Archive for the ‘ Writing ’ Category

40 Journal Writing Prompts (Free Printable)

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

In a blog post a few weeks ago, I talked about why we use the writing workshop and how it works. But this year, I also added in Journal Prompt Writing  as part of their checklist of things to do.  Here’s why.  ED started writing with us right from the start (even before she officially started kindergarten.) She enjoys writing, but her “stories” are always about a cat (or dog or bat…) going on various adventures.  I love that she is so invested in her stories, but there’s no variation on that theme!!

I wrote up a series of journal prompts to have her branch out to other topics.  I have DD also answer the prompt of the day because she *loves* to write. And, I have LD answer these to have him practice writing on a given topic (now that he doesn’t object so strenuously to this type of assignment… It used to be that something like this would shut him down and he would have absolutely nothing to write about.)

The way it’s worked out this fall, the kids do between 1-3 journal prompts each week, but we do our writing workshop *every* school day. You can find out more about our Writing Workshop here: Writing Workshop and What We’re Doing for Writing This Fall

To download the prompts, just click on the link or picture below:

Free Writing Journal Prompts

If you found this helpful, I’d love to hear from you over on our Homeschool Den Facebook Page. ~Liesl

Add a Comment

Writing Workshop: What We’re Doing for Writing This Fall

Friday, October 24th, 2014

In this post, I wanted to talk about writing in our homeschool this fall.  Last year, we shifted to a writing workshop model.  I had a reluctant writer and up until that point, writing was a chore for my son.  Well, after switching to a writing workshop… writing became one of his favorite subjects!

So, what do I mean by a writing workshop? In brief this means:

  • We have a set area where we meet together to write each day. We have materials stocked and ready to go. (See more about that in this post: Creating a Writing Workshop Area)
  • We write every day!
  • The kids come up with their own topics.
  • I *always* sit down and write with them.
  • We have a set routine… we gather together in the same spot each day, read a selection together (either I read a book aloud and talk about some element of that book – characters, voice, writing style, metaphors or some other mini-lesson or we read our own books about writing — see the photos below), we have a mini-lesson. Then we set the timer for 25 minutes and write quietly with NO talking and NO interruptions.
  • Once we start writing, the kids are welcome to move to other parts of the room/house so they don’t bother one another.
  • The kids (and I!!) have to be on task. If ED finishes early, which happens frequently, she knows to grab a book and read. She waits until the timer goes off, but stays in the area until the end of our writing workshop time. Again, NO talking!!
  • We have an opportunity to share our writings with one another at the end of the writing session.
  • I never correct their writing workshop entries. This is not the time I address spelling, grammar or other issues. I take not of problems I see and work on them at other times, but writing workshop is purely for developing the joy and skills of writing! :)
  • Each of us have a set writing journal that stays in the writing workshop area. Actually, we all have filled three or four journals now!

So what are the kids up to? ED is writing a series of Halloween stories. Today DD wrote a story about a girl who makes a casserole. :)  And LD is finishing up research on Ebola and his writing a brochure about the Ebola virus and how to protect yourself. And what do I do? Sometimes I write future blog posts. Sometimes I write stories. Sometimes I write about the kids (they LOVE when I do that!). And this fall, I even wrote a couple of poems… one of which I polished and read in public not too long ago!

The kids sometimes have trouble finding a topic, but encouraging them to find their own topics (and sympathizing with them when they feel stuck) ensures that they are writing things that are important and relevant to them.

That said, I do have resources available to them when they are stuck.  First, I always tell them that *all* writers feel stuck from time to time. The important thing is to keep at it consistently each day.  On days that I’ve felt stuck, I share my scribbles, cross outs, and faltered attempts… and explain that sometimes it doesn’t go smoothly.  I also have a number of resources on hand:

For ED (age 6), I have the Start Writing… (Adventures in Literacy) books that someone once recommended. They are out of print now, but I bought them used. If I had to recommend just one, I’d suggest the Start Writing Adventure Stories because ED likes the large colorful pictures (the open book in the photo below). That’s her favorite of the 4 we have.

Meanwhile, we’ve slowly added to our collection of resources for my older two.  DD and LD have both read one of the Write Source student textbooks.  They also have both read Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly and Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook.  These are books that encourage and give helpful pointers to young writers. (We set the timer for 10 minutes and read one of these writing resource books prior to writing.) We have other books that help when they’re feeling stuck. They’ve thumbed through Rip the Page and Unjournaling to come up with ideas. In fact, DD’s story about the casserole was from an idea she found in Unjournaling. Again, if I had to recommend just one book, I’d probably suggest Writing Magic to start with.

We also still regularly use the packet I made last year for our Writing Workshop. You’ll find more about that in our post Writing Workshop Resource Pack. That entire packet is free to download.

As you may recall, about this time last year I had the kids do a biography research paper.  (I shared our Biography Research Paper Resource Pack here.)  This year, the kids will do another research paper of some sort, but I haven’t quite decided when we’ll start in on that.

One last thing before I go, I’ve now talked about why we use the writing workshop and how it works. But this year, I also added in Journal Prompt Writing  as part of their checklist of things to do.  Here’s why.  ED started writing with us right from the start (even before she officially started kindergarten.) She enjoys writing, but her “stories” are always about a cat (or dog or bat…) going on various adventures.  I love that she is so invested in her stories, but there’s no variation on that theme!!

I wrote up a series of journal prompts to have her branch out to other topics.  I have DD also answer the prompt of the day because she *loves* to write. And, I have LD answer these to have him practice writing on a given topic (now that he doesn’t object so strenuously to this type of assignment… It used to be that something like this would shut him down and he would have absolutely nothing to write about.)

I’ll try to get those ready to share with you all in the next few days, but I thought I’d mention that here while I was on the general topic of writing!

You might be interested in this series, How Do I Help The Kids to Start Writing?, which shares some of the mini-lessons we did last year:

Other Posts about the Homeschool Writing Workshop:

Come visit us over at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page! I’d love to hear how writing works in your home!

 

Add a Comment

WWII Portfolio Project

Friday, March 21st, 2014

I received several emails and a message from people interested in the WWII Portfolio Project I made for LD. So, here it is!

My son is doing some research work on WWII. Except for reading some novels last year (like Number the Stars), we have not covered this topic at all… He has been doing quite a bit of reading and has watched a video before jumping into the project ideas below.  This is *not* a full, complete study of WWII, but rather an introduction to some WWII topics (if you know what I mean).  I just felt I had to explain that since I’ve taught courses on the modern European history, the Holocaust, etc. This project just serves as his first introduction into WWII. My son is 10.

So what has he done so far? He’s read through some general WWII books from the library. I picked up the “I Survived…” books that had to do with WWII. He read I Survived the Nazi Invasion. He thought it was “pretty good,” though not as good as the Percy Jackson series. :) They are short novels, so he was able to read through that one in just a day.  I also got him the I Survived Pearl Harbor which he said he’ll start tomorrow.  He also has been watching the made-for-TV miniseries  called Holocaust (with James Woods and Meryl Streep). I went back and forth whether to let him watch it… It’s not gruesome or graphic (for the most part), but it is emotional and powerful (and long — 7 or 8 hours). It touches on so many key events… Krystalnacht, the early attempts at gassing people, the SS firing squads, the development and use of Zyklon B in the “showers,”  the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto.  With those tough topics, you’ll have to decide for your own family if the series is “too rough.”

As for the portfolio project, I also wanted to make it clear that he does not have to do every project listed below… he’ll pick and choose the projects that interest him.

If you’re interested, you can download if free by clicking on the link:

WWII Portfolio Project

By the way, here is a nice blank map of the WWII countries in Europe. I printed one out for LD:

This is a really neat video showing how borders in Europe changed during WWII.

My daughter is doing her research portfolio projects on animals. You can download by visiting this post: Animal Portfolio Project.

Related Posts that Might be of Interest:

Come visit us at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page!

Add a Comment

Animal Portfolio Project

Monday, March 17th, 2014

The kids are starting on another independent research project.  Last semester the kids did a biography research project, but this semester they are doing a portfolio project. That’s just a fancy way of saying… a bit of this and a bit of that.  They’ll do both non-fiction and fiction writing selections, art projects, geography and habitat projects. And they’ll also watch a number of videos and/or movies.  You’ll get a better idea if you look at DD’s portfolio project choices below!

I am having yet another surgery on my ear on Wednesday (March 19th) and I’ll be writing a bit more about that tomorrow.  But because of this and the long recovery/rehab afterwards, I wanted the kids to have a project that they could work on independently. Their grandparents have been with us since my 3rd surgery a couple of weeks ago (March 4th). They will be working with the kids a bit so they’ll help in a general way (trips to the library, helping find supplies, rounding the kids up to actually work on their portfolio projects).
My hope is that the kids have a lot of fun exploring topics that are of interest to them.

DD decided she wanted to learn about animals.  I came up with a whole bunch of project ideas for her to choose from. She’ll select a number of projects from each category–writing, geography & habitats, and art.  She chose 3 animals to focus on: the mountain lion, grey wolf and coyote. I also ordered some DVDs that she and ED can watch like Discovery Channel’s Living with Wolvesand White Fang.

Here are a couple examples of activities she can choose from the writing portion:

  • ________ Write a speech or a letter to the president on why your animal needs protection in the wild.
  • ________ Menu: Create a humorous menu at a restaurant where your animals would like to eat.

If you are interested, you can download this packet.  There’s also a sheet for her to list the books and videos she watches (not pictured below).

Animal Portfolio Project

By the way, here is an example of a “clay map” mentioned above. This was a clay map we made of ancient Greece and the Mediterranean Sea.

Maps can also be made of graham crackers like the map we made of England, Scotland and Whales. You’ll find the recipe for homemade graham crackers here.

Usually, I don’t share our downloads/material until we’ve tested them out. This time I’ll have to come back to tell you how successful this was!  DD and LD have loaded up on books and started doing some reading, but have only just begun delving into their projects… gathering resources at the library and just beginning to do some reading.

Oh–and LD’s topic is World War II. Since we’ve never covered the World Wars, he’ll only cover some of the surface topics. I’m happy to share that if anyone is interested, but it just barely touches the surface with topics such as how WWII began, Allies vs. Axis powers, weapons, famous battles, the concentration camps and so forth. Click here to see the post and to download the WWII Portfolio Project.

~Liesl

Related Posts that Might be of Interest:

Come visit us at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page!

Add a Comment

How Do I Help the Kids to Start Writing?! Day 5 (Exploring Memories)

Monday, March 10th, 2014

This was one of the best mini lessons we’ve had on writing.  The kids still talk about how much they enjoyed sharing their memories and writing about them. They’ve asked me when we can do this again.  I call that a successful day!

If you’ve missed the previous posts in this series, I would suggest you go back and start with them, though honestly, you can do any of these lessons in any order. They are just topic suggestions.

You’ve set up a good writing space, have your supplies – pencils, journals, resource materials. Now what?!! This is the second in a series of 5 posts with lesson ideas to help young writers get started on their writing journey. Be sure to read the introduction to this series in How Do I Help the Kids to Start Writing?! Day 1.

Here are some of our first mini-lesson topics. I used mentor texts and picked them apart to help the kids see some of the elements that make for good writing.

In this series I’ll go into more detail on each one:

  1. What makes a good book or story?
  2. Make your story come alive with details and description.
  3. Creating Interesting Characters
  4. Story Openings: Set the mood or feeling of your story
  5. Gathering story ideas from your own life

You can use these lessons in any order.

Writing Workshop, Day Five: Exploring Memories; Gathering story ideas from your own life.

Read Aloud with the Kids:

We started this day reading Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge. It was about a young boy who befriends an old lady. She has begun to lose her memory.  The little boy brings her all kinds of treasures he has gathered to help her find her memory. As she goes through the basket and pulls out the items one-by-one she is reminded of incidents from her own childhood.

Product Details

 

Activity:

I told the kids to go gather 3-5 things that were special to them and had good memories. The kids ran off really excited!  DD said, “Oooh this is just like show-and-tell!”  I too went off find a few things to share with the kids.

Just like the story, we all had a lot of memories to share!  I think the best moment for me was when the kids wanted me to put them in the sling that I had carried them around in when they were babies and toddlers.  Even LD (age 9 at the time) wanted a turn!  I was surprised to find just how easy it was to hold my 65 pound boy on my hip!

After talking and sharing (for quite a long time I might add!), we all went off to write.  I loved LD’s description of his two blue puppies, Thunder and Lightning. “What I like about them is not that I had them in Australia, but all the memories I have because they came with me on so many trips… Nashville, Williamsburg, fossil hunting, California.”

As I said above, the kids were very inspired by this book and mini-lesson! DD has begged me to do this again.

You can download and printout a copy of this mini lesson by printing on the link below.

Writing Mini Lesson (Day 5) Exploring Memories:  Gathering story ideas from your own life

 

 

This is the last post in the series for now (unless I hear from anyone that they’re interested in more).

Other Posts about the Homeschool Writing Workshop:

Come visit us over at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page! I’d love to hear if you found this helpful.

Add a Comment