Tag Archives: Language Arts

Advertise It!

Here’s a creative writing assignment that works well for both individuals and groups of students. I assigned this one to the students in my writing class at co-op, and it was a lot of fun – for them and for me!

The lesson in the writing curriculum we’re using focused on exaggeration in advertising and how words can persuade and influence us. We started out the class by looking through newspaper ads, picking out key phrases such as “One-of-a-Kind”, “Today Only”, and “Essential”. We discussed our favorite infomercials and other television commercials, and how the words used in those ads convince a lot of people (hopefully not us!) to buy the product.

Then it was time to get to work creating their own advertisements. Instead of promoting a product, though, the students promoted a place – a real tourist attraction in the U.S. For classwork, they advertised the Forty-Acre Rock in South Carolina.

The 40-Acre Rock is actually only 14 acres, and the visit consists of a moderately-strenuous hike to a large rock. Sadly, some of the rock has been covered with graffiti. I handed each student a sheet of paper with the basic facts of the attraction: a small beaver pond, the hike, free parking, no restrooms, wildlife in the area, and the big rock. From those facts, they were to write a short paragraph convincing travelers to stop by.

It didn’t take long for them to come up with some great ads! They then took turns reading them out loud in class. And though they all had the same facts to start with, each ad was unique!

Their homework was just as much fun. I provided the students with a list of unusual places to write about, and each student chose one, looked up information about it, and wrote an ad to entice tourists. Here’s what was on our list:

Carhenge (Nebraska)

The Seattle Gum Wall (Washington)

The Corn Palace (South Dakota)

The Barbed Wire Museum (Kansas)

The National Museum of Funeral History (Texas)

The Tree that Owns Itself (Georgia)

The kids had no problems reading their ads out to the class the following week. And in the process, we all discovered some places we’d like to visit – or not! 🙂

 

Photo by Kevin Rosseel

Teaching Poetry

This month, my junior high/senior high writing class is participating in the Young Writer’s NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Because they’re busy at home typing out their novels, I decided to use our class time to talk about another form of creative writing: poetry.

Now, my poetry consists primarily of rhyming poems that children would enjoy. But, since poetry is much more than that, I decided to look online for some extra help in teaching the subject. And I found some really great lessons.

One of the best sites I came across is PBS.org. Here, you’ll find a great page to introduce students to poetry. With Rules, Tools, and Form,  you’ll cover what differentiates a poem from other literary works, as well as a summary of why tools and rules are important in writing poetry.

From there, you’ll be directed to two more helpful links: Poetic Forms and Examples and Poetry Devices and Examples. Print out the page of Poetic Forms and Examples for your students, and they’ll have examples in hand of various types of poems, including acrostics, haikus, tankas, couplets, cinquains, limericks, diamonte poems, proverbs, shape poems, rap, and free verse. The page also contains the “rules” so students can create their own.

On the Poetry Devices and Examples page, you’ll find information about and examples of similes, metaphors, personification, alliteration, hyperbole, symbolism, onomatopoeia, idioms, puns, lyrics, feet, meter, rhythm, and mood. This page, like the Poetry Forms page, is clearly laid out and easy for both teacher and student to use.

These three pages proved to be a perfect introduction to our poetry unit. For a class without any true poets (myself included), these pages take the mystery out of writing poetry and turn it into something fun that everyone can do.

 

Photo by earl53

It’s a Novel Idea!

It’s that time of year again!  Time for NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. During the month of November, authors and would-be authors from all over the world pursue a common goal: to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. The official website, http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/, provides tips, tools, and support for those who want to participate.

What does that have to do with a homeschooling mom who’s already overcommitted with teaching her kids, driving them to activities, managing schedules, maintaining the home, volunteering, and the myriad of other things she has to do? While I do know of a few homeschooling parents who have actually completed, or “won”, NaNoWriMo (go, Moms!), what’s even more exciting to me is that the NaNoWriMo challenge is available for students – from elementary all the way through high school.

The NaNoWriMo Young Writer’s Program begins on November 1 and ends on November 30. During that time, students of all ages are challenged to write a novel, with you, as the teacher, establishing the word count goal.

Sound like a great idea, but you don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry – the website provides all the resources you’ll need to get your child started – free! There you’ll find workbooks designed for elementary, middle, and high school students. These books take the young writers step-by-step in developing ideas for their stories, so that when November 1 comes around, they’ll be ready to write.

This year, my high school–level creative writing class will be participating together. They’re a little nervous, but they’re also very excited. As we work through the workbook together this month, they’ll be forming their characters, establishing a setting, and creating a plot. They’ll learn about brainstorming, using description, and writing dialogue. And in December, they’ll be learning about revision.

Do you have a child interested in writing? The NaNoWriMo Young Writer’s Program may be just the thing to get him started. Who knows, maybe you’ll write your novel, too!

Lots of Pen Pals

Last year, a friend of mine with a daughter close to my daughter Lillie’s age asked if Lillie would like a pen pal. Lillie loves to get mail, so she thought it was a great idea, too. Thus began their letter-writing adventure, which included handwriting practice, spelling practice, and friendly letter composition, not to mention learning how to address envelopes. A fun and educational activity!

This year, I’ve decided to expand on that idea. Instead of just one pen pal, I’ve assigned both my daughters  a number of people to write to. So now, as part of each school day, they work on one letter to either:

  • an out-of-state family member, such as their grandmother and great-aunt or
  • an friend  who lives far away that we don’t often see or
  • a child we’re supporting through Compassion International.

Though handwriting is usually met with a few groans and moans of “Do we have to?”, this has quickly turned into an exciting assignment they can’t wait to do. On their own, they’ve continued to add to the list of recipients.  Even my seven-year-old, who doesn’t do much writing yet, has joined in and started writing letters to his cousins.

To make it even more fun, we’ve also added:

  • decorative papers to write on
  • small items to include in the letter, such as stickers
  • photos of family members and pets

We’ve been using scrapbooking papers as stationery, but there are a lot of websites that feature free stationery for kids. Here are a few of them:

ActivityVillage.co.uk – notepaper, holiday stationery, and thank-you notes

DLTK Kids – lots of themed and customed-designed writing paper

KidsPrintables.com
– over 30 stationery designs just for kids

If you’re children need an interesting way to get in that handwriting practice, consider finding some pen pals. If they’re like my children, they’ll have as much fun writing the letters as they do receiving them!

 

Photo by dancerinthedark

 

 

 

Story Starters

This week, I’ve been helping to teach classes at a writing/illustrating camp for kids. We have students ages 6-13, and it’s been a lot of fun. The children have come up with some very imaginative stories!

One of the things we discussed at the camp was how the main character of a story has a problem to overcome. After the students decided on their main character, they had to figure out what the problem was going to be. For those who were having trouble thinking of a story line, we gave them a list of story starters.

The story starters were ideas for stories that the children could build upon. A story starter might be something like:

1. Tommy arrived home from school only to discover his baby brother was now sharing his bedroom.

2. The day before the royal ball, the princess fell from her horse and broke her leg.

3. The pirate captain and his crew were ready to dig for treasure, but they lost the map.

4. Spotty the dog wanted to walk with his owner to the store, but there was a cat sitting in the middle of the sidewalk. Spotty was afraid of cats.

5. As Jane and Marvin were having a picnic in the yard, a terrible storm blew in.

You can create more story starters to get your child writing. Just choose a character and a problem, and let the story begin! But, if you need even more ideas, there’s plenty of help online. Below are a couple of sites worth visiting:

  • Scholastic.com has a fun story starter “machine.” Just give the wheel a spin and see what comes up.
  • BookWeekOnline offers some interesting story starters for older kids. The first part of the story is written by a well-known author, but it’s up to the student to finish the adventure.

Your child might write using the story starter, or it might inspire him to develop his own storyline. Either way, story starters are a great way to get kids thinking — and writing!

Photo by kakisky

Write2Ignite! Conference

2writeThis weekend, I will be attending the second annual Write2Ignite! Writing Conference. This conference is for Christian authors who write for children, and I am really looking forward to it.  I know I’m going to come away from the conference encouraged and motivated, but besides all the good information I’m going to learn, one of the best parts about this conference is that I get to share it with my son.

The conference includes joint sessions and workshops for the adults, which focus on everything from writing short stories and magazine articles to developing young adult novels to submitting your work. Editors and authors will be featured speakers, and attendees can choose the workshops that interest them the most.

But the conference also offers a teen track for students in the seventh through the twelfth grades. The teens will attend their own workshops with Jonathan Friesen, author of the novel Jerk California. His goal for these classes is to increase the students’ passion for their writing, leaving them excited about their work and ready to tell their own stories. He’ll talk about characterization, tension, emotion, and dialog, providing the students with a lot of good instruction as they begin (or continue) to create their own stories.

My son John also attended the first conference, and he came back with journal pages full of ideas and a story he had just started writing. This time, he’s older, and I know he’ll glean even more from the classes. Not only is it a great schooling and learning opportunity, but what makes it so special, too, is that he’ll be taking the class with cousins, friends, and new acquaintances — a shared experience they can talk about later, and perhaps one that will help them encourage each other with their writing.

Order in the Classroom!

gaveljanjpgThis school year, like many of our previous school years, has gotten off to a bit of a rough start. But I’m working on changing some things that hopefully will get things flowing a little more smoothly.

Recently, I read an article online that said homeschoolers sometimes have a difficulty with delayed gratification. They are often used to having a question answered right away, and they have the freedom to make comments during a lesson. Although I know this isn’t true of all homeschooled children, I can say it’s true of mine. They interrupt me if I’m reading a science or history lesson aloud, often saying something that has nothing to do with the subject. If I’m helping one with math or reading, the others are quite comfortable breaking in with a question about their own work.

I know it’s not the children’s fault — this is how I’ve been schooling the last few years. I used to feel like I was multi-tasking, answering a question for one while teaching a concept to another while handing out an assignment to a third. But I wasn’t really multi-tasking — we were just losing time, as nothing was being accomplished efficiently. So this year, I’m bringing more order in — for their sakes, and for mine!

For the first hour, I’m working with my Kindergartener while the other three work on their math. If they have a question about a problem, they just have to skip it and go on to the next one. Their math work will continue into the second hour, at which time I’m free for questions.

After math we’ll go into our group lesson of history or science. Then it’s back to individual work in Language Arts, giving me time again to help with grammar, spelling, and writing if necessary. Reading and music practice are subjects they can do on their own.

The next few days will be hard — reminding the children again and again that they will have to wait. But once they get used to the new plan, they’ll have an easier time with school — and I will too!