I wanted to give my middle-schooler some writing practice this summer in addition to her reading. I am a big believer in writing for comprehension but finding a way to make it
not boring fun is a challenge. My solution was this handy writing prompts in a jar.
Even the cat wants to get in on the action
I made index cards with the various writing prompts on them. Everytime a book is finished the goal is to draw a writing prompt from the jar and, using the novel, write a few paragraphs over whatever is on the card.
Fancy schmancy index cards
Here are the prompts I included:
*Did the main character make wise decisions? Write about what you would do differently.
*Look up the word ‘Haiku’. Pick 3 chapters in the book and summarize each of them into a Haiku poem.
*What point of view is used in the story? Pick a paragraph that features the main character and re-write it in a different point of view.
*Pretend you are writing a news article over your story. Tell ‘who, what,when, where and why’ in two paragraphs.
*Find information on the author. Write a 2 paragraph biography summarizing what you learned.
*Describe the setting in the story and then write a paragraph describing a setting that is opposite.
*Pick a secondary character and write how he/she was important.
*Tell about a problem the main Character had to solve. How did he/she solve it?
Folded neatly awaiting great things
Many apologies for the time away. Between finishing up my semester at school and the children finishing theirs, there hasn’t been much time- or material- to blog about. However, it’s summer break and that means lots of learning fun. I thought I would write a quick post on one of our favorite games: Story Cubes. There are many ways to use these little gems but I thought I would post on how we use them to teach not only creative writing skills but handwriting practice as well.
We start off by rolling the cubes.
Then I had my daughter arrange the picture cubes in whatever order she wanted. This is the outline for our story.
Each cube has six pictures, so the possibilities for stories is pretty endless. Each cube is used to tell a portion of the story and somehow they all end up having to fit together. Encourage your child to decide which picture she wants to be the subject of the story- it’s easier if this cube goes first. You can sit around and narrate stories but I like to use the cubes as a springboard to actually create their own story books. Here, I had my daughter narrate the first page by using the first cube. I dictated into cursive onto a separate page for her to copy from:
Now I had her take her notebook and, using a pencil first so that she could correct any mistakes, let her copy her sentence into her journal and then illustrate a picture that went with it.
(As you can see, Spike is a pretty sad guy. But don’t worry: on the next page he decides to go skydiving.)
You can continue this for several days, letting your child write one or two pages a day. In a week’s time, you will have a finished story, a whole lotta’ learning and another
piece of clutter precious memory to keep
Here’s a simple game that we like to call ‘Add ‘em up’. If it is combined with some good natured competition, it can be a fun exercise in operational math.
The rules are very easy- each player takes turn rolling two dice and then adding those up (I prefer to use equations) on a line in their column. On the next go around, each person continues with their turn, rolling only one die, and adding this number to the answer on the previous line. At the end of a predetermined number of lines, the person who came out with the largest number ‘wins’. This can be used with any sort of operation- subtraction, multiplication, division, by adjusting the rules slightly (in subtraction or division you would have to start out with a large number first) or would be great with a die that has the different operational symbols on it. The same technique that works with reading or spelling (the more children see a word written
Pay no attention to the chipped nail polish!
correctly, the easier it is to spell that word) can work with math as well. The more a child has to add numbers together and sees these number facts before her, the more they will lodge in their memory.
I’m on a parenting kick on the blog lately- forgive me, lol. But I really enjoyed this article and thought others might as well. It basically sums up my philosophy on parenting a large family, just with concrete examples and in much loftier words than I could produce. As a general disclaimer- because I post something doesn’t mean that I agree in it’s entirety. It means that I have found some merit in its ideas. I cannot judge her for her ‘white lie’ to her kids because I admit to doing it myself on occasion. I also do not agree with how this lady handled the issue with her husband. However, as a general rule, managing a large family takes a bit of cunning, creativity and a willingness to look at your individual situation to find a solution that works for the organization as a whole. I think that the criticism she has received on the whole comes from people not understanding how difficult it really is to balance a large family with highly independent and spirited kids with a demanding job for one or both parents, or as in my case and this lady’s- school work. Take it or dismiss it as rubbish. But we all do what we can in order to keep peace and harmony in our homes as much as possible. :
How Machiavelli Saved my Family
I am going to post what is not considered to be a very popular viewpoint these days. I may take some criticism over it, but it is a chance I’m willing to take. You see, I’m tired of all this ‘kum ba yah’ stuff they spend time on teaching my kids in school. And then they have the audacity to still expect excellence? How do you reconcile telling kids they should believe they are no better than the next person, that they have to cooperate with mediocrity, embrace it even, that they have to accept everyone’s viewpoint even if by way of reason, they disagree with it, and then be mad when the same kids aren’t competing for grades, aren’t giving honest effort? When we tell our kids these things, what we are in fact telling them is that our culture has no tolerance for gifted people, that we have no tolerance for standing out in a crowd, for being the best at what they do and to be proud of it. It’s people like that that create the jobs in our country. My daughter asked me the other day what should motivate her. I asked if she was the top student in class and she said ‘no.’ So then I said ‘why not?’ There’s your motivation. Be the best. If you are not the best, then you have motivation to keep trying. To heck with whether it wins you friends or not. If people cannot accept you as a person, in spite of your abilities, then perhaps you need to move on.
THIS is what we should be telling our children, if we are in fact, preparing them for the harsh future we are leaving for them. We are turning them out into a world that is fierce with competition, one where they are not guaranteed a job after college, where only the best and brightest will succeed. And we are teaching them no skills for dealing with this world.
Now, this doesn’t negate our human ability to be empathetic to others, to try and understand them, to do what we can to help if we are able. What it does do is put an emphasis on the need for them to be personally responsible for what they do in life. To succeed by their own merits and to not hinder them as society from achieving. We can respect another’s viewpoint. We can, as Aristotle said ‘entertain a thought without accepting it’. But this mama is going to refute any and all attempts at lumping my children in with the whole. It is my responsibility to give my children the tools and skills they are going to need to succeed.
Off the proverbial soapbox for now…
I am starting a new series on the blog all about ideas for continuing learning during the summer. These ideas can also work well for after school reinforcement as well as added into home-school curriculum. Today Little L and I did a labeled drawing. This is something I have used with my kids throughout the years to help teach sight reading, handwriting and art. Have your child sit down with their art supplies to construct a picture. When they are done, have them tell you about it. Have them identify items in the picture and then label them. Help with spelling as needed. For older kids you can get into some grammar by talking about what words are nouns and having them add a few adjectives to describe the objects or verbs to tell what the subjects are doing in the picture. For younger kids, have them name the items they have drawn and then ‘dot’ the words out for them to trace. Then go through, point to each word they have written, and let them tell you what it says. Keep their work in a notebook and go through the pages from time to time together to see if your child can still recognize the words.
I made these this morning and they were SO GOOD. In fact, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF MY KIDS ATE THEM. That’s 5 out of 5 children that ate them for breakfast. I figured it would be considered a crime to not share them with everyone else.
Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Muffins
1 cup of flour (all purpose, whole wheat or a 50/50 mixture)
1/2 – 3/4 cups of creamy peanut butter of your choice
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
about 1/2 cup of water
Mix it all in a bowl, spoon into muffin cups and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until done in center. Makes about 14-16 muffins.