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.

Gleanings from the Writer’s Digest Poet’s Market: 2017

Writer's Digest Poet's Market 2017This year, I ordered the Writer’s Digest Poet’s Market: 2o17 for half price through a Writer’s Digest Promo. Ever since it arrived, I have been avidly reading it with pencil, notepad, and sticky notes in hand. What a treasure trove! (And I have not even got to the market section.)

Here’s a few nuggets I’ve picked up so far:

Organization

I knew if I wanted to write poetry for publication and not just for fun, I needed to get organized. After reading Patricia Kenelly’s “The Organized Poet,” here is how I decided to set up my laptop poetry file:

  • Juvenile: with folders for each listening/reading level, and within each level, folders for each theme I have written about
  • Mainstream: with folders for each theme I have written about
  • Christian: for my faith-based poetry with folders for each theme I have written about

I will also create an Excel database of poetry markets that might like my work, and a spreadsheet to track my submissions, adapting the recommended submission tracker from the book.

New Revision Techniques

While I have long written, revised, and even taught poetry writing, my revision tactics focused primarily on sound effects, line breaks, and word choice.

“Ready Your Work for Publication,” by Lauren Camp includes intriguing strategies with names like:

  • “Eat the Banana”
  • “Listen to Miles Davis” (And she’s not referring to background music.)

Don’t worry, these translate into easy to apply tactics like reconsidering pacing, changing “the” to “a,” and shortening and tightening verbs.

Sage Cohen lists still more strategies in her essay, “How to Increase Your Odds of Publication.”

New Forms

Robert Lee Brewer, editor of the guide, includes a section on a variety of poetic forms. Some I knew. Some I’m adding to my trusty folder of “Poetry Try-Its” (Which I think I’m going to transfer to a binder.) Forms I’d like to play with:

  • The Fibonacci
  • The Sevenling
  • The Shadorma…

I won’t bore you with my whole long list.

Writer’s Digest Poet’s Market: 2017

Trust me, this book would have been worth its price, even if it had not been on sale. So excuse me, while I go off to play with some words!

P.S

What are some of your favorite revision tactics or poetic forms? Please use the comment space below to share. I look forward to adding your ideas to my lists!

 

Life is Brutal…

Little did I know when I went on hiatus in March that I would not be back to Literate Lives until mid-June. A lot has happened since that last post:

My son is not only out of ICU, he’s been released from skilled nursing, residential physical therapy, and is home. We praise God for how he has recovered! He has regained the use of both arms; he can walk again, although with a cane, he can talk again, and most wonderful of all his personality and intellect remain unchanged by the accident.

One week into my son’s two-plus weeks in ICU, I got a call from my stepmom telling me my dad, who was in hospice care with Alzheimer’s, was not predicted to hold out more than a day or so. My husband and I rushed to Washington, where we spent the next two days at Dad’s bedside. I am so grateful I was able to be there, able to tell him how much I love him, and talk about all my wonderful memories as his daughter. Although he remained unconscious, I held his hand, prayed his ears were still working and somewhere deep inside him he knew how greatly he is loved, and was able to kiss him good-bye his last night.

I got sick on the way home from Washington, and as usual asthma prolonged the illness for two weeks–two weeks I could not go to see my injured son.

I had a couple of routine weeks. My son left the hospital for skilled nursing. Then Easter Sunday, I felt so exhausted, I came home from my daughters Easter Breakfast, went back to bed, and slept the whole afternoon. The glands in my neck were completely swollen, I was physically wiped out, and I kept popping off-and-on fevers. For the next two weeks, my doctor tried to figure out what was wrong, finally narrowing the potential diagnosis down to lymphoma or mononucleosis, although she was convinced it couldn’t be mono because of my age (Adults do not get mononucleosis). Finally after more tests and almost another week of worrying and feeling half dead, we got the news: It was mono. Hurray–Oh, no! Because I was so contagious, I had to miss my dad’s memorial service.It took more time to recover from the mono (and all this time I was missing work). Just as I was nearly healthy enough to return to my teaching job, I caught a cold. A cold, plus asthma, meant two more weeks out, and then…the cold turned into pneumonia! I didn’t return to work until June.

This has been a very difficult and emotional season, but as Piper says in the quote, God has been good. I am so grateful for my son’s recovery and so grateful not to have lymphoma. In all this time I’ve had to rest and recuperate, I have been so touched by the many kindnesses of the people in my life. In addition, I have come to realize how much I love my job and the people I work with, and how much I love writing and blogging.

At present, because I am still recuperating, I am only going to commit to one blog post/week. However, as I grow stronger and require less rest, I intend to get back to my two-day per week schedule.

So, welcome back to Literate Lives (and welcome if this is your first visit)!

Please use the comment space below to share some quotes that help you through tough times. Also, if you’d like, let me know what kind of content you are interested in seeing this summer.

Temporary Hiatus

Purple Writing

My oldest son has been injured (with a longsword no less!). He is in ICU and likely to be there for at least this week. Needless to say, I’m trying to spend as much time with him as I can. Therefore, I am temporarily suspending my posts until he has recovered.

I’m praying like mad, and I know God loves him even more than I do! I’m counting on that.

Reading Response: A Focus on Vocabulary

Want to help your children or students build their vocabulary? Try this exercise.

Prepare to Read

First, either instruct your children or students to read for a set amount of time. When I was a classroom teacher my standard “student choice” reading homework assignment was to read for 10 minutes, 3-5 nights a week.

You might do the same with your children or students, or you might read aloud for a set time period or length of pages. Be sure, if you are a parent, your child is sitting beside you so he or she can see the text as your read. If you are a teacher, be sure you are reading from a text that all the students can have a copy of, so they can follow along.

Print the following statements onto a note card, project them on your Smartboard, or write them on your whiteboard:

  • A word I did not know or was not certain of the meaning of was…
  • I found it in this sentence…
  • I think it means…
  • I looked it up in the dictionary and it means…

As you or they read, tell your students to be on the lookout for a word for the exercise.

Read

Instruct your child or student to begin reading, or you begin reading. It is best if you do this in a quiet room without a lot of distractions. Tell him or her to write down the word and page number when they spot it and then continue reading for the allotted time.

Respond

When done, instruct your students or child go back to the page they noted and copy down the sentence in which he or she found the word. Instruct them to fill in the remaining statements or, if your group is small enough, discuss the remaining statements together.

Closure

Challenge your students or child to look for ways to use their new word for the next few days.

Your Turn

How do you like to help your children or students to expand their vocabulary?

Teacher’s File Drawer: Name Research Project

“What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Shakespeare, from “Romeo and Juliet” (II,ii,1-2)

In honor of International Celebrate Your Name Week, I want to share my favorite research project–a Name Research Paper.

The Name Research Paper

Every person has a name—some two, three, or even four names.  And all names have some kind of story behind it.  What I asked the students to do was research their own name. It could be their first name, middle name or both.

Questions to consider were:

  • How did their parents choose their names?  Why?
  • What traditions were in their families for choosing names?
  • Why did their parents decide to spell their names the way they do?
  • What does their name mean?
  • What is their names’ histories—in their family? In the world?
  • Are there other versions of their names?  Where do they come from? What do they mean?

Page 2 of the assignment sheet provided a section for parents’ signatures, so that my students parents would know what we were working on and what was required.

Name Research Sources

The students were required to interview a family member as one of their resources for the project. Other resources can include baby name books and baby name websites, and if they were named after a fictional character or famous person, research into the story of that individual. At least 5 different types of sources should be used.

I used these criteria when scoring for the number of sources used:

  • 1 Source—0% of points possible
  • 2 Sources—35% of points possible
  • 3 Sources—70% of points possible
  • 4 Sources—85% of points possible
  • 5 Sources or more—100% of points possible and higher

Notecards

Students were expected to use note cards and part of their final scores were determined by how many notes they took. For full credit they needed at least 25 note cards.

One day of the project started with a lesson on how to create note cards.Here is an example of a source card:

Here is an example of a note card:

I used these criteria when scoring for notecards:

  • None-5 Cards—0% of points possible
  • 6-10 Cards—50% of points possible
  • 10-11 Cards—60% of points possible
  • 12-13 Cards—65% of points possible
  • 14-17 Cards—70% of points possible
  • 19-21 Cards—80% of points possible
  • 22-24 Cards—90% of points possible
  • 25 Cards and up—100% of points possible and higher

Remainder of Name Research Paper Project

When it came  time to write the paper, I required my students to use the complete writing process: pre-write, rough draft, revise and edit to MLA format for citations, participate in peer evaluation, do a final revision and edit, and produce a final copy complete with bibliography.

Scoring the Name Research Paper

This is the scoring page for the name research papers:

At the time I was teaching this lesson, my state, Oregon, was using their own writing scoring guide whose traits you see listed in the middle section. You can easily adapt this section to include your own writing scoring guide.

At the bottom, you see writing reflection questions the students were required to fill out and turn in with their research papers. I found using reflection questions at the end of long projects like this helped the students cement into memory what they learned while working on the project.

Why Did I Love This Project?

Because the paper is all about something that relates to them personally, I found it was easier to generate student buy-in.

It was a good assignment for practicing research skills and, because of the personal aspect, for establishing the student’s unique writing voices.

I usually did this near the beginning of the school year, and it provided both me and the students’ a good opportunity to get acquainted, and nearly all the papers were enjoyable to read.

Your Turn

What kinds of assignments do you like to use to help you get acquainted with your students? What topics have you found to be useful for generating student enthusiasm?

Best Books of February

best-books-logo

Initial Choice for Best Book of February

All through February, the book I had in mind for “Best Book of February” was The Devlin Diary by Christi Phillips, a double mystery set in contemporary Oxford and 17th century London. However, on February 28, I finished reading Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel.

breakout-novelBest Book of February

Writing the Breakout Novel is a book I have heard recommended at more writing conferences than I can even remember to count. Finally, I have read it, and I understand the raves. This book is about the characteristics that move a novel beyond the mid-list into best seller territory. Maass describes each quality, gives examples, and provides practical advice for working it into your novel. The book is both inspiring and practical at the same time. I would recommend “Breakout Novel” to any novelist, and I know I’ll be reading more of Maass’ books.

Your Turn to Recommend a Book

So, I shared my favorite February read. Tell me, please, what was yours? It could be fiction, nonfiction…any genre. What book did you or maybe your children really enjoy? What book made a major impact on you? Please use the comment space to share the title, author’s name, and just a snippet about your book to whet your fellow readers’ appetites.