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?
September 3rd, 2014 — Holiday & Seasonal Ideas, Writing & Journal Prompts
Did you know there’s a national holiday celebrating grandparents? Whether they’re called Grandma and Grandpa, Nana and Papa, Mamaw and Papaw, Moo-Moo and Dabbadoo, or any one of a hundred-plus nicknames kids have come up with for your folks, Grandparents Day is as good an excuse as any to reflect on the special place they hold in your hearts.
Grandparents Day always falls on the first Sunday after Labor Day. Make a point this year of helping your children count their “grandparently” blessings. These writing prompts for Grandparents Day are a great place to start!
1. Remember When
Think of a special memory you share with your grandparents. Take a mental snapshot of that memory so you can remember all the details. Now write a description of that time, making sure to use sensory words (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch) and emotion words that tell how you felt.
2. If I Were You
One day, you’ll probably be a grandparent! Make a list of 10 things you would do with your grandchild.
3. In My Heart
Write a letter to a grandparent telling them what you appreciate about them and why they’re special to you. Mail it so it arrives in time for Grandparents Day!
4. Uniquely You
Not all grandparents are the same. Some are active and on the go. They might golf, play Scrabble, go to concerts, or fix old cars. Other grandparents are more relaxed. They like to watch TV, read, or take lots of naps. Write a paragraph describing one of your grandparents and telling what they like to do.
5. Poem for Papa
Use this guide to write a cinquain poem about one or both of your grandparents. Next, make a greeting card for Grandparents Day. Copy your cinquain poem into the card and decorate it with stickers, markers, or glitter.
Did you enjoy these writing ideas? If so, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
September 1st, 2014 — Quotes and Inspiration
A word is dead
When it is said,
I say it just
Begins to live
Share this little poem with your children—and encourage them to give life to their words by writing them down!
August 27th, 2014 — College Prep, Writing & Journal Prompts
These days, students applying to colleges of their choice face stiff competition. To help narrow the selection of applicants, some universities have come up with out-of-the-box college essay topics to see who stands out from the crowd.
From the student’s point of view, application essay prompts are often boring, but clever topics like these inspire creativity. So whether you’re brushing up your college essay skills or are simply on the lookout for fun or unusual writing topics, one of these quirky writing prompts has your name on it!
1. Seen Through Their Eyes
If any of these three inanimate objects could talk, how would your room, computer, or car describe you?
Source: Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley
2. Just As I Am
Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.
Source: University of Virginia
What sets your heart on fire?
Source: Villanova University
4. 140 Characters
Some say social media is superficial, with no room for expressing deep or complex ideas. We challenge you to defy these skeptics by describing yourself as fully and accurately as possible in the 140-character limit of a tweet.
Source: Wake Forest University
5. Back to the Future
You are required to spend the next year of your life in either the past or the future. What year would you travel to and why?
Source Brandeis University
6. The Man in the Red-Striped Shirt
So where is Waldo, really?
Source: University of Chicago
7. Just Say No
What invention would the world be better off without, and why?
Source: Kalamazoo College
8. Pot of Gold
What do you hope to find over the rainbow?
Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
If you enjoyed these college application essay prompts, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays! Once a month, we feature topics especially suited for high school students.
August 25th, 2014 — Contests & Giveaways
We hit a big milestone on our WriteShop Facebook page last week: 5,000 likes! We so appreciate you being part of our Facebook community, and we’re celebrating with a special giveaway.
To thank you for your support of WriteShop, we’re giving one winner a choice of any level of WriteShop curriculum. That’s right: the winner will receive the teacher’s guide and student workbook for any level in WriteShop Primary, WriteShop Junior, or WriteShop I or II.
WriteShop Primary gives K-3rd graders an introduction to early writing skills. Young children learn to plan, write, and revise stories and short reports through activities such as games, picture books, and crafty projects. Topics especially appeal to these early elementary ages, and the hands-on learning experience is perfect for younger kids. Reading and writing skills are not needed, as all activities may also be done orally.
WriteShop Primary family features Book A, Book B, and Book C.
WriteShop Junior exposes 3rd-6th graders to genre, fiction and nonfiction writing, and journaling—and introduces great tools that truly motivate young writers. Prewriting games help them practice writing skills in such a fun way, they have no idea they’re doing school work! Graphic organizers help budding writers plan their stories and reports. And there are all sorts of engaging editing tools that actually make it fun to revise!
WriteShop Junior family includes Book D and brand-new Book E.
WriteShop I & II
WriteShop I & II for junior high and high school students offer step-by-step lessons, challenging assignments, and creative activities.
WriteShop I students improve writing skills by becoming proficient in four vital techniques: brainstorming, drafting, editing, and revising. WriteShop II users will expand their skills by learning about descriptive narration, point of view, and voice. This level introduces essay writing, including timed essays.
Enter the Giveaway
If you’re not yet part of our Facebook community, we invite you to join today! Just visit us on the WriteShop Facebook page and click “like.”
The giveaway is open to all U.S. residents, ages 18 years and older only. Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM (ET) on Sunday, August 31. The winner will be selected at random using Random.org via RaffleCopter.
The winner will be notified via email and given 72 hours to respond. You must enter a valid email address to win. In the event that the winner cannot be contacted by email or does not respond within 72 hours, the prize will be forfeited and and alternate winner selected.
This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. By entering, you acknowledge a complete release of Facebook for anything associated with this promotion.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
August 20th, 2014 — Writing & Journal Prompts
Who doesn’t love a good laugh? A healthy dose of humor is pretty hard to resist. These funny persuasive prompts will help you practice writing to convince, but instead of dull, ordinary topics, each one is laced with a touch of silliness!
1. It’s a Cover Up
As a citizen of your town, you want to convince the city council that pets should wear clothing. At their next meeting, you will have the chance to state your case. Prepare an explanation telling why animals want to dress up, why the public wants pets to wear clothes, and what sorts of outfits pets might wear for different occasions or in various settings.
2. Dragon’s Lair
A dragon has made a nest in a large tree in your backyard, and the two of you have just started becoming friends. How will you persuade your parents to let it stay?
3. Extreme Sports
The Summer Olympics feature core sports such as archery, beach volleyball, and gymnastics, but there are always new events that ask to be included in the program. Invent a crazy new summer sport you would like to add to the Summer Olympics, such as underwater boxing, parachute biking, or camel wrestling. Write a letter to the International Olympic Committee in which you describe your sporting event and persuade them to consider adding it as an event in the 2024 Summer Games.
For extra fun, ask a parent for permission to use the Letter Generator at ReadWriteThink.org.
4. Go, Granny, Go!
While on vacation with your grandparents in Hawaii, you see an advertisement offering a 2-for-1 deal on a snorkeling or parasailing excursion. Make a list of reasons why your elderly grandma should do one of these activities with you.
Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
By Kim Kautzer
August 18th, 2014 — High school, Writing Across the Curriculum
Do you have a teen gourmet or budding chef in the house? Have any of your kids traveled overseas? These writing activities invite them to explore recipes, describe travel experiences with food, or write a restaurant review.
Encourage your high schoolers to explore their culinary passion or hobby with one of these projects that encourages writing about food and culture.
This article contains affiliate links for books we think your family will enjoy.
Writing Project: American As Apple Pie
A well-rounded study of a geographic region or period of history can include maps, literature, art—even food! This activity focuses specifically on American cookery, helping you learn about foods of the past, regional dishes, or even your own family’s everyday eating habits.
Search recipe files, family cookbooks, specialty cookbooks, and online sources to find some recipes that are uniquely American. Your collection should include at least 10 recipes that relate to a single topic or theme.
If possible, choose a theme that ties into your current history or geography studies. Here are several possibilities:
- Colonial American or frontier recipes
- First Ladies’ recipes (from one First Lady or several)
- Regional or cultural recipes (choose one, such as New England, the South, or soul food)
- Ethnic foods introduced by immigrants (choose one, such as Scandinavian, German, or Italian)
- Contemporary cookery (choose one theme, such as salads, cookies, or breakfast foods)
Once you’ve chosen your topic and gathered your recipes, prepare three of them. Then, evaluate each one by asking yourself some questions, such as: Was this recipe easy to prepare? How did the final dish look, smell, and taste? What did your family think of it? Would you make it again? Why or why not?
Finally, make a booklet of your 10 recipes, designing or decorating it to match your theme.
Writing Project: A Taste of Travel
Have you ever eaten haggis or blood pudding? How about fried locusts or Vegemite? These foods may sound weird to us, but in other parts of the world, someone else is probably gobbling them down right now! If you’re up for the challenge, this writing project invites you to take a look at unusual foods.
My children are now grown, but when they were teens, they spent many summers on overseas missions trips. Their travels gave them the opportunity to try some strange local foods they wouldn’t normally eat here in the States.
Our middle daughter went to Peru when she was 15. One evening, her team was introduced to cuy chactado, or fried guinea pig. It sounds nasty, doesn’t it? But she actually loved the chicken-like meat. Do you want to see a picture of cuy chactado? Click here if you’re brave.
When our son was 16, he spent a summer in Botswana. In Africa, people eat dried mopane worms as a snack. He wanted to experience all sorts of new things while in his host country, so yes—he really did eat a caterpillar. (I don’t think I could be that brave. But who knows?) You can see a picture here, but don’t click if you think it will gross you out!
Have you ever traveled internationally? Perhaps you’ve been on a missions trip overseas, visited grandparents or other family, or vacationed in a foreign country. Write about your culinary experiences during your travels, choosing one or more of the following topics:
Describe the weirdest food you ate. How did it look and taste? What was its texture like? What did you think of it? Would you eat it again?
What was your favorite new food to try? Describe it.
Did you experience any unusual mealtime customs or expectations? How does this culture approach food? Explain how different it is from the way most Americans eat.
Writing Project: Restaurant Review
Next time you go out for a meal with your family—whether to a fast-food place, local diner, or a nice sit-down restaurant, write a review about your experience.
The gourmet burgers might be fantastic, but the service is slow. Or the food isn’t great, but there’s a breathtaking view. Because a restaurant review is about more than just food, be prepared to take in the whole dining experience. Include details about atmosphere, service, and food so you can give an accurate review. Readers appreciate knowing both the pros and cons. You’ll probably find it helpful to take notes to help you recall your meal.
Write descriptively. Vague words like good, delicious, or bad don’t communicate a food’s characteristics. Instead, explain how a food tastes by using specific words to describe appearance, aroma, flavors, and textures.
Vague: For dessert, I had their delicious Molten Lava Cake and ice cream. It was a perfect way to end the meal.
Descriptive: Topped with a generous scoop of homemade vanilla-bean ice cream, the rich Molten Lava Cake was drenched in a warm, fudgy sauce. What a sweet way to end the meal!
Make your review personal. Be real! Then, with a parent’s permission, publish your review on a site like Yelp or Urban Spoon.
By Kim Kautzer
August 13th, 2014 — Writing & Journal Prompts
Summer may be screeching to a close, but these imaginative summer vacation writing prompts can still inspire your children. Whether they’re floating in a houseboat or roaming the local nature center, real or imaginary summertime outings can be packed with adventure!
Kids will love to picture themselves zooming down a rollercoaster, working as a cruise director, digging up dinosaur bones, or heading off to sports camp. Each prompt is so much fun, they may want to choose all of them!
1. My Kind of School
This summer, your family has decided to take a “learning vacation.” Options include participating in a dinosaur dig in Utah, exploring ancient ruins in Rome or Greece, or snorkeling at a coral reef off the Australian coast. Which one would you vote for? Write about three things you would like to explore, discover, or learn about on this vacation.
2. House Float
Imagine your family will live on a houseboat for a week this summer. Write about four things you will do on this vacation.
3. Good Sports
Are you crazy about baseball? Is volleyball your game? Maybe you love sailing, soccer, or gymnastics. Imagine your surprise when your parents tell you they’re sending you to sports camp this summer! What kind of sports camp will you attend? Write a paragraph describing three skills you want to learn or improve while you’re away. Make sure to explain why each one is important.
Instead of traveling this summer, what if your family decided to vacation at home? Talk with your mom or dad about fun places within 100 miles that you have never been to before, such as botanical gardens or nature centers; zoos; museums; historical landmarks; parks or recreational sites; sports centers; amusement parks; or community theater.
Now pretend you have visited one of these places during your “staycation.” Write a journal entry describing your day. Use your five senses to tell about what you saw, heard, and felt. Don’t forget to describe some snacks or meals, too!
5. Cruisin’ Kids
A cruise ship has hired you to be their Children’s Activities Director. Make a list of 10 or more crafts, games, activities, and special events you will plan for this summer’s cruising families.
If your children have enjoyed these, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!