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

Celebrate Halloween and Fall

I love the change of seasons. For me, every new season is cause for celebration because I usually have grown weary of the season is on its way out. So now, I’m celebrating the advent of Fall.

Golden leaves, crisp breezes, and, of course, the fun of Halloween…

So today, I decided to invite you to share in the fun with me on my Pinterest boards, particularly my “Celebrate Fall,” “Happy Halloween!” and “Costumes” boards.

Celebrate Fall

This board is full of crafts, activities, recipes, decor, and even prayers for kids, teachers, and adults, including:

Celebrate Fall literatelives.wordpress.com

 

A cute scarecrow craft from SomewhatSimple.com,

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate Fall Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives

 

 

Some gorgeous fall leaf and acorn cookies from Cookie Connection,

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate Fall literatelives.wordpress.com

 

And some autumn inspired candles in hurricane vases from Amanda Jane Brown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Halloween!

This board is full of decorations, food, crafts, and fun for a fabulous Halloween. Including:

Googly Eyed Halloween Card literatelives.wordpress.com

 

A cute googly eye Halloween card from Taylored Expressions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Witch Art Project literatelives.wordpress.com

 

A witch to inspire art lessons (and an article, “Holiday Art Work…Yes or No”)  from Drip, Drip, Splatter, Splash.

 

 

 

 

 

Leaf and Acorn Cookies literatelives.wordpress.comAnd some yummy-looking Frankenstein S’mores pops from Like Mother, Like Daughter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costumes

This board is full of traditional, historical, and of course, Halloween costumes, including:

Celebrate Fall Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesAn awesome, book-inspired costume, The BFG, from theguardian.com’s World book day 2016: the best children’s costumes—in pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Butterfly Costumes literatelives.wordpress.com

 

Some beautiful butterfly costumes from Coolest Homemade Costumes.

 

 

 

 

Bunny Rabbit Coats literatelives.wordpress.com

 

And my personal favorite, these absolutely adorable bunny rabbit coats from In the Wishing Wood, on Etsy.

 

Enjoy

For some reason, Fall always inspires me to write Haiku. Here is my latest:

Sparkling leaves skirl down
the street; autumn rejoices
with bright confetti.

So let’s celebrate Fall. If you liked what you’ve seen, check me out on Pinterest.

Your Turn

What are some fun fall websites you have discovered and enjoyed. Use the comment box to share what you found and a link so others can go enjoy as well.

Teacher’s File Drawer: Character-Based Reading Response Exercise

Good teachers know, the more time our students spend reading or writing, the more they strengthen both their reading and writing skills. Using reading response exercises after a timed reading, either of a class novel or self-selected novel, gives our students time to practice both.

To make it easy for you to incorporate this practice in your classroom, feel free to use the reading response jpg below.

Character-Based Reading Response

Character-Based Reading Response--Literatelives@wordpress.com

Your Turn

l have always loved reading my students’ responses to literature. I’d love it if you would share any responses that delighted you. (Of course, do not use student names to protect privacy.) Enjoy!

 

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.

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.

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.