June 9th, 2014 — Holiday & Seasonal Ideas, Writing Games & Activities
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.
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!
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!
June 4th, 2014 — Writing & Journal Prompts
This month’s free printable prompt involves the whole family! In a round-robin writing style, use these words to help your family create an exciting, silly, or funny adventure story!
You’ll also find a printable page for younger students to create their own adventure. Invite them to pick 2-3 words from the list and write a story on the blank lines. When finished, they can draw a picture about their story at the top of the page!
Click the image above to download the “Round Robin Adventure” free writing printable. If you would like to share this round robin writing 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, but please do not sell or host these files anywhere else.
You might also like our printable Summer acrostic poem
Have you visited our huge archive of writing prompts? New prompts added every Wednesday!
June 2nd, 2014 — Announcements, WriteShop
“WriteShop Junior is the most complete, fun and effective writing program we have found, and it makes teaching writing ‘do-able’ for me!” –Shyla, British Columbia
WriteShop Junior Book E
At long last, please join us in welcoming the newest baby to the WriteShop family! Even though WriteShop Junior Book E, our top-notch upper-elementary homeschool writing program, made its secret debut in our store over the weekend, today we’re sharing the news of its official release. Are you as excited as we are?
(Scroll to the bottom for our Intro Special)
Book E is recommended for 4th and 5th grade, but many of our test families used it successfully with 6th and 7th graders as well.
Moms and kids alike love Book E!
“I used to feel so unprepared to teach writing and was frustrated when my son didn’t get it. With the tools offered in Book E, he’s now equipped to take on many kinds of writing.” –Krystin, Kentucky
“After using WriteShop Junior, my children no longer fear the ‘Great White Blank Paper.’ What was once overwhelming has become a manageable, step by step process.” –Hanlie, Michigan
About WriteShop Junior
Four components make up the WriteShop Junior Book E program. Two are required and two are optional.
1. Teacher’s Guide
The Book E Teacher’s Guide holds your hand as you lead your kids through the writing process. Each lesson follows a consistent format, but the varied and interesting activities mean your children will look forward to each day’s work.
Helpful schedules break the writing process into bite-size chunks that are easy for you to teach and easy for your kids to understand and master. Whether you have reluctant or motivated writers, this program offers flexible options so they can work at their own level.
Book E has 10 lessons (chapters). Most homeschoolers prefer the schedule that spreads each lesson over three weeks. Working three days per week, you’ll complete Book E in one school year. Here’s a peek at the Table of Contents:
- Fables (Character and Voice)
- Humor (Humor and Dialogue)
- Adventure (Scene and Setting)
- Science Fiction (Blending Fiction with Scientific Fact)
- Mystery (Elements of a Mystery)
- Concrete Poetry (Creating a Shape Poem)
- Personal Narrative (Intro to 5-Paragraph Writing)
- Descriptive Narrative (Describing Three Items or Events)
- Book Report (Responding to Literature)
- Nonfiction Report (Collecting Facts)
2. Activity Pack
An essential part of WriteShop Junior Book E, the Activity Pack is actually two workbooks in one! It contains both the Student Worksheets and the Level 2 Fold-N-Go Grammar Pack:
- Student Worksheet Pack: Includes 87 activity pages your child will use to complete portions of each lesson. Games, word banks, worksheets, and graphic organizers introduce children to lifelong writing skills such as brainstorming and self-editing.
Fold-N-Go Grammar Pack: Make 10 grammar and writing guides, each devoted to a different skill. Simple rules, engaging examples, and practice exercises make learning or reviewing grammar fun!
3. Time-Saver Pack (Optional)
Instead of creating and assembling your own game cards, spinners, and other tools to teach creative writing, busy moms like you will appreciate the Time-Saver Pack’s durable, ready-made props for many Book E activities.
The print version contains 20 sturdy pages printed on white and colored cardstock. Instructions for using each page may be found in the Book E Teacher’s Guide.
The Time-Saver Pack is completely optional; if you prefer to make your own props and cards, you’ll find instructions in the Teacher’s Guide as well.
4. Junior Writer’s Notebook 1: Fun with Story Planning (Optional)
A writer’s notebook helps young writers develop stronger, more interesting stories and reports.
This special notebook is often called a “seed bed of ideas.” Some of these “seeds” will sprout and grow to become stories. Others will remain ideas that your child might explore and develop at another time.
WriteShop’s Junior Writer’s Notebook pages not only help improve writing skills, they make writing even more fun! These printable worksheets may be used:
- Alongside any writing program to enhance the writing experience
- As an optional resource that specifically coordinates with lessons in WriteShop Junior Book E
I just wanted to take a moment to thank you. “My son is very challenging to homeschool so I am very surprised by his response to this curriculum. He LOVES it! The creativity WriteShop adds to each lesson is a plus for our family. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!” –Michelle M., Florida
“Love, love WriteShop. I think it ‘fits’ every child … even my high-functioning special needs boys. Excellent product!” –Deborah, Texas
We’ve assembled a Book E Value Pack for easy shopping! It contains all four components of WriteShop Junior Book E and is available in both PRINT and DIGITAL (PDF) formats.
Download a sample lesson from WriteShop Junior Book E
If you would like to share this lesson sample 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 this file anywhere else.
Do you have younger children? Check out WriteShop Primary (K-3rd) and WriteShop Junior Book D (3rd-4th).
May 28th, 2014 — Writing & Journal Prompts
SUNLIT beaches, grassy hillsides, and old-fashioned gardens have inspired plenty of stories over the years. Give young writers a chance to craft their own outdoor adventure tales with these four story starters. We provide the first line of each paragraph. A child’s imagination will fill in the rest!
1. Secret of the Blue Cocoon
Wherever the butterfly landed, strange events seemed to follow.
2. A Kite’s Quest
“Where are you going?” the wind asked the runaway kite.
3. High Tea Mystery
The garden party invitation was clear: Bring your own teacup and your own fingerprint kit.
4. Clue at the Picnic
When I sliced the watermelon open, I never expected to find a secret message inside.
Did you enjoy these writing ideas? If so, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
May 27th, 2014 — WriteShop Primary
All year, you’ve watched your child’s vocabulary grow like a garden of wildflowers. You’ve watered, weeded, and spread plenty of sunshine with family read-aloud times, spelling lessons, and writing games. This week, help your child display what she’s learned with a colorful “garden” of rhyming words!
Kindergarten or First Grade: Word Family Flowers
A word family is a set of words with similar sounds and spelling patterns, such as set, jet, bet, and met. To help your child make a word family flower, you’ll need to gather a few supplies:
- A blank sheet of white copy paper
- A stem and leaves cut from green paper, and a circular flower center cut from yellow paper
- Flower petals cut from bright or pastel paper
- Glue sticks
Together, write a word family ending in the middle of the flower, such as -at. Now, choose simple rhyming words like rat and cat that will fit in this family. (Rhyming picture books are a great place to help your child find words!) Help her write one word on each flower petal. Finally, help your child arrange the pieces into a beautiful flower on the white paper, and glue it all in place.
The -at word family flower is now ready for display! Wouldn’t this be a pretty addition to your schoolroom or writing center? I’m confident your little gardeners won’t want to stop with just one flower. Make more flowers with word endings such as –en,–ot, –ike, and–ill.
When the flowers are completed, display them on the wall. Alternatively, three-hole punch each page (or slip pages into sheet protectors) and store them together in a notebook. Let your child decorate a notebook cover page with the title “My Garden of Rhyming Words.”
First, Second, or Third Grade: Rhyme Gardens
As your children develop their reading and spelling skills, they might start to notice that some rhyming words are spelled very differently. Help them visualize the relationship between these homophones with a rhyme garden. First, gather:
- A sheet of white paper
- Tulip flowers cut from brightly-colored paper
- Crayons, markers, or colored pencils to draw stems and leaves
- Glue sticks
Your child will enjoy arranging the tulips and adding greenery on the white paper. For this first rhyme garden, choose a familiar ending sound, such as –ate. Help your child write a variety of rhyming words in the garden, one word on each tulip, such as late, eight, great, straight, and wait. Other word families include –o (go, row, hoe, though, and sew) and –air (hair, where, bear, stare, and their). Remind your kids to practice pronouncing these words out loud while they are writing or coloring.
These rhyme gardens can be added to the child’s three-ring notebook, or used to decorate the refrigerator and bedroom closet doors!
Give your kids a long sheet of white butcher paper. Every twelve inches or so, start a new rhyme garden with different color flowers. For instance, use
- yellow tulips for show, go, and toe;
- orange tulips for score, roar, and door;
- purple tulips for bird, word, and herd; and
- blue tulips for threw, blue, and do.
Encourage your children to keep adding to their “flower field” as they encounter and master new words.
These rhyming word activities come from WriteShop Primary A and B by Nancy I. Sanders. If you like what you see, be sure check out the entire WriteShop Primary series. Complete with Teacher’s Manuals and Activity Packs, this writing curriculum is full of kid-friendly activities that will leave your youngsters asking for more!
If you’re considering WriteShop Primary as part of your homeschool curriculum for next year, find out what other parents are saying. As always, we would love to hear your feedback as well!
May 21st, 2014 — Writing & Journal Prompts
From rocks to beads to LEGO bricks, little things pop up everywhere when there are kids in the house! Encourage your youngsters to journal about their tiny treasures and other bits and pieces with these seven “I Spy” writing prompts.
1. Make a list of things you might find under the couch or between the cushions. Draw a picture of something you could create with these objects.
2. Hide a pile of pennies, nickels, and dimes somewhere in your house. Write three to five clues to help your siblings find the coins, and send them on a treasure hunt.
3. This morning, you opened a freshwater oyster and found a diamond ring instead of a pearl. Will you keep the ring, sell it, or try to find its original owner? Explain your answer.
Bits and Pieces
1. You just received a box in the mail filled with bags of chocolate chips, raisins, and sunflower seeds. Invent a new recipe that includes these ingredients, and describe the taste and appearance of the finished product.
2. During World War II, kids collected scrap metal and rubber to help the war effort. Imagine you and your friends spent the last four hours collecting rubber bands, foil candy wrappers, hairpins, bits of wire, and empty toothpaste tubes. Write a journal entry about your day.
3. Some people claim that humans should eat more insects, which are good little sources of protein and vitamins. Do you think this is a wise idea? Why or why not?
4. Did you know that May 29 is National Paperclip Day? Write about three unusual ways you could use a paperclip next week. (In case you’re wondering, the world record for the longest paperclip chain created by one person in one day is 54,030 paperclips.)
Did you enjoy these writing ideas? If so, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
May 19th, 2014 — Teaching Writing
By Daniella Dautrich
In many ways, writing is like cooking or decorating: the key elements are variety, beauty, organization, and harmony.
Stop and take a good look around your home. Savor the aroma of rich stew simmering on the stove, and admire the colorful pillows piled on the sofa. The keys to teaching and practicing fantastic writing might be hiding right under your nose.
Writing Is like Cooking: It’s All about Variety
Whether we’re planning weekly menus or a special holiday feast, variety is the magic word. We try to alternate hot and cold dishes. We aim to please our family’s palates by pairing blander, starchy items with spicier foods. We excite the taste buds with sweet and savory combinations while serving a variety of colors for the sake of beauty and nutrition. And, of course, we include different textures—few people can stand an all-squishy diet of oatmeal, yogurt, mashed potatoes, and Jell-O!
Writing is a lot like cooking. A colorful sentence or crisp new word can increase the flavor of any composition.
A well-planned paragraph displays a wide range of sentence structures. Clearly, adverbs, present participles, and past participles used as sentence-starters can lend an aura of spice and surprise. Beginning sentences with prepositions adds interest and appeal. Short sentences add punch.
Writers should also stir in delicious new words for flavorful, concrete writing. Instead of repeating the same old words in their paragraphs, your kids can find synonyms for a fresh sound every time!
The next time you serve a new dish for lunch or dinner, ask your kids to describe it in as many ways as possible. How many adjectives can they come up with?
Explain one step of the preparation/cooking process to them. Challenge them to rephrase what you told them in several different ways. Can they explain it back to you using both short and long sentences?
Writing Is like Decorating: Embrace the Limits
Writing can also be compared to decorating. I like to think of decorating as the art of embracing limitations. The size and purpose of a room—as well as the family budget—present limits. Within these boundaries, we aim for organization, balance, and harmony.
We choose colors to create the desired mood. If you want a relaxing bathroom, you might choose creams or blues, but probably not bright orange. If you want an energetic, cheerful kitchen, you might opt for green or yellow curtains, but probably not a black floor or gray walls.
Writing demands similar judgment calls. Consider the scope and purpose of a paragraph. Is it organized around one topic? If a particular sentence doesn’t belong, take it out. Over-eager children sometimes clutter their writing with too many thoughts. Encourage your son or daughter to remove a few ideas, saving them for new paragraphs later.
Teach your kids to “decorate” their writing to suit the mood. If they’re writing about a serious topic, silly stories and examples probably don’t belong. If they’re writing to a casual audience, keep the flowery words to a minimum.
The next time you edit a piece of your child’s writing, look for an idea, phrase, or sentence that just doesn’t seem to belong. Prompt your child: “Wouldn’t this be a great topic for another paper?”
Keep the atmosphere light rather than critical by asking your child to look around the room: “Is there something in here, like a knick-knack or a picture on the wall, that doesn’t quite belong? Can you think of a better place in the house where we could put it?” Similarly, if a shelf or tabletop looks especially bare, talk about ways an interesting photo, pretty candle, or other decorative detail might make the space more complete.
If it’s all the same to you, make your child’s day by taking her suggestions!
If you love cooking and decorating, let your hobbies and expertise influence the way you teach writing. Your enthusiasm will spill over to your children, and maybe—just maybe—they’ll never see writing the same way again.
May 14th, 2014 — Writing & Journal Prompts
Do your kids dream of skydiving, piloting jet aircraft, or orbiting the earth in astronaut suits? Then these writing prompts about flight will help them take wing!
1. Mile-High Celebration
A skywriting pilot wants to create a message in the sky for a new high school graduate. Make a list of five short sentences (two to three words each) the pilot could choose from.
2. Not in Kansas Anymore
You and a friend just won a free trip on hot air balloon. Where will you go? What will you see and do when you get there?
3. Free Fall
In 2012, Felix Baumgartner made a skydive jump from an altitude of 128,097 feet—about 24 miles above the Earth. After four minutes in the air, he deployed his parachute and drifted safely down. Imagine you watched the jump from the Roswell, New Mexico mission control. What concerns and thoughts would have entered your mind? What would you have asked Felix when he landed?
4. I’m an Earth Orbiter
You are an astronaut living and working in the International Space Station. Journal about a day in your life. Do you feel isolated up in space, or exhilarated by your scientific projects? How do you feel about sharing tight living spaces with five other crew members? How do you fill your free time?
5. The Sky’s the Limit
From the Wright Brothers to the Tuskegee Airmen, from Charles Lindbergh to James Doolittle, the history of aviation is filled with ingenious inventors, expert engineers, and courageous heroes. Write about one aspect of aviation that you would like to learn more about. Be creative: military reconnaissance, jet design, control tower operation, and airline customer service are all excellent topics.
Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
May 12th, 2014 — Books and Reading
This article contains affiliate links for books we’re confident your family will love!
Today marks the beginning of Children’s Book Week (May 12-18). Since 1919, this annual celebration has been the perfect time for adults and youngsters to enjoy new authors and books together. This week, take the time to rediscover old classics and find some new favorites as you read aloud with your kids!
The look and sound of English books for children may have changed over the last 150 years, but one thing never changes: stories of heroism and courage in the face of mystery and danger have always been in high demand! This list of juvenile novels and chapter books—while by no means complete—gives a snapshot of children’s books about adventure over the years.
The American Revolution
With rebels and soldiers, patriots and spies, the American Revolution has long provided the perfect backdrop for historical fiction aimed at kids. Of course, the stories weren’t always written from the American perspective. In True to the Old Flag: A Tale of the American War of Independence (1885), British scholar George Alfred Henty presented the war from the Redcoat point of view. Known as “The Boy’s Own Historian,” Henty wrote over 100 books that entertained and instructed readers on both sides of the pond in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The historical fiction was aimed at young ladies when Alice Turner Curtis wrote A Little Maid of Bunker Hill (1916). In this now-forgotten chapter of the “A Little Maid” series, Millicent Austin of Charles Town, Massachusetts celebrates her tenth birthday, learns lessons about friendship, and becomes a role model to her younger brother and sister. Sound familiar? That’s because the beloved American Girl doll “Felicity” taught similar lessons to little girls of the 90s. In Felicity Learns a Lesson (1991), author Valerie Tripp delights readers with Felicity Merriman, a heroine caught between loyalists and patriots in Williamsburg, Virginia.
If you’re looking for a beginning chapter book for boys, don’t miss a new release called The Redcoats are Coming! (2014) by WriteShop’s own Nancy I. Sanders. This exciting installment of “The Imagination Station” series—based on the popular Adventures in Odyssey radio drama—follows curious cousins Patrick and Beth as they travel back in time to the world of John Hancock and Paul Revere.
There Be Pirates Here
Ever since the debut of Treasure Island (1883), young readers have dreamed of treasure maps and tropical islands, with relentless one-legged pirates ever on the pursuit. Boys especially sympathize with the narrator Jim Hawkins, who comes of age on the high seas of the 18th century. When Robert Louis Stevenson first serialized this story for a children’s magazine, could he have imagined the scores of movie and television versions his story would inspire? One thing is certain: this story that began as a scribbled map to amuse a child has become classic junior-high reading material.
If your kids prefer pirates with a more fantastical flair, find a reprint of the original Peter and Wendy (1911). J. M. Barrie adapted the story from his 1904 stage play, and the characters of Peter Pan and Captain Hook have ever since been engraved on our memories. Nothing compares to reading this classic aloud by candlelight at dusk. Tonight, step aboard the pirate ship Jolly Roger in the blue waters of Neverland!
In the 20th century, children’s authors created plenty of mysterious pirate ships to haunt and enthrall young readers. Clyde Robert Bulla’s Pirate’s Promise (1958) tells the tale of an orphan sold into slavery and later captured by pirates. Avi’s Captain Grey (1976) has held more than a few readers spellbound with the story of Kevin Cartwright, a prisoner of pirates. More recently, pirate novels for children ages 8-12 have focused on the adventure-laden War of 1812.
Want to read about twin brothers who also happen to be escaped slaves? Check out The Twins, the Pirates, and the Battle of New Orleans (1997) by Harriette Gillem Robinet. Interested in the British side of the story? You’re sure to enjoy Gerald Hausman’s Tom Cringle: The Pirate and the Patriot (2001). Following the exploits of a fourteen-year-old naval lieutenant, this book was crafted by an author who has spent many summers on the tropical island of Jamaica.
We hope you and your children will share many more adventures through the pages of books! If you read any good American Revolution or pirate stories this week, won’t you leave a comment and let us know?
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.
May 7th, 2014 — Writing & Journal Prompts
Pick a Prompt: Free Printable Writing Prompts!
May is a great month for picking flowers … or for picking fun writing prompts for children! So this month we’re offering a printable with not just one, but 6 different journal prompts to choose from!
Kids can cut apart the printable and draw a new prompt each week, or pick one each day and color the square after it is completed.
Click the image above to download the “Pick a Prompt” free writing printable. If you would like to share this poetry printable 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.
Have you visited our huge archive of writing prompts? New prompts added every Wednesday!