St. Patrick’s Day Writing/Journal Prompt

St. Patrick’s Day is coming up Saturday. It’s a fun time for kids and families–wearing green, eating green, hunting and making shamrocks. It has also inspired the following writing prompt for either class writing projects or journaling fun.

St. Patrick's Day Writing/Journal Prompt Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesPrompt

  1. What is one St. Patrick’s day wish you would make for yourself?
  2. What is one St. Patrick’s day wish you would make for someone you love?
  3. What is one St. Patrick’s day wish you would make for your community?
  4. Write a paragraph explaining why your chose the wishes you did?

Note, question number three quite deliberately focuses on the writer’s community. I framed it in this manner to avoid the more generalized answers a wish for “the world” might inspire.

Use this St. Patrick’s Day Writing Prompt in the Language Arts Classroom

If you are a teacher, or a parent teacher, you might use the prompt, even the graphics I have included, for a language arts class warm-up or writing project.

A fun bulletin board might include cut-out shamrocks with each student’s wishes written in on each leaf and their explanations written on an index card to go with each.

Use this St. Patrick’s Day Writing Prompt to Inspire a Journal Entry

If you are someone who enjoys journaling (that would include me), or you want your students to journal as a way to develop writing fluency, you could also use this as a journaling prompt. Our wishes, hopes, and dreams change with the situations in which we find ourselves. A journal entry based on this prompt would provide a brief snapshot of who and where you/your students are at this time in your lives.

Your Turn

What might you wish for in answer to any of the first three questions. Explain why.

Please share your response in the comment box below. Let’s inspire each other!

St. Patrick's Day Writing/Journal Prompt: Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives


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

Play With Your Words Writing Prompt,,


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?”



Go to: to  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.


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.


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.


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.

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!


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.


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.

Enchanted Conversations Publishes My Poem, “Dishwater Dreaming”

This, and all of the fabulous art in the Donkeyskin issue was created by Amanda Bergloff, contributing editor and art director at Enchanted Conversations: A Fairy Tale Magazine

In June, I sold my first poem, “Dishwater Dreaming”, to Enchanted Conversations  A Fairy Tale Magazine, and it came out this month.

Enchanted Conversations:  A Fairy Tale Magazine

I am so excited about the opportunities at Enchanted Conversations, a web-based magazine that publishes six times per year, each issue focusing on a particular tale and inviting both prose and poetic submissions. The issue my poem was accepted for was one exploring the story Donkeyskin.

Why Enchanted Conversations?

  • I still love to read folktales and fairy tales.
  • I love the opportunity to explore, play with, and retell folktales and fairy tales.
  • Enchanted Conversations is a really fun outlet for crafting poetry (I rediscovered my love for writing poetry a few years ago and have fallen more and more in love with the practice as time goes by).

Interested in Submitting to Enchanted Conversations?

The story focus for the next issue of Enchanted Conversations is “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” The deadline is the end of this month. Click here to view the submission guidelines.

Classroom Applications

Wouldn’t taking Kate Wolford and Enchanted Conversations‘ be a fun way to process a whole class reading unit? Students could submit stories, poems, and art to create a class magazine or webzine that could be shared with parents and community. I love letting students process learning through the use of imagination.

Your Turn

Do you know of any other magazines or webzines that focus on folktales and fairy tales? Do you have any favorite tales that you would like to play with? What is it? Go ahead and the give the exercise a try (and please, please post your results). Just use the comment space below. I love to hear from you.

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.

Roles–An Expository Play With Your Words Prompt



What is your role, your obligation, your purpose in relation to yourself and to your community?




Brainstorm a list for four categories:

  • your role/s in relation to yourself
  • your obligations to your self
  • your purpose for yourself and you life
  • your role/s in relation to your communities (home, school, work, faith…)
  • your obligations to your communities (home, school, work, faith…)
  • your purpose in relation to your communities (home, school, work, faith…)

Once you have a list, circle the ideas you want to write about and number them in the order you want to write them.


You are now ready to write your response. When you’re done look it over to see if there are any changes (revisions) or corrections (edits) you would like to make.


Feel free to share any of your insights in the comments.

Literate Lives 2017

Litlives PurposeWelcome to Literate Lives 2017!

In the week between Christmas and New Year, I have been doing some much-needed housecleaning here on the blog, and ended up reading a lot of old posts. The process charged me with excitement for this next year together, and instead of making you new promises, I want to touch back to my original intentions here at Literate Lives. So here is a blast to the past: excerpts from (and a few additions to) my very first post, June 6, 2010.

Literate Lives: The Vision

The concept of a blog is interesting. It is a challenge to be both personal and useful-to others. This is my second version (now my third actually) of my first blog post here in “Literate Lives.”

In the first version of this post, I eagerly shared who I am and the things I love, believing if readers and I share some common passions, you might come back to read more. And I do want you to come back for more. I love reading, writing, and teaching, and I want to contribute to the reading, writing, teaching community in a positive way.

However, having completed that first post, I was aghast to discover it was all about me! Me, me, me—as if I were some kind of navel-gazing egomaniac who has nothing to offer save my own glorious vision of myself. (Definitely NOT my intention.)

While a revised “version one” will likely soon appear as a post (because I do feel, if you and I are to become friends and colleagues in pursuit of a literate lifestyle, I must be willing to share who I am). What I want to say here, however, is that I hope “Literate Lives” will be a “place” to which you can come, a quiet corner where you can think about reading and books, writing, and creativity. I hope it will be a “place” where you can share your love for these things with a like-minded community and glean from the blog posts, comments, “Play with Your Words” writing prompts, and reading response exercises treasures to enrich your own literate lifestyle and that of your students or family.

Debby Zigenis-Lowery’s Literate Lives Blog: What’s My Purpose Here?

Litlives Purpose

Last spring, a dear friend and I talked about Literate Lives and just what I was trying to do with this blog. She helped me come up with a list of improvements and clarifications then asthma and allergies knocked me flat before I could implement them.

This summer, as in previous years, I have been working to rejuvenate Literate Lives, and I hope and pray I have come up with reasonable goals and a doable schedule for the blog that I can sustain for you, my readers, during the coming school year.

But back to the title question: What is my purpose here? Why am I investing time and energy in Literate Lives at all? Why do I feel compelled after each of my “fails” at consistent blogging to try to get Literate Lives up and running once more?

The Purpose of Literate Lives

The purpose of this blog is four-fold. It is about friendship, encouragement, celebration and giving.

Friendship First

I want Literate Lives to be the friend you find in your inbox, the “new post” alert that makes you smile. One of my main purposes in creating Literate Lives is to connect with others, but not just anyone! I love to read and write, and I want to connect with others who likewise value these practicesl and care about the development of these practices in the lives of young people.


One of my favorite things to do, despite my introvert tendencies, is to encourage others. As a wife and mother I love encouraging my spouse, children, extended family, and friends. As a teacher, I love helping students discover that they know more than they think they know and can do more than they think they can do. And as a fiction writing critique partner, I love directing my colleagues attention to what is going well in their work.

Here at Literate Lives, I want to encourage you, my readers, to read and write, to experiment and play with words, and help others expand their reading and writing skills. I want to give you the permission you may find hard to give yourself to invest time and attention in these pursuits and bring you information that supports the value of these practices.


Here at Literate Lives, I want to celebrate the joys and benefits of a reading/writing lifestyle. I want to celebrate authors whose books have enriched my life. I want to celebrate the actions you take to build your own Literate Life, and that of your students or family, and share with you my delights.

Last, I want to Give

So many people have given so graciously to me in my personal, teaching, and writing life, that I burn with a desire to give also.

What do I want to provide for readers of Literate Lives?

  • book recommendations
  • fun and interesting writing exercises
  • home literacy practices
  • ideas for expanding and developing not just the practices of reading and writing, but the roles of thinking and creativity in our lives and those of young people.
  • language arts lessons and tips
  • my experiences pursuing a reading writing lifestyle
  • ways to make reading and writing fun for you and your family
  • writing craft tips

I love reading, writing, and teaching, and I want this to be a place to celebrate these practices and to give something of value back to the reading, writing, teaching world.

What About You?

What do you hope to find here at Literate Lives? How can I be your friend?

*background for image courtesy of Depositphotos_91248272_original_vect

Play With Your Words Writing Prompts: Tool Time Field Trip

Tool Time Family Field TripI have been putting some time into brainstorming and planning for the future content of Literate Lives, and one of the ideas that I thought would be fun is doing a little writing prompt “blast from the past.” Today, to kick off this feature, I thought I’d revisit my first summer writing prompt:

A Tool Time Family Field Trip

So, with a little editing, here goes!

Last weekend I found myself in a hardware store with my husband, and not just any hardware store but one that focuses on tools for customers who know what they were looking for (few items have instructions on their packaging).

We spent some time on the welding aisle. It was amazing! There were so many objects whose purposes were a mystery to me. 

 I saw something called a “Chipping Hammer” that had a spiral metal wire handle with a rod and a hunk of wood located at its end. Pointing upward from the wood were bristles like on a hairbrush, only they were made of metal. Protruding from the end of the “hairbrush” base was what looked like a hatchet blade. It got me thinking. What is this used for? What can I imagine it to be used for? What would some space alien, coming upon it, think it was used for?

There was a welding helmet shaped and painted like a skull with silver teeth and a rectangle where its eyes should be and a cool 24 inch magnetic claw that I know a bunch of third graders could have a lot of fun with. It had a spring powered handle at the top and a bright orange casing that held two little magnets at the bottom and from which emerged a little metal spider-hand when the handle was activated.

The Field Trip         

Suddenly it ocured me. What a great family field trip this would make. You could go to a store that sells things you know nothing about (a farm machinery or a tractor parts warehouse, an auto shop, craft or hobby store). Each person should take a tablet or paper and clipboard and a pen or pencil for taking notes (or use your cell phone to snap a picture). You might even want color pencils or pens for drawing your finds.

 After a reasonable time browsing, each person should select one object. (You might want to choose an aisle to focus on so you won’t have to split up if you have small children.) Each family member should take notes describing their object or make a picture of it, and speculate on its potential uses. If there are instructions, DO NOT READ THEM.

Next, go somewhere you can sit down and write. (Mmm. An ice cream parlor sounds pretty amazing right now, but a picnic table in a park would serve just as well.) Each person must write a catalog description of their object, including a physical description of the item and instructions for how they have determined it is to be used. (Other options might include a short story, script, or comic strip showing their object in use.)

Then, of course, it is time to share your masterpieces. Read aloud and praise one another. Specifically highlight where each person’s writing really shines.

Remember, have fun! And if you want to, share the results of your field trip in the comments  below.

*image: Radekkulupa, Pixabay