Tag Archives: writing

Writing Opportunities for Teens

With a group of ambitious teens in one of my co-op writing classes, I am constantly on the lookout for opportunities for them to stretch their creative wings. If you have a young person who likes to write, here are a few outlets you might consider:

Writing Conferences – Sometimes writing conferences, such as Write2Ignite!, offer workshops for teens as well. This month, the classes at Write2Ignite! will be taught by author Vonda Skelton and graphic novelist Chris Schweizer. They’ll cover everything from creating characters, plotting your story, writing good dialogue, and illustrating your own graphic novel.

Publications – There are several publications both online and in print that are looking for teen authors. Here are a few of them:

  • DevoKids.com – This online devotional site for children features devotionals, recipes, and articles written by both adults and students.
  • Devozine – A devotional print magazine is written for teens – by teens. Students may submit devotions and poetry based on a theme.
  • New Moon Girls – This print magazine for girls features articles, stories, and artwork by girls ages 8 and up. Issues center around a theme.
  • Skipping Stones – An international magazine for students ages 8 – 16, Skipping Stones features essays, stories, letters to the editor, proverbs, and riddles, as well as artwork and photography.
  • Stone Soup – Written by kids, this features poetry, fiction, book reviews, and artwork by students up to age 13.
  • TeenInk – This magazine and website work with teens to publish their writing, art, and photos.

Self-Publishing – This year, some of my students participated in National Novel Writing Month. So, after a few more months of polishing their work, we’re going to self-publish them.

  • Lulu.com – This is the site we’re going to use. It’s simple to do, and we can keep the books as a private project so only family and friends can order them.
  • CreateSpace.com -This is Amazon’s self-publishing company and easy to use as well.

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!

A Little Help, Please

Tomorrow is our first official day of co-op, when all four of my children will have classes to attend. We joined the co-op two years ago, and it’s worked out well for our family. We’ve found friends there who could help us with our homeschooling adventure, and friend whom we could help out as well.

When we first started, my oldest son John was entering the eighth grade and my youngest was starting kindergarten.  While I still felt fairly confident about teaching the eighth grade curriculum, I knew I would have less time to spend with him now that all of the kids had lessons to do. His classes at co-op consisted of Geography and Physical Science, and he did well in both. He learned how to manage his time, keep up with assignments, and study for tests. The next year was even more challenging as he took Geometry, Biology, and World Literature.

This year, as he enters the tenth grade, he’ll be taking Algebra II, Chemistry, and American Literature. While I can help him with his homework, I’m not certain I could see him through the math and science courses successfully. But fortunately, there are other moms who can.

Part of the requirement at our co-op is that at least one parent from each family takes on a role, whether its in teaching a class, organizing activities, or helping clean up the facilities. This year, I’ll be teaching two writing classes and an art class. I love to edit the students’ papers and try new art projects, something that isn’t easy for some moms. So while we’re receiving help in some areas, we’re able to give help in others.

If you’re not part of a co-op but are overwhelmed with so much to teach, here are a couple of things you can try:

  • Contact other homeschoolers in your area and find out what their interests or strengths are.  Ask if they would be interested in teaching a class in a home or at a local church. You could either pay the teacher or perhaps trade off by teaching another subject yourself.
  • See if there are any upper level high school students who would be willing to tutor your child in a particular subject. Often high schoolers can do the work but charge a much lower rate than a traditional tutor.

We’ve homeschooled all of our children since kindergarten, but I’m not sure if we could have done it alone. So if you find yourself needing some assistance, don’t hesitate to ask. As they say, we can all use a little help sometime. 🙂

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

 

 

 

Easing into School

Remembering back to my elementary, middle, and high school years, the first days of school were always an exciting time when I met my teachers and found out who shared my classes. Then the teachers went through the school handbook and discussed all the rules. Though we may have had a homework assignment or two, it was a good way of “easing” into the new school year.

Well, my kids already know their teacher and classmates, and the rules of the house are still the same. Because of this, I tend to want to jump back into school “full steam ahead.” I have to remind myself that we haven’t been on a regular schedule for a while, and it might take a few days to get into a regular routine again.

But there are things we can do to make the change easier for us all to adjust to:

  • We’ll spend time talking about the subjects they’ll be learning, and how and when I can help them individually. We’ve had the problem in the past of one student interrupting me while I was trying to help another. This time, they’ll know just what to expect.
  • I’m not assigning them work in every subject…yet. We’ll tackle a few of the basics first, especially reading and writing. I’ll introduce the other subjects as the week goes on and they’ve had time to readjust.
  • Although the kids are going to wake up at the same time and eat breakfast together, they’re going to go through the day at their own pace.  Some of my students will get right to it and get things done, while others will work in a much more leisurely manner. I’ve found it only frustrates all of us when I try to keep everyone on task together.
  • We’ll play some educational games together.
  • We’ll plan an outing with friends towards the end of the week, giving them something special to look forward to.

Even if you homeschool, or rather, especially if you homeschool, those first days can still be an exciting fresh start!

 

Photo by earl53

 

Read, Write, and Learn…With DevoKids!

About a year ago, I first found out about DevoKids.com, a fun and safe site for students. Part of Christian Devotions Ministries, DevoKids’ mission is to entertain children while sharing with them the love of Christ. There’s so much for kids to read and learn about — and they can even contribute, too!

Devotionals are posted weekly on the site, and each one is based on a particular scripture or passage. The link “Music Dudes and Divas” contains articles about different types of music and various musicians.  In “DaVinci’s Playground,” kids will find ideas for crafts and experiments. There are also links for puzzles and games, cooking ideas, nature and history articles, and money tips.

And there’s more! You’ll find two writing sections to the website, “The Write Buzz” and “Write Now!” In “The Write Buzz”, award-winning author and teacher Christopher Maselli answers questions about writing, while the “Write Now!” column features tips for kids by published authors such as Margot Finke, Carol Baldwin, Donna Shepherd, and Patti Shene.

One of my favorite features of DevoKids is that the site is open to submissions from students, too! What can kids send in? They may choose to write devotions, or they can give directions for making their favorite recipes. If they’ve found a good way to earn money, they can send that in, too. DevoKids is also looking for students with stories about saving, tithing, investing, and giving. Or, if your child has an idea that would fit in the music column, he can submit that as well.

DevoKids is constantly adding new articles, so it’s a site to return to again and again. And because it has so many opportunities for children to learn, create, and grow, you’ll want to do just that.

DevoFest 2011

Although the  concert didn’t turn out quite as I expected, the conference had a lot to offer parents at all stages in their homeschooling adventure. Speakers were helpful and informative, and the vendors offered curriculum, products, and opportunities for students in elementary through high school. One of those opportunities is DevoFest.

Held at the Ridgecrest Coference Center in North Carolina, this three-day conference (June 17, 18, and 19) is designed to encourage students to discover and develop their interests in writing, film, and public speaking. There are three age-specific tracks: the Kid Track for ages 7-9, the Tween Track for age 10-12, and the Teen Track for ages 13-17, and everything is presented from a Christian worldview.

Younger children in the Kid Track can participate in classes in drama, science, and creative cooking. Activities include exploring DaVinci’s Playground, bear walks, lazer tag, experiements, and more.

Students in the Tween and Teen Tracks can join in workshops for writing a novel, creating a graphic novel, acting, script-writing, story-telling, and producing a film.   Public speaking for the teens also includes lessons on the art of stage presence, dynamic deliveries, and how to create compelling talks that leave audiences waiting for more.

The list of faculty members for this event is impressive. It includes:

  • Zena Dell Lowe from Skirt Films
  • Award-Winning Authors Steven James, Michelle Adams, Ann Tatlock, and Vonda Skelton
  • Authors Jenny L. Cote, Diane Wolfe, Time Shoemaker, Eddie Jones, Cindy Sproles, Terri Kelly, and Tom Bailey.

And what’s more, you can make this a family event! Housing and meals are available through the conference center. So while your children are learning in the workshops, you can be relaxing and enjoying the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

So if you’re looking for something to spark your child’s creativity this summer, consider DevoFest. It’s not only fun — it’s an investment in your child.

 

Contests for Kids

Last fall, three of my children entered a local art contest, and all of them won a ribbon! As part of their prize, each won a ticket to the local children’s theatre, and we were finally able to redeem them last night and see a musical together. What fun!

 Many organizations offer free contests for kids to enter, and children can learn some good lessons by participating. Not only do they have a project they need to finish well, but they have to complete it by a certain time or deadline. They develop their skills through the process, whether it’s art or writing, crafts or photography. They learn to be gracious if they win, and they learn how to deal with disappointment if they don’t. And through it all, they learn that to succeed at anything, they first have to try.

 If you can’t find any contests for kids in your local community, check out the ones available online. Here are a few with upcoming deadlines to get you started:

 ART:

SHADE Foundation Poster Contest – This contest is for children in grades Kindergarten-8th. Participants enter a 8 1/2” x 11 1/2” poster featuring five sun-safety action steps. The deadline is April 1.

Animal Rescue TV Art Contest To enter this monthly contest ,children draw or paint their favorite animal. For kids ages 16 and under.

Look and Learn Art – Based in the United Kingdom, this is a monthly international contest and is open to children ages 18 and under.

State Fish Art Contest – This contest is for students in grades 4th – 12th. Entrants draw or paint a state fish and include an essay about the habitat and behavior of that fish. The deadline is always March 31.

National Geographic Kids posts contests from time to time. Keep checking the website for updates.

WRITING

PBS Kids Go Writing Contest for children in grades K-3. Check with your local PBS station for rules and deadlines.

Kids are Authors Writing Contest – Sponsored by Scholastic, this contest is for students in grades K-8 to encourage them to use their reading, writing, and artistic skills to create their own books. The deadline for 2011 is March 15.