization—could have profound impact on future generations. Well-crafted words can live in the minds and hearts of the listener longer than we might imagine.

Blogging with Purpose

When your daughter marries, she may choose to embrace the high calling of stay-at-home-mom. In this role, giving and receiving support from like-minded women is essential! Teach her writing and blogging skills today, and she will carry the ability to connect with other moms (and perhaps earn a side income) wherever she goes.

Proper grammar and spelling, practiced in your homeschool day after day, can become badges of credibility in public forums like blogs. Clear, concise writing can engage new readers in fresh ways through blogs about family life, homemaking, or homeschooling. Take advantage of opportunities today to prepare your daughter for a writing outlet in the future.

Spreading a Message

At some point, your grown children may feel drawn to work or volunteer in the nonprofit sector or political realm. Who knows? Perhaps your one of your kids will run for a local office or start a nonprofit organization!

From candidates to interns, spokespersons to secretaries, the visionaries who staff political offices, think tanks, and charities all rely on writing skills. Proofreading an editorial or article? Fine-tuning a ballot statement? Mass-mailing a fundraising letter? It’s time to roll out your revision toolkit! Self-editing (and editing other people’s writing) is perhaps the most important real-world writing skill.

I hope you’re encouraged as you consider ways your children will write in the future. Next week, we’ll look at more unexpected careers that involve writing!

Photo: Kathleen Franklin, courtesy of Creative Commons

CHOH Conference and Curriculum Fair

WriteShop will be attending the CHOH (Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii) Conference March 14-15. This conference will be held at Kalihi Union Church, Honolulu, Hawaii.

CHOH Conference WriteShop

Visit the vendor booth

As you begin looking toward the next school year, it’s also the perfect time to stop by the WriteShop booth to ask questions, see what’s new, or browse through WriteShop books in person.

At the convention you can:

  • See our full line of WriteShop products
  • Purchase the newest WriteShop Primary books.
  • Thumb through the exciting new WriteShop Junior materials.
  • Learn how you can teach a WriteShop co-op class in your area.
  • Receive much-needed encouragement about teaching writing.

Attend Kim Kautzer’s workshops

Kim Kautzer

Gone Fishing: Tips and Ideas to Motivate Young Writers

Friday 12:30 -1:30

Inspiring Successful Writers (Teaching Teens)

Friday 4:30 -5:30

Writing Strategies for Special Need Kids

Saturday 1:00 – 2:00

Growing Your Child’s Vocabulary

Saturday 3:00 -4:00

Visit CHOH’s website for more information.

March Free Printable Writing Prompt

This month we have two printable writing prompts– one geared toward teens and the other for elementary kids!

Elementary students: Take a trip to the zoo! Which animal would you take home for a pet?

Teens: The world is changing. What change have you observed over the past five years?

March Printable Writing Prompt from Writeshop

Click the image above to download the “Zoo Writing Prompt” and the “Changes in the World” writing prompt. If you would like to share this prompt with others, link to this post. Do not link directly to the PDF file. Feel free to print this PDF file for your own personal use. Please do not sell or host these files anywhere else.

Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Library writing activities with kids

Head to the library for some kid-friendly writing activities!

By Daniella Dautrich

DO you ever get to spend an afternoon at a favorite coffee house to read, work, or do some lesson planning? Then you know there’s nothing like a fresh learning atmosphere to make old familiar tasks more fun and appealing!

If your kids are starting to drag their feet with writing assignments, plan a special writing day at your local library. With a little thinking ahead, you can create a memorable school day with your elementary-age children.

Interview a Librarian

The day before your library visit:

Set out a spiral notebook (or a clipboard with lined paper) for your child. Help him write a list of five interview questions for the local librarian. Be sure to leave several blank lines after each question for the answer.

Hint: Questions can range from work experience to educational interests to creative ideas. For example: How long have you worked or volunteered here? What kinds of books do you like to read the most? What do you think of the new library remodeling project?

At the library:

Find a librarian who doesn’t seem too busy. Encourage your child to introduce himself and ask his interview questions. If he lacks confidence about writing down answers on the spot, perhaps you can write down the librarian’s responses on scratch paper. Then find a study table where your child can fill in his interview sheet with neat, unhurried handwriting.

Brainstorm with Picture Books

The day before your library visit:

Decide on a topic for your child’s next writing assignment. Will she write a story about dogs and cats, or a descriptive paragraph about a ballerina? Once you’ve agreed on a topic, she can look forward to brainstorming with picture books at the library.

Hint: Check your library’s website, and make a list of book titles and call numbers the day before your visit. This will save time and energy with your little ones when you get there.

At the library:

Gather two to four picture books on your child’s writing topic, and find a comfortable reading area. As you look through the pictures (not the text), encourage her to make a word bank of words and phrases related to her topic. Illustrations of a ballerina might prompt her to write down hair in a bun, sparkling eyes, pink tights, black leotard, stretching, bending, reaching, tall, thin, and graceful. As long as she stays engaged in creating her list, try not to offer your own ideas. She will enjoy using her very own word bank when it’s time to finish the writing assignment later in the week.

Revise with Reference Books

The day before your library visit:

Make sure your child has completely finished the first draft of a writing assignment. When he gives it to you, circle or underline all the vague words, boring nouns, and ho-hum verbs and adjectives.

Hint: Younger children will need more help with this activity. Older elementary and junior high students should work independently, for the most part.

At the library:

Let your child research the call numbers for a thesaurus. Depending on the particular library and book title, he may need to peruse the reference shelves. When he has chosen one or two promising books, find a study table where he can revise his writing assignment from the previous day. Using the thesaurus, he can replace weak, low-information words with words that pop off the page and make the reader hungry for more.

Of course, most of these writing activities can easily take place at home on a rainy day. But I’m sure your family will appreciate a change of scenery and a change of pace when you share uninterrupted writing time at the library.

Photo: John Blyberg, courtesy of Creative Commons

WriteShop’s 2014 Homeschool Convention Schedule

WRITESHOP will be exhibiting at a number of homeschool conventions around the country this spring and summer. Will you be attending any of these events? If you’ll be there in person, we invite you to stop by our booth in the exhibit hall and say hello!

WriteShop 2014 Convention Schedule


March  14-15

CHOH – Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii
Honolulu, HI
Kim Kautzer is a featured speaker:

  • Gone Fishing: Tips and Ideas to Motivate Young Writers
  • Inspiring Successful Writers (Teaching Teens)
  • Writing Strategies for Special Need Kids
  • Growing Your Child’s Vocabulary

April 5-6

MPE – Midwest Parent Educators Conference
Kansas City, MO 

  • Workshop: Inspiring Successful Writers

April 10-12

SHEM – Southwest Home Education Ministry
Springfield, MO 

May 2-4

2:1 Conference
Bloomingdale, IL 
2:1 is not a homeschool convention, but WriteShop is attending as a conference sponsor.

May 9-10

Homeschool Book Fair
Arlington, TX 
Kim Kautzer is a featured speaker:

  • Gone Fishing: Tips and Ideas to Motivate Young Writers

May 15-17

IA Conference (NICHE) – Network of Iowa Christian Homeschool Educators
Des Moines, IA, 

May 22-24

NCHE – North Carolinians for Home Education
Winston-Salem, NC 

June 5-7

ICHE – Illinois Christian Home Educators
Naperville, IL 

June 12- 14

Great Homeschool Convention
Ontario, CA 

June 13-14

WHO Convention – Washington Homeschool Organization
Puyallup, WA 

July 11-12

AFHE – Arizona Families for Home Education
Phoenix, AZ 

July 11-12

H.I.N.T.S. Book Fair
Matthews, NC

  • Workshop: (TBD)

July 25-26

VHE – Valley Home Educators
Modesto, CA
Kim Kautzer is a featured speaker:

  • Writing is a Process, Not a One-Time Event!
  • Teaching the Timed Essay
  • Writing Strategies for Special Needs Kids

Magical journal prompts about wishes and dreams

Magical and heartwarming journal prompts about dreams and wishes make a great writing warm-up activity!

EVERY child loves to daydream, whether about magical worlds or making this world a better place. If your kids need a writing warm-up this week, let them choose one of these journal prompts about dreams and wishes.

1. Stardust Stories

Do you ever wake up in the morning and wish your dream from the night before would come true? Write about one of those dreams and why it was so special to you.

2. Sweet Surprises

Best friends often share their dreams for the future. If you could make one wish come true for a friend, what would it be? Write a short poem (four to eight lines) about how you’d plan this wonderful surprise.

3. Magic in a Bottle

You have just discovered an ancient genie who will grant you three wishes. You may only ask for physical things, not intangible ideas such as “peace” or “happiness” or “fame.” What will you choose, and why?

4. Seeking Funds, Changing Lives

Imagine you are a fundraising coordinator for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a non-profit organization that grants wishes for children with life-threatening diseases. Brainstorm three goals or ideas for raising money, and write a paragraph describing one of these strategies.

Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photo: Joe, courtesy of Creative Commons

Speech-writing tips for high school students

Teach rhetoric and composition with these speech-writing tips for prewriting, writing, and editing.

SPEECH writing offers a rare chance for students to impact an audience in lasting, meaningful ways. Through this kind of written and oral communication, they can learn to convey truth in a world with where morals are blurred and virtues are disappearing. Thus, speech writers combine narrative, descriptive, explanatory, and persuasive skills, arranging a composition to make both logical and emotional appeals. After all, rhetoric (the art of persuasion) should engage the whole person, not just the mind or heart.

Even if your son will never enroll in a speech and debate club, encourage him to present an original speech in a group setting such as a class, family gathering, or graduation party. These speech-writing tips for students should help him get started!

The Prewriting Stage

When you write a speech, the prewriting stage represents about a third of the entire process.

  • Choose a topic you feel strongly about. If you don’t care about the subject matter, neither will your audience.
  • Evaluate your potential audience. Will you speak to a mixed group of teenagers or to a room of retirees? What are their values and interests? What kinds of music and cultural references will they relate to?
  • Understand your purpose. Are you writing a speech to entertain, inform, or persuade? If you intend to persuade, are you trying to reach a like-minded or neutral audience or an openly hostile group?
  • Research and brainstorm. Start gathering your facts and examples, and make a list of possible talking points.

The Writing Stage

Writing the first draft should consume about 20% of your time as a speech writer.

  • Develop a “hook.” You need to capture the audience’s attention at the beginning of the speech and motivate them to keep listening. A humorous story or a startling statistic may serve this purpose, depending on the type of speech you’re writing.
  • Construct a thesis. Your speech should present a clear message, with each sub-point logically leading to the final conclusion.
  • Build a relationship with the audience. Establish your credibility as a speaker by demonstrating your connection to the topic. Did a hobby, a favorite author, or a family experience lead you to choose this subject?
  • Organize your ideas. Offer a preview of what’s to come in the introduction, and be sure you follow those points in order.
  • Finish with a strong conclusion. When you reach the end of your speech, restate your thesis and tie everything back to your introduction.

The Editing Stage

The editing stage requires another third of your time as a speech writer. As you revise, check for these items:

  • Grammar. Poor writing could cause an audience to stop taking you seriously, even if your main message is solid.
  • Style. In the writing stage, you focused on substance (what to say); now you can focus on style (how to say it). Without resorting to overdone “purple prose,” you can practice writing techniques such as parallelism, repetition, alliteration, and series or lists.
  • Time. Read your speech out loud. It shouldn’t take longer than 20 minutes.
  • Sound. When you read the speech aloud, do you stumble over unnatural words and phrases? Perhaps you need to rewrite with more direct, simple language. Is your flow of thoughts easy to understand? Is your vocabulary appropriate to the audience’s age and education?
  • Appeal to the senses. Your speech should engage the imagination—not put people to sleep! Do you use figurative language to help the audience visualize concepts? Include a descriptive passage to help them hear, feel, and touch your topic. Try to include narratives that people will identify with. You don’t need too many details… just enough to make the stories ring true and help you explain your persuasive points or morals.
  • Organization. You can arrange your speech chronologically, topically, by comparison/contrast, or in some other way. Just be sure you’re consistent.
  • Politeness. Have you used appropriate language throughout? Have you written with respect for yourself and others? The best speeches display compassion and empathy, rather than tear others down.

The Pre-Performance Stage

Once you’ve written and revised your speech, it’s time to practice! Try to memorize it, and watch your speed so you don’t speak too quickly. Practice in front of a mirror so you remember to move naturally, incorporating hand/arm gestures and facial expressions. Experiment with volume, high and low pitch, and pauses (take notes about what works and what doesn’t.)

Finally, have confidence! Stage fright is part of life, but the greatest performers have learned that passion and honesty set the speaker—and the audience—at ease every time.

Daniella Dautrich studied classical rhetoric at a liberal arts college in Hillsdale, Michigan.

Photo: Liz West, courtesy of Creative Commons

Journaling fun with World of Sports StoryBuilders

Kids can create extreme sports stories with mix-and-match cards using World of Sports StoryBuilders

THE Winter Olympics may be drawing to a close, but it’s never too late for your kids to flex their creative writing muscles with mix-and-match writing prompts. Extreme sports are just a stone’s throw away with WriteShop StoryBuilders card decks!

  • World of Sports StoryBuilders - eBookWriteShop offers four different StoryBuilders sets: World of Sports, World of People, World of Animals, and Christmas.
  • Each deck of 192 cards offers endless combinations for hilarious or serious stories, with 48 different choices for each story element: character, character trait, setting, and plot.
  • Cards can be randomly picked for “wild card” journaling, or carefully chosen if your child already has a topic in mind.
  • Younger children can dictate their stories, while older or more confident children write their own.
  • Award-winning StoryBuilders are the perfect writing warm-up activity!

This week, give your kids a taste of the World of Sports StoryBuilders! To get their creative juices flowing, we chose the four writing prompt cards pictured below. Write the words on index cards or squares of colored paper. Then pass them out and let the fun begin!

Journaling fun: Create extreme sports stories with mix-and-match cards using World of Sports StoryBuilders

If your children enjoyed this taste of StoryBuilders writing prompts, consider getting a whole pack of them from the WriteShop store. Just download and go! And don’t just take our word for it—check out these reviews:

Finally, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photos: Leon Wilson (snowboarder), Faisal Saeed (mountain), and Cliff (medal), courtesy of Creative Commons

Time-saving editing tips for writing teachers

Facing a stack of essays? These time-saving editing tips will help co-op and classroom teachers find balance.

Whether you’re teaching a homeschool co-op or five high school English classes, editing and grading compositions and essays has the potential to suck the very life out of you.

Even if you devote a mere 5 minutes a week to 100 compositions, you’d spend over 8 hours on this task alone. The wise teacher will realize it’s probably impossible to give full attention to every student’s paper each week. The time-saving editing tips that follow will help you streamline the process so you can find the balance that works for you.

1. You Don’t Have to Do It All

You can strive for different levels of “completeness” when editing papers.

See how each successive level of editing requires more time and effort? Working within your time limits, pick the level that will be the most helpful for the students. For example, correcting all the errors is not only time-consuming, it hinders students because they need to wrestle a bit on their own to improve their writing. It can be more effective to correct one error and then point out others.

2. Stagger the Workload

Edit a certain number of papers each day. If you teach several classes, assign each class a different due date for written assignments.

Another idea? Quickly peruse class papers and divide into piles of good, average, and poor writers. Consider giving poorer writers feedback first, since they need more time to grow and improve.

3. Take Breaks

Editing marathons are unproductive because your brain grows fuzzy after a while. When you’re fresh, you’re more objective, but as you tire, you can become cranky and irritable, which in turn may make you more critical in your evaluations.

Take short breaks where you might:

  • Walk around the block.
  • Make a cup of tea.
  • Eat a handful of nuts.
  • Start dinner.
  • Toss a ball with the dog.

After one of these quick activities, you can go back to work refreshed.

4. Set a Reasonable Time Limit

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in working through the first half of a stack of essays that you run out of time. To avoid this, figure out how many papers you need to edit or grade, and divide the time available by this number. If you have 10 hours available this week in which to edit 40 papers, that’s 15 minutes per paper.

Set a timer and get to it! At first, you’ll probably have to adjust your estimated grading time, but this will make it possible to give papers fairly equal attention.

5. Adopt the One-in-Four Rule

Tell students you will collect all papers for a given assignment, but don’t announce from week to week when their paper will be picked for review. Once you’ve collected the stack of compositions, mark three-fourths of them “Completed.” Give your undivided attention to the rest. Next time, choose different students’ papers.

Hint: To keep everyone on their toes, always pull one or two papers from the “three-fourths” stack as well.

6. Assign Oral Presentations

On the first day of oral presentations, students should come prepared with two copies of the composition they will read in front of the class. Instruct them to mark your teacher’s copy according to your prior instructions (e.g., highlight topic sentences or thesis statements, circle “to be” words, underline sentence variations, put an “x” over synonyms they’ve chosen, etc.).

Each day, as time permits, choose students randomly to read their compositions. Alternatively, assign specific students to speak on specific days of the week instead of collecting all papers at once.

As they read, evaluate their writing style and give a grade.

7. Give Students a Choice

Edit each student’s choice of  composition. First, have them complete three writing assignments through the second-draft stage. Then, invite them to pick one of their second drafts to undergo teacher or peer editing (your choice). Return edited drafts and assign a final draft, which will then receive a grade.

Another option: Have students create a portfolio of checked-off compositions from which they select the best for you to grade. As an alternative, invite them to choose one of three consecutive writing assignments for you to grade.

. . . . .

Do you face a stack of essays and compositions each week? How do you streamline the editing and grading process?

Photos: Jo Naylor (essays) and Vancouver Film School (class), courtesy of Creative Commons
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