Narrative Review of Yesterday: Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #43

What was the best thing that happened yesterday? Was it a big deal? Was it a little moment you savored like a sweet taste on your tongue?

Write a narrative account describing your experience of the best thing that happened yesterday.

When done, share what you’ve written with your writing partners. Compliment one another on the strengths in their writing and the little details that make the narrative come alive.

Share your narrative as a comment. Everybody seems to be dealing with a lot of tough stuff recently. Maybe your words can provide a moment of good cheer.

Preschool Literacy:

Get out paper and writing utensils and ask your preschooler what was the best thing that happened to him or her yesterday. As she responds, write down what she says. Ask follow-up questions so you can construct a little story. When you are done, read it back to him, pointing to the words as you say them to reinforce the one to one correspondence between written and spoke word. Together, use felt pens, crayons, stickers, or pictures cut out of magazines to decorate the story. Now post it somewhere your child can enjoy it and bring others to enjoy it with her.

Introduction to Greek and Latin Roots Vocabulary and Spelling

When I earned my Master’s in Teaching, Greek and Latin Roots Vocabulary and Spelling  study was the rage in the middle schools of our district, and when I did my student teaching, I continued the program as laid out by my mentor teacher. By the end of the year, I was hooked. Why? Latin, after all, is a dead language.

But is it? Latin, as a spoken language may be extinct, but English (and French, and Spanish, and all kinds of other European languages are littered with its bones!) The same goes for Greek, even as it continues a living breathing language to this very day.

For students who have been doing the same old spelling drills for years, I found the vocabulary/spelling study of words using classical roots was a great way to provide a little variety, build their vocabularies and word deciphering skills, and continue to reinforce patterns of spelling that occur in longer and more complex words.

Not content (never content…but that’s another story) simply to use my mentor teacher’s program, I started doing research, building a list of roots and words of my own, and creating a Greek and Latin Root Vocabulary/Spelling program that I refined, year after year.

Today, I’ll just briefly introduce the basics of the program. It features:

  • A list of new roots, their definitions, and a sample word using each root presented every two weeks.
  • The use of a pretest, of just the spelling of the words, to determine who needs a simplified spelling list, who needs a challenge list, and who will find the general list just right for their level of development.
  • A review list of the roots and their definitions from the past two units.
  • Time—twice in class and once as homework—for the students to work with the roots and their meanings, and their words.
  • A test at the end of the two weeks. It is first administered like a spelling test for the words. Then, with roots provided either on the computer/overhead, whiteboard, or a preprinted sheet, the students are required to write in the meaning of each root from memory.

My goal this school year is to provide you with twelve lists of roots and words for your middle level students. (For older elementary-age kids you might consider using the simplified list, if you’re working with high school students, perhaps the challenge list.)

In later posts I will share a number of the methods I adopted and devised to help my students learn these roots and make them their own.

I hope you find this little jaunt into word history as intriguing as I did.

Watch, tomorrow, for your first list of Greek and Latin Roots Vocabulary and Spelling Words.

Drawing Inferences and Predicting: Reading Response Exercise #55

Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes. When you are done, think about what you have read.

  • What do you think will happen next in your story?
  • What clues in your reading led you to develop this theory?
  • Write your ideas down on an index card and tuck them in the back of the book. When you finish the novel, check yourself. How many of your predictions came true?

Preschool Literacy: Read a story to your preschooler. About halfway through, stop and ask her what she thinks will happen next. When he tells you, ask why he thinks that. After you are done exploring ideas, read the rest of the book. Talk about what you thought would happen and what actually happened. How are they different and the same?

Write about an Unexpected Gift: Play With Your Words Prompt #42

This week’s Play With Your Words Prompt involves writing a scene around a character who receives an unexpected gift.

I saw Mr. Popper’s Penguins last spring. In the film, Popper’s dying father sent him one incredible gift that definitely changed his son’s life.

Dream up the most bizarre thing you can imagine that could be delivered in a package.

Write a character description of the person who would send such an item. Bonus points if you also write a description for the person he or she is going to send it to.

Now write the scene in which some special someone receives this unexpected gift.

When you are done, share your scenes with your writing partners. Compliment one another on their creative details, use of logic, writing strengths and the things you simply enjoy. Please, share your writing as comment. It would be so fun to see what different people have come up with.

Preschool Literacy: get a box and show it to your child. Ask him what you could send in that box. Brainstorm a list of ideas and write them down. Read the list back to your preschooler, pointing to the words as you say them to reinforce the one to one correspondence between written and spoken words. Ask the child to choose one item to think about then ask her who she would like to send that item to. Ask your preschooler to tell you what they would like to say in a note to that person if they were really going to send the item. Write down his message on a fresh sheet of paper. Read the note back to the child when done (again, pointing to the words as you say them to reinforce the one to one correspondence). Imagine together how the recipient of this unusual package would respond. Get silly. Have fun.

Teacher’s File Drawer—Writing Workshop Interest Inventory

A Writing Workshop framework provides a marvelous environment for individualized writing instruction. As an English/Language Arts and Creative Writing teacher I worked to implement Writing Workshops in my classroom and over the years developed a number of tools to support them, one of which is a Writing Workshop Interest Inventory.

What is a Writing Workshop Interest Inventory?

It was a worksheet I created that poses a number of questions for students to consider and respond to. Here’s a sampling of the questions I asked my students to think about:

  • What am I interested in?
  • What things do I especially like?
  • What things do I especially dislike?
  • What makes me different from other people?
  • What do I like about myself?
  • What do I dislike about myself?
  • What do I care about most?
  • What would I most like to know?
  • What would I like to do?
  • Where would I like to go?
  • What exciting things have I done?
  • Do I know any interesting people, and what is it that makes each one interesting?
  • What would I like to change at home?
  • What would I like to change at school?
  • What would I like to change in the world?
  • What could I share with others?
  • What are some things that make me happy?
  • What are some things that make me sad?
  • What are some things that make me angry?
  • What are some things that make me afraid?
  • What do I care about?
  • What could I teach someone else?
  • What advice or insight could I share with others?

These questions are designed to get students thinking about what they would like to write about.

The second piece of the interest inventory is a reading questionnaire. I asked the student to score each of the following genres on a scale of 1-5 (1=I don’t like this kind of reading material and 5=I love this kind of reading material). These are the genres I had them ranked:

  • Action Stories
  • Advice Books and Magazines
  • Adventure stories
  • Arts and Craft Books and Magazines
  • Autobiographies
  • Biographies
  • Blogs
  • Books and Magazine Articles about Animals
  • Books and Magazine Articles about Space
  • Books and Magazine Articles about Archeology
  • Books and Stories About Sports
  • Contemporary Fiction
  • Diaries and Journals
  • The Encyclopedia
  • Fables
  • Fairy Tales
  • Family Stories
  • Fan Fiction
  • Fantasy Fiction
  • Folklore and Legends
  • Game Guides
  • Historical Fiction
  • History Books and Magazine Articles
  • How-to Books and Magazine Articles
  • Humorous Stories
  • Jokes and Riddles
  • Music Lyrics
  • Mysteries
  • Mythology
  • Nonfiction Sports Books and Magazines
  • Plays
  • Poetry
  • Realistic Animal Stories
  • Reviews (Music, Books, Movies, Technology…)
  • Romantic Stories
  • Science Books and Magazine Articles
  • Science Fiction
  • Scripts
  • Talking Animal Stories
  • Tragedy
  • Web Pages
  • Web Zines

The idea behind this list is to help your students consider a variety of ideas and topics about which they could write.

Over the years I added to and subtracted from the potential number of responses to the inventory, depending on what class, grade level, etc. I was teaching. I usually allowed at least half a class period for students to fill out their inventories—ten minutes, initially in which they do so quietly on their own. For the remainder of the period I allowed them to discuss their responses with their friends and neighbors (and hopefully get more ideas from each other). Sometimes, at the end of the period,  I’d have them choose a response to share with the class.

I usually gave the students a single handout for the assignment with the questions on one side and the reading interest evaluation on the back.

When students were done, I collected and scored their inventories. In scoring, I did not require them to answer every question, but for full credit I expected 90% to be answered, 80%, and 70% for lower passing scores.

When I returned the inventories to the students I asked them to place them in their writing folders. Then, when I periodically checked writing folders, they were expected to still have the inventory in it (to inspire writing ideas throughout the year), and were penalized points, but allowed to fill out another, if they did not.

A Writing Workshop Interest Inventory provides a good tool for solving the problem of students complaining they don’t know what to write. If they can’t seem to think of anything on any given workshop day, simply tell them to pick one item off their interest inventory and do a 10 or 15-minute freewrite. Hopefully in the process they will be able to light on something that excites them and produce writing that comes from their hearts.

Influencers/Extend and Connect: Reading Response Exercise #54

Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes. When you are done, think about what you have read.

How do the following influence your response to and understanding of the story?

  • your family
  • your home
  • your neighborhood

Write down or discuss your responses with your reading partners.

Preschool Literacy: Read a story with your preschooler. When done, ask the child how the family in the story is different from and the same as his. Ask the same question regarding the main character’s home and the neighborhood in which the story is set. How did the differences and similarities make the child feel. Discuss her observations.

Literary Language Guessing Game and Greek and Latin Roots.

First of all, my apologies. I had intended to launch the Greek and Latin Roots program yesterday, but I got bogged down with a writing project and ran out of time to prepare. However, I do not intend to abandon the idea. Please watch for its launch Thursday, September 29.

Today, however, is Friday, not Thursday, and it’s a writing prompt you are expecting to find here so, read on for Play With Your Words #41.

Pick a noun—person, place, or thing and write a one-paragraph description of it without naming the actual noun. In your description, be sure to use:

  • Some onomatopoeia (words that sound like the sound they describe)
  • A simile (a comparison using the words like or as)
  • Up for a bigger challenge? Include a metaphor as well (a comparison that simply says one thing is the other thus highlighting their similarities)

When you are done, without telling your writing partners what you are describing, read your description. Let them guess what inspired it. Allow each person to share. Compliment the strengths in each other’s writing and the things you liked. Share your description as comment, skipping several lines at the end, before you clue us in to your inspiration,  so we can have fun guessing as well.

Fiction: Why Read It?

I began Literate Lives with the intention of including writing prompts and reading response exercises. My original plan had been to include material that addresses both fiction and non-fiction reading and writing. However, as my blog has evolved, I realize I lean heavily in the direction of fiction.

Because of my English/Language Arts teaching experience and my desire to help teachers in the classroom and home, I feel a strong obligation to include writing prompts for all modes of writing—expository, narrative, persuasive, and imaginative. Young people, and adults, need to practice these skills. Yet as a fiction writer with a blog audience partially made up of fiction writers, I have consciously decided to lean more heavily in the direction of fiction.

Now, with over a year of blogging behind me, I must confess my reading response exercises are all tailored for the reading of fiction. I had initially intended of broaden my offerings, but just never got around to it. Why? Two reasons. First, I love fiction. I love reading fiction. I love writing fiction. I love sharing fiction. But there is more to my reasoning than just personal pleasure. I believe the reading of fiction is a valuable practice for young people, old people, and everyone in between. With that in mind, I’d like to let others whose words have inspired me explain why.

In her 2010 Newbery Medal acceptance speech, Rebecca Stead described her own reading journey:

When I read books, I wasn’t alone in the rooms of my own mind. I was running up and down other people’s stairs and finding secret places behind their closets. The people on the other side of the door had things I couldn’t have, like sisters, or dragons, and they shared those things with me. And they also had things I did have, like feelings of self-doubt and longing, and they named those things for me.

Just to reinforce Rebecca’s final words, consider this from Eudora Welty:

Great fiction shows us not how to conduct our behavior but how to feel. Eventually it may show us how to face our feelings and face our actions and to have new inklings about what they mean. A good novel of any year can initiate us into our own new experience.

In Character and Viewpoint, which I recently read and very much enjoyed, Orson Scott Card writes:

We never fully understand other people’s motives in real life. In fiction, however, we can help our readers understand our characters’ motives with clarity, sometimes even certainty. This is one of the reasons why people read fiction—to come to some understanding of why other people act the way they do.

Reading fiction builds self understanding and empathy. Through fiction I have experienced countless lifetimes, careers, people, places, and relationships. I would be so much poorer without the many riches the reading of fiction has brought me, as would be my understanding of myself and others.

Read fiction. Read your kids fiction, and help them find the genres they love, so they will read fiction too.

*Are you a fiction reader, fiction writer, or both?

Sympathizing with Characters: Reading Response Exercise #53

Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes. When you are done, think about what you have read.

Write about or discuss a time in your story that made you feel sorry for a particular character. Include:

  • Who the character is.
  • What happened to this character?
  • Why you felt sorry for him or her.

When done, share your responses with your reading partners.

Preschool Literacy:

Read aloud to your preschooler/s. When done ask, “Who do you feel sorry for in this story?

Discuss why your child or children feels sorry for the character. Guide them to consider whether there was any new hope for him or her by the end of the story.