Onomatopoeia and Ssssounds: Reading Response Exercise #103

The format of this reading response exercise is a little different from our usual set up because to do this one, you need to read the instructions first.


Authors use sensory details to help readers understand and experience (vicariously) the setting of a story. Words like roaring or ringing help the reader imagine themselves into the point of view character’s experience. Other sound words include onomatopoeia, specialized words that sound like the sound they describe. Examples include: plop, splat, and thunk.


To complete this reading response exercise, get a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Sit down and read for at least twenty to thirty minutes. Each time you come across a sound word in your reading, list it along with its page number.


When done reading, choose three sound words from your list. Go back to the page where you found each of them and reread the paragraph in which each was included. For each sound word, consider how the author’s choice of that particular word influenced your perception and experience of the story.


Share your responses with your reading partners, or here as a comment on the blog.

Preschool Literacy


Find a picture book that includes lots of sound words. Read it with your preschooler, asking your child to stop you and repeat the sound word each time he or she hears one. (Help her if the task proves too daunting to do on her own.)


When you have finished reading, ask your preschooler which sound word was his favorite. Ask why.

Write the word (and write it big) on a piece of paper then give it to your preschooler to decorate. (Media options can include: crayons, marking pens, stickers, pictures torn out of magazines and glued on… or anything else you can dream up to play with!)

Post your preschooler’s finished project where it can be enjoyed by family and friends.


Fall Football! Ya Gotta Love It, or Do You? Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #77

It’s Fall, and on Thursday and Friday nights the sounds of football echo over our little valley from the high school up on the hill. Today’s Play With Your Words Writing Prompt will have you writing about football, or some other sport if you prefer, from two different points of view.


Brainstorm a list of words you associate with football or the sport of your choice.


Write a description of football (or your other sport) from the point of view of someone who loves it.

Next, write a description of football (or your other sport) from the point of view of someone who hates it.

Revise and edit as necessary. Make certain both descriptions reflect powerful emotions.


When done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners or share here as a comment. Consider the kinds of words you used to evoke the feelings you intended. What was particularly clear or expressive in your writing? What may have seemed weak compared to the rest? Compliment and encourage one another—and enjoy the process. Writing about strong feelings can be fun!

Some Thoughts on the “Best Book of the Month” Posts

Each month as I select a “best book” I am aware that the audience for this blog is a mixed one:

  • teachers of language arts educating students starting as young as preschool age on up to adult education and college age students
  • parents whose children range in age from preschool through high school
  • adult and young adult writers of fiction.

As a result, in spite of the title of every first Wednesday post (“Best Book of the Month”), I am often tempted to select a title that might be most useful or acceptable to any one of the constituencies for whom I blog. But I don’t.

So, from one month to the next you’ve seen novels and nonfiction ranging from young adult fantasies, to adult mysteries, to books on writing, and other genres and age ranges.

As an educator, however, I am aware of how important it is to select reading material that is highly attuned to the interests and needs of a particular class. When I taught, I read aloud to my classes at least twice a week and each class had its own unique book that seemed best suited to its particular mix of individuals. (By the way, these were our favorite parts of the learning day, both the students’ and mine—there is a lot of bonding that can take place in the process of sharing a story.)

In light of my own experience, my concern for educators selecting books for students,  and my desire to be of assistance to all my readers, starting in October, I will begin to provide the age range of each book I select for best book.  (However, don’t let this limit you in your own literary explorations—I found most of my favorite children’s books after I graduated from high school.)

Happy reading! (I think I already know what book will be this month’s favorite, unless I read something truly phenomenal in the next few days!)

And please, tell me what you need as a Literate Lives reader, and let me know if you are a teacher, parent, writer, or any combination of the three!

Unit I Lesson II: hex, sept, oct/octav, non/novem

1.  hex = six

2.  hexagon

3.  sept = seven

4.  September

5.  oct/octav = eight

6.  octave

7.  non/novem = nine

8.  November

Note: The old Julian and Gregorian Calendars started the year with March as the first month, therefore, September was the seventh month, October the eighth, and November the ninth.

Review Roots

9.   uni  =  one

10. bi/di = two

11. tri  =  three

12. quadr = four

13. quin = five

Modified List–use only the roots and the following words.

4.  September

8.  November

Challenge List use the roots and the following words:

2.  hexameter

4.  septilateral

6.  octosyllabic

8.  nonagenarion

Wonderful Words

This week’s quote is one I found both poignant and true. It ‘s from J. Strawser’s 2010 Writers Digest interview with David Morrell (and Ken Follet—however, it’s Morell that’s speaking here):

John Barth, a quite different writer from me, once said that reality is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there. Now this might contradict what I said earlier, that we should write stories that are believable and feel true, but that’s only because we’re hypnotizing people. The truth is, I’m not so crazy about the world I live in. My son died from cancer, my granddaughter died from cancer, I have a lot of reasons to think that reality is not a friendly neighborhood. The stories that I tell distract me, and if i do the job right they distract people from things that are happening to them that they wish had never happened.

Got the Plot? Reading Response Exercise #102

Woo Hoo! We are working steady on plot this weekend. (Check out Friday’s Play With Your Words Writing Prompt for more on plot.)


Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes.


Think about what you have read.


List the plot points that have already occurred and tell what happened with each. Consider:

  • A beginning–a brief introduction to the main character/s and their initial circumstances (This usually includes some depiction of the setting.)
  • An inciting incident—some problem or challenge that intrudes on the main character’s “normal” life.
  • Escalating Action/Conflict—attempts, failures, and learning experiences the main character takes part in while trying to resolve the problem/challenge.
  • A climax—one last trial the main character faces where he or she must make a decision that will change his or her life forever
  • An End—showing the main character experiencing a “new normal

Preschool Literacy


Enjoy a picture book with your preschooler.


Ask your child the following questions:

  • Who was this story about?
  • What happened in this story?
  • What did the main character do that seems important?
  • How did this story end?


Enjoy a nice “book talk” with your preschooler/s.

Plot the Myth of a Word or Name: Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #76


Get out paper and a pen or pencil and brainstorm words or names that you like or that intrigue you for 1-5 minutes (enough to generate a good-sized list) . For example, on a road trip I saw a sign for a city named Appledore. I carried that name around in my head for a number of years before it appeared in a novel I was working on. One year at graduation, I discovered one of my student’s middle names was Lillianna. That stuck with me. I love the words serendipity, gleaming, sparkle, and sunlight. Any of these could be a viable candidate for my list.

After you have generated your list, choose one word or name from it and jot down some ideas for how this word or name could have come into existence.


Now plot a story explaining how this word or name came into existence. Remember a good plot contains:

  1. A beginning–a brief introduction to who the main character is and the initial circumstances or situation in which he or she exists. (This usually includes some depiction of the setting.)
  2. An inciting incident—some problem or challenge that intrudes on the main character’s “normal” life.
  3. Rising Action/Conflict—attempts, failures, and learning experiences the main character takes part in while trying to resolve the problem/challenge.
  4. A climax—one last trial the main character faces where he or she must make a decision that will change his or her life forever.
  5. A denouement—where the consequences of the character’s choice play out.
  6. An End—showing the main character experiencing a “new normal”—and in the  case of this writing prompt, the audience understanding how the word or name that is the subject of the story came into being.

After devising your plot plan, write one page of a scene from your story and revise as needed.


When done, read what you’ve written to your writing partners (both the plot plan and the scene to accompany it) or share these here as a comment. Compliment one another on how well the basics of plot were included in the tale. And of course, tell the author what you liked or what delighted you in each tale.

Have fun on this plotting adventure!

Greek and Latin Roots: Root Extension Exercise

For this exercise, I am using the Unit 1 Lesson 1 Greek and Latin Roots Vocabulary/Spelling roots. However, this exercise can be adapted using other roots.


  1. to help students learn the meanings of this lessons roots
  2. to reinforce understanding that roots are segments of meaning that can be combined with other words and roots to make a variety of words.
  3. to learn one additional root and its meaning.


  1. word lists (see sample). Use the dictionary to collect words for potential use in lists.
  2. dictionaries or access to online dictionaries
  3. pencil/pen and paper.


  1.  Tell the whole class they are going to be doing an exercise to help them learn the meanings of this unit’s roots.
  2. Explain that the class will be divided into groups. Each group will be given a list consisting of roots from the unit along with their definitions, and several words that use these roots. Each group is to look up and write a definition of each word on the list. The students must define each word using vocabulary and language that students at least two levels below themselves could understand. After defining each word, the students are to identify the additional root/word that all the words in their list had in common and hypothesize a definition for it based on the information they have already collected. They are not to look up the meaning of this common root/word. When they are done, they must be prepared to share their conclusions with the class. Explain what information you will expect them to share (see below) and tell them you will post the criteria on the board while they are working.
  3. Divide the class into groups. You will need at least one group for each list. Ideally, groups should range from 2-4 students. It’s okay to have groups working on identical lists if necessary as long as each of the roots of this unit are represented on at least one list.
  4.  Group work time. Allow the students about ten to fifteen minutes to work. As the students begin working, post the instructions for what they are to do and what they are to report on the board.


Call the class back to order and instruct the students to listen as each group:

  1.  1. Reads to the class the roots and words from their list.
  2. 2. Reads to the class the definition of each word on their list.
  3. 3. Identifies the additional root/word from their list and their hypothesis regarding its meaning.
  4. 4. Explains how they reached their conclusion. (“We looked it up,” is not a valid answer.)


Because this is an exercise designed to facilitate learning, score it with a participation score. Do not mark down for right or wrong answers. Score only for participation and good faith effort.


Writers, Read…Read, Read, Read

I have been saving this post, “4 Reasons for Making Time to Read,”  by Dayna Lorenta, from Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents, since  June.

In it, Lorentz shares four ways reading has made her a better writer. Reading, she says:

  1. Nourishes your writing
  2. Builds confidence
  3. Enables Revision
  4. Helps you sell your writing.

Click through and read the whole article. Share some ways reading has helped you as a writer then kick back and enjoy that novel you’ve so eager to get into. If anyone accuses you of being lazy, just tell them, “I’m developing my writing skills .”