Play With Your Words Writing Prompt: Describe a Unicorn–There’s More Options Than You May Think

Play With Your Words Writing Prompt, literatelives.wordpress.com, http://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2017/11/how-many-horns-does-a-unicorn-have.html

 

Writing to a prompt is a great way to exercise writing skills. Today’s prompt was inspired by a post I read recently on the British Library’s Medieval Manuscripts Blog, “How many horns does a unicorn have?”

 

Prompt

Go to: to http://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2017/11/how-many-horns-does-a-unicorn-have.html.  Read the article and enjoy the illustrations from medieval manuscripts ranging from the 1500’s to the 1600’s.

I found this article delightful and was both surprised and inspired to discover so much variety in the “unicorn species.”

Prompt: Use the writing process to write a description of a unicorn. Use some of the surprising details from the article, dream up your own.

Pre-write

Brainstorm a list of characteristics for your unicorn–both in appearance and nature. Throw down anything you think of. The list doesn’t commit you to using any of them.

Write–Rough Draft

Describe your unicorn.

Revise/Edit

Look back at your description.

Do you use any words that are kind of bland? Substitute in more specific words.

Are there places where a comparison might enhance your reader’s understanding? Use metaphors or similes to create vivid word picture’s in your reader’s mind.

Ready to share? Not yet. Once you have finished revising, proofread your description. Do you use uppercase letters at the beginnings of sentences? Do you use end punctuation at the end? (I often skip these when I’m doing a rough draft because my mind is so focussed on creating.) How about your grammar and punctuation? Remember, writing conventions help to make your writing more easily understood and therefore you communication more effective.

Publish/Share

Share your description with your classmates, friends, or family. If they have also written a description, compliment them on the strengths of their writing. Encourage one another.

* Want to do this exercise with a pre-reader writer in order to improve their pre-literacy skills? Read the article to them and point out the pictures. Then ask them to imagine and describe their own unicorn. If you’d like, write their description down as they create it, then read it back aloud, pointing to each word as you pronounce it. This reinforced the one-to-one correspondence between the spoken word and words on the page.

Your Turn

Share your response in the comments box. If you share yours, I’ll share mine. Let’s encourage one another.

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Winter Holiday Literacy Activity: Borrowed Poems

Winter Holiday Activity literatelives.wordpress.comOne of the things I love doing with my students, which you can do either in the classroom or at home for fun, is write what I call Borrowed Poems.

What is a Borrowed Poem?

A borrowed poem is a new poem created by analyzing and playing with an already existing poem or song. The winter holiday season is so jam-packed with so many familiar songs that it lends itself well for this activity.

How to Write a Borrowed Poem

First, select the song you wish to play with. For this exercise, I have chosen a traditional favorite: “Deck the Halls.” If you ou your student do not know the words to the song, you will need to access them.

Observe and analyze the first verse of the song.

Deck the halls with boughs of holly.
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La
‘Tis the season to be jolly
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La

What do I notice?

The first sentence is an imperative statement, instructing the listener or an unknown participant to do something. As such, it begins with the verb, “deck,” meaning to decorate.

I also notice this song uses an ABAB rhyme scheme: the two A rhymes are  “holly” and “jolly,” the two B, part of a repeated refrain, repeat the final “la.”

Finally I notice the rhythm of the verse: Dum da Dum da Dum da DumDum. Since I will use the refrain as is, I have no need to analyze this. It may be helpful to select a song that does have some repeated verse or refrain that can be incorporated into the poem.

Plan, Prewrite, Compose

Jot down any ideas you have for your new poem:

  • Who is the narrator?
  • What is the setting?
  • What is the poem about?
  • What are some rhyming words that may suit your intent?

My first thoughts were that I wanted my poem to be about getting all dressed up and doing something fun. At first I considered making it a New Year’s Eve poem. However, my imagination, right now, is rather caught up in brightly colored lights and Christmas fun. The “lights” concept gave me one of my first rhyming words: “glow.” (I love light, especially in the dark days of December!)

Thinking about lights got me thinking about all the decorated houses in my neighborhood. I thought maybe the “fun” activity in my poem can be going out to view all the lights.

However, once I got to thinking about going out–outdoors–the traditional practice of caroling popped into my head. I decided caroling would be my activity.

And once I got to thinking about caroling, I thought about neighbors and all the ways we love and serve each other through the year.

With all those ideas in mind, it was time to write.

Write Your Poem

Prepare yourself with plenty of paper, a pencil, and possibly an eraser (although often in the midst of drafting, I don’t have the patience to erase and just cross words out and go on).

Do not expect perfection the first time out. Initially, I was determined to include a babysitter in the caroling rounds, but discovered the word just had too many syllables. After much switching words in and out, I at last settled on a cat sitter instead.

Even once you think your poem is done, don’t ink out a final copy right away. Set it aside and do something else. The idea for the cat sitter did not come to me until I had washed the dishes and gone upstairs to put away clothes.

Edit and Revise

Go back and look at your poem. Play with sound of the words using alliteration, assonance, consonance, and repetition.

Edit for grammar and punctuation. Don’t be intimidated. A sentence is a sentence whether it’s written as prose or a line in a poem. However, if you wish to get creative with grammar and punctuation, a poem can be a good place to do it.

Publish

Once you feel your poem is done, “publish” it. Publishing can come in many forms–inking out a final handwritten copy, entering it into a word-processing program and printing it out, doing either of the former and decorating the final copy with stickers, borders, zen-doodling, or clip art, or mounting it on some holiday paper.

Publishing also means sharing. Maybe you want to read it to family or friends one evening after dinner, post it on a bulletin board, or write it into a card.

Here is my poem:

Caroling in Oregon

Dress yourselves in clothes that glow,
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La,
Tonight, out caroling we’ll go,
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La.
First to Jim, who shares his garden bounty,
Fa-la-la La-la-la La La La.
Next, to Sue, best baker in the county,
Fa-la-la-la La,  La-la La La.

Santa songs for little Sam,
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La,
Angel’s carols for Mrs. Lamb,
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La.
Cross the street to cat-sitter Jayne’s
Fa-la-la La-la-la La La La,
All while hoping it won’t rain,
Fa-la-la-la La,  La-la La La.

Your Turn

Did you try it? Did you and your kids have any fun? Please use the comment box below to share the titles of other songs that have a refrain, or, even better, your own creation. Enjoy this week with the young people in your life and borrowed holiday poems.

Reading Response/Writing Prompt for Characterization

Characterization Reading Response Writing PromptSome of my most viewed posts are the ones I create for use in the classroom. Thank you, teachers! However reading response exercises are not only useful in teaching reading, but for helping fiction writers develop their stories. Today’s focus: Characterization.

Characterization Reading Response

What is the main character (or one of the supporting characters) in today’s reading grateful for?

This question helps to build students inferential reading skills, as it is not particularly likely their selection will have dealt with the topic of gratitude. Students will need to look for clues in the text that help them understand what the character likes, what the character longs for, what the character values, in order to infer what this character is grateful for.

Characterization Writing Prompt

What is the main character, or a supporting character in your story or novel grateful for?

Strong characters are created, not when we sit down and list their traits, values, and preferences, but when these things are demonstrated through your character’s actions, words, thoughts, and feelings–especially sensory feelings. This is the season for Thanksgiving, so leverage that holiday feeling by imagining what your main character or other characters are grateful for.

Your Turn

Can you share what you are reading? How about providing the author and title of the work, and one of the things a main character is grateful for.

Writing? Whose character did you develop today? What is he/she grateful for?

I love to hear from you. Happy reading and writing, and thanks for joining me here at Literate Lives!

 

November Fall Gratitude Leaves Classroom Project

November Gratitude Leaves, Teachers File Drawer, literatelives.wordpress.com

Tomorrow begins one of my favorite class activities of the whole school year–the daily posting of “gratitude leaves” on our windows.

Why do I love it so? Well, visually, the month of November in Oregon is terribly gloomy. With this practice, the gloom outdoors is gradually obscured by brightly colored leaves.

Even more so, here in the U.S., Thanksgiving falls in November, and so it seems appropriate to focus our thinking on things for which we are grateful.

Most significantly, Studies have shown that people who are grateful tend to live happier, healthier lives. I want the best for my students, and as the holidays make life more hectic, I need to remember I have so much to be grateful for!

What are Gratitude Leaves?

They are individual paper leaves, that we as staff cut out in a variety of shapes and colors. Each day, at the beginning of the school day, we pass out a single leaf to each students and every adult present. Then everyone writes one thing they are grateful for and tapes their leaves to the window. We continue to do this until we break for Thanksgiving.

By the time Thanksgiving break comes our windows glow with beautiful autumn colors as the western light shines through them.

My Gratitude Leaves, 2016

Here is what I wrote on my leaves last year:

  • I am grateful to have a husband who loves me and who is my friend and partner in life.
  • I am thankful Emmy snuggled with David and I to watch the family Halloween movie.
  • I am thankful that using the treadmill yesterday woke me up enough to get my work done.
  • I am thankful for my Grandparents and the way their love helped shape who I am.
  • I am grateful to be a child of God.
  • I am thankful for my delightful Grandkids.
  • I am grateful for my college education.
  • I am grateful to have a mother who loved to read, that learning to read came easily to me, and I have had ample access to books.
  • I am thankful for my charming, delightful, funny, marvelous grandchildren
  • I am thankful for chocolate.
  • I am thankful that I know how to read and have access to books!
  • I am thankful to be able to come back to work.
  • I am grateful for parents who love me.
  • Today is my writing day!

Your Turn

Today is my writing day! However, before I move on

Alack and Alas…A Change of Schedule

New Blog Schedule: Literate Lives

Alack and Alas…

It has been fun blogging twice per week through my recovery from mono and over the summer, however, like summer itself, this too must come to an end.

While I love blogging, sharing my life, my reading, my love of writing, and my encouragement for parents and educators, I will be returning to the class room as an educator and will therefore have less free time for blogging.

A Temporary New Schedule

Next week I will begin blogging once per week, and next week’s post will come out on Tuesday.

However…

I will only continue the Tuesday schedule if I do not hear from you.

Your Turn

On what day of the week would you prefer to see Literate Lives bounce into your inbox? Please voice your opinion using the comment box below. Based on your preferences, I will determine and begin blogging on your chosen day for posting.

Uh-Oh, Summer Reading Lists Unread!

Uh, Oh, Summer Reading: Debby Zigenis Lowery's Literate LivesWow! It is already mid August! Did your students come home in June with a list of books they needed to read over the summer? How’s that going?

I know how rapidly summer sneaks by, so I wanted to give you three tips to help get your kids reading their required material and share a link to an article on Brightly that also addresses this problem.

Ideas to Promote Summer Reading

Go on a “reading picnic,” or 10! With summer evenings so delightful, why not pack up dinner, a picnic blanket or folding chairs, and copies of the kids’ required reading. (Bring your own book too!) Eat dinner, read for a while–everyone–including you, then enjoy a treat like playing in the playground together, a bike ride, a favorite dessert, or a trip out for ice cream. (P.S. Reading picnics can take place any time of day, even in your own back yard!)

Enjoy some audible literature–the low tech way! As you drive around doing errands, on outings, and even on a final summer trip, bring along required reading and ask your kids to read to you. Stop at the end of each chapter. Discuss the story events or information, and build you children’s ability to make predictions (a genuine, academic reading skill!) by speculating together about what might happen next and why you think your predictions might turn out.

Help you child find a reading pen pal. It could be a friend who still has to read the same book, an interested relative–grandparents are often good for this, but so might be aunts and uncles, or even volunteer yourself. Agree on how often your student will write to their pen pal about what they are reading and provide them with stationery and stamps. Encourage the pen pals to write back and ask questions abut the book that your reader can respond to after additional reading. If you are going to be your child’s reading pen pal, maybe you could make a “mailbox” together by decorating a shoe or cereal box. When each of you finishes writing a letter, you can put it in the box, and you can both check the box regularly for new responses.

Still haven’t found the strategy for your family?

Check Out this Brightly Article

You can read Brightly’s article, “I Know What You Did(n’t Read) Last Summer,” here.

Your Turn

What are some strategies you’ve used in the past to complete, or help you kids complete, summer reading assignments?

What are some of you favorite locations for reading in the summertime?

Family Literacy and Fun: Paint Chip Poetry

Family Literacy and Fun: Paint Chip Poetry

Need to make a run to the hardware or paint store this summer? Be sure to take your children along, or at least go with them in mind. Why? Because then you can have fun writing together creating paint chip poetry.

What’s paint chip poetry? Basically, its poetry written using words from a paint chip. There are several variations on the process.

 

Step 1: Gather Paint Chips

As I said, take the kids along and let them select their own paint chip cards, or, if that’s not possible, select a few paint chip cards for each child, keeping in mind their favorite colors and interests–the colors of their favorite stuffed animal, school, or team. Don’t forget to grab a few cards for yourself. Modeling your interest in writing and literacy is one of the best ways to encourage your kids to engage in literacy activities.

Step 2: Choose a Process

Since I lost the link for the article I read on this, I researched a few paint chip writing activities, and there were several variations on the process available. Here’s three to choose from:

  • You and your kids can make up similes (statements using the words “like” or “as”) for each color name on their selected card. You can even write the similes directly over the swatch of color.
  • You and your kids can write a patterned poem using a paint chip color.
  • You and your kids can select from grade/age appropriate options and write your poems accordingly.

Be sure to have plenty of paper and writing utensils on hand.

Step 3: Explain and Write

  • Give you children their paint chip cards.
  • Explain what you are going to do. Maybe even do a sample together from one of your cards.
  • Turn your kids loose to write for a set period of time. (For children not yet old enough to write, let them dictate their thoughts, and you write them down. Then read the “poem” back to your child, pointing to each word as you read it to reinforce the one-to-one correspondence between the written and spoken word.)

Step 4: Gather and Read

Call your kids back to a central area and have fun reading your poems to each other.

Step 5: Celebrate!

Maybe afterwards you can have a colorful snack, like rainbow sherbert, cupcakes with multi-colored sprinkles, or 9 layer bean dip and multi-colored tortilla chips.

Try using your color words in conversation over the next few days. Have fun with these words.

For Teachers

The links above were written with the classroom in mind. Also, if you search “Paint Chip Poetry” you will find still more options to take with you back to school in September.

Your Turn

How did your paint chip poetry session go? Please use the comments section to share some of the poems you or your children created. Now’s your chance to brag on those little ones!

Did you find some interesting color words on your paint chips? Share the color names that caught your fancy. It would be so cool to end up with a list of delightful names.

 

Play Your Words Writing Prompt: A Bag of Bugs–Alliterative Writing Prompt

David Kirk’s Sunny Patch for Melissa and Doug Bag of Bugs

For today’s writing prompt, it’s time to get a little silly.

Last weekend my husband and I went garage sale-ing, a favorite summertime activity. At one particular home that had a titan’s cornucopia of crafting supplies, I found a bag of wooden, brightly painted, bug pins and I bought it. When I got in the car I said, “I love my bag of bugs!” and my husband started riffing on other alliterative insects in containers. Laughing, he finally suggested I use some of them as a writing prompt. So,  here they are:

Write a poem, paragraph-length description, or short story using one of the alliterative terms below (or you can make up your own.)

a bag of bugs
a sack of snails
a box of beetles

Have fun! Let your inner child out to play. It is important that we not only encourage our kids and ourselves to build writing skills, but we remember that writing can be fun.

And please, oh please, use the comment space below to share your response or riff further on alliterative containers for insects.

A Book Lover’s Valentine–International Book Giving Day

Purple WritingHappy Valentine’s Day!

Greetings my book-loving friends! While most of the world is busy celebrating (or mourning) Valentine’s Day, here is an international holiday that I think should get a lot more promotion. Today is International Book Giving Day!

While I like sweet cards from my hubby, chocolate, and roses, if you really want to give me something I’ll love, give me a book. Don’t you agree?

International Book Giving Day

I love that the emphasis on this holiday is not on getting, but giving. (I know, Valentine’s involve giving, too. However, so many people get so fixated on the receiving).

So who do you know that would be delighted by the gift of a book?

My List

  • my four adorable grandchildren who I love to encourage to read, write, and draw
  • a sci-fi writing friend (I reread Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book over Christmas and thought over and over as I read that I needed to pass it on to her. However, I felt conflicted, and as I didn’t see her, loved the book, and didn’t want to part with it, I did nothing. The solution: give her a copy of her own!)
  • my hubby: it is my great joy that he looks to me to be his personal librarian!
  • the teen parents who attend my school–I and several other staff members use Scholastic Reading Clubs‘ $1 and $2 deals to keep a box stocked with picture books that our students can take home for their kids. I frequently remind them that one of the best things they can do to help their children succeed is read to them.

Your Turn

Using the comment box below, tell us who you would give a book to. Even better, tell what book and why. After all, as book lovers ourselves, aren’t we all looking for the next great read?

Send a Card to a Friend

radient-flower-cardToday is National Send a Card to a Friend Day. What a great way to promote the enjoyment of literacy (not to mention an opportunity for creativity)! Wouldn’t we all love getting a card from a friend? So, what might you do?

Send a Card To a Friend–Where to get the Card

Obvious resources are just using any stationary or blank notecards you already own.

Other options include making cards. Click on the link to my “Card Gallery” board on Pinterest. There are lots of ideas there. However, you do not need to do anything particularly complicated. You don’t even have to have special card stock, scrapbook paper, or those many delightfully tempting tools you can find at any craft store.

sun-greeting-cardHere is a simple, but striking idea using materials everyone probably has on hand:

  • Fold a piece of printer paper. This is your card.
  • Find a contrasting paper–it could be scrapbook paper, wrapping paper, a brown paper bag, or even a scrap of fabric.
  • Trace an interesting shape, no bigger than your “card” onto the paper/fabric. Cookie cutters work great for this.
  • Cut it out.
  • Glue the shape onto your card.
  • Embellish as you wish with colored pen or pencil, glitter, bows–whatever you fancy. Caution: because this is supposed to be a simple card I would do no more than one of these options.

Now you have a card.

Write a Note

  • What should you say? Here are some ideas:
  • share a memory
  • share a hope or dream for the two of you together–could be as simple as meeting for a walk next Tuesday
  • express appreciation for this relationship
  • encourage a friend who may be going through a rough time
  • just say, “Hi! I miss you.”

Easy Peasy, as a friend of mine might say.

Get the Kids Writing and Creating

Are you a parent or a teacher? What a great way to encourage literacy!

In the classroom, if you want to do this but don’t have a lot of time, pass out index cards, instruct the students to decorate the blank side with crayon, markers, or colored pencil, and write the note to a friend on the lined side.

At home? Have a blast making cards with your kids. Pull out all your crafting stuff. Make more than one. Make some to have on hand for next time you need a card.

When done crafting, each of you select a card–parents and kids; it is important we model our enjoyment of literacy for our children. Then write to a friend. (For pre-reader/writers, ask your child to dictate a letter and you write what they say down. After, read it back to your child pointing to each word as you say it, thus reinforcing their understanding of spoken to written word correspondence.) Use this as a learning activity to teach your kids how to address an envelope. Put a stamp on it, and send it off.

Your Turn

Please use the comment space below to share more ideas for topics that would make a good note to a friend or some other fun card making activities.

And…Dear friends, I am so grateful to have you as readers.