Words swirl and dance,
Rhyme and chime in my brain,
Winging and ringing
A singing refrain.
My favorite playthings,
With pen in hand,
They teach and inspire
And help me understand.
Professional authors, aspiring authors, Language Arts students, and just about anyone who wants to communicate more effectively can benefit from regular exercise of their writing skills. In keeping with this, two of my favorite things I learned while earning my master’s degree in teaching with a certification for middle school/high school Language Arts and English are:
- Studies have shown that two of the best ways to improve at both reading and writing are to read or write. Each helps one improve at both
- If you as a teacher are reading everything your students are writing, your students aren’t writing enough.
These were joyful revelations and served to reinforce my belief in regular writing practice—be it daily, three times a week, or every other day. Writing regularly, and planning for writing regularly, sharpens both reading and writing skills.
And if one must practice, why not have fun?
I love collecting writing exercises and have often envied my students as they spent the first ten minutes of class writing while I took attendance, accepted and logged in late homework, and dealt with the individual needs of whatever student had a particular need that day. I wanted to get to play with words too!
So let’s play with our words. Treat yourself to some time to sit down and write. Have fun with it. Invite your family (or class) to join you and share your results with each other. Not only will you continue to build your reading and writing skills, but you’ll learn new things about each other and bond as a family (or class) that writes together.
What is your role, your obligation, your purpose in relation to yourself and to your community? Brainstorm a list, write and share.
Teachers and students alike are back in the classroom. No matter what grade level, literary devices are probably being taught or reviewed. Some key ones include metaphor and the use of sensory details. Craft this autumn metaphor poem to exercise these skills and capture the essence of autumn.
Last weekend I found myself in a hardware store with my husband and it occured me, “What a great family field trip this would make”
Just think of a moment–this week, this month, maybe this season–that you’d like to hang onto. Your poem doesn’t have to rhyme or have a beat. However, if you love rhyme schemes and meter–play away!
I have been having fun with some list-journaling prompts I found on Pinterest. I did not expect to come away from this exercise with anything more than a list; however sticky-sweet as it may sound, I learned something about myself from the exercise. How about you?
A Break from “Me,” Yet a Vehicle for New Discoveries. I feel so much better. I have discovered I love journaling to a prompt.
Use this prompt for your own expository writing or to help you better understand a difficult character.
Choose one, or two, or all of the sculptures below and write a story using them as the characters. Plus–a bonus activity!
The basic unit of the form is a stanza consisting of a couplet (two rhyming lines) followed by a single unrhymed line.
The Wonders of Haiku and what you may or may not already know about the form.
Fortune cookies provide great writing prompts. Check these out from today.
Savor the turning of the season. Go outside. Write three three-minute poems.
I have just returned from a trip to Mount Rainier where every experience was fodder for a poem. If you are a writer, or you want to encourage your children’s literacy skills, take pen or pencil and notebooks on vacation and pause to write. Try these easy poetry forms: haiku, list poem, or concrete poem.
This week I offer a choice of two prompts. You may want to think of them as journaling prompts, get-to-know-your-character prompts, or story starter prompts. Whichever way you tackle them, have fun.
Fortune cookie fortunes make great writing prompts. You can craft a story where the fortune predicted occurs to the main character, or You can “dream journal”– How could this fortune come true for you?
The graduation ceremonies are winding down, I haven’t had to wear socks for weeks, and this next Friday will be the last day of school. Go somewhere you love, soon, and write some summer haiku’s.
I have recently adopted a short form of journaling—the haiku. Capture some snapshots of your life.
Write a description a place you love in such loving detail that a reader would know how you feel about this place without you saying the words. Alternative preschool literacy exercise included.
Write a scene for a story beginning with the words, “The boat slowly pulled away from the shore…” Use…
Which is greater, wisdom or kindness? Compose a one-page essay explaining your point of view. Use strong details and examples.
Write a description of yourself, then go back and rewrite it from a friend’s point of view.
You receive a mysterious gift of cookies. Plot a story including an inciting incident, rising action, a climax/turning point, falling action and resolution. Write one scene of this story.
Some people say courtesy is contagious. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Write 2-4 paragraphs stating your point of view and sharing supporting arguments. Your objective? To convince your readers to agree with you.
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. Consider the kinds of words you used to evoke the feelings you intended.
Choose a word or name and jot down some ideas for how this word or name could have come into existence. Write a plot outline for this story including a beginning, inciting incident, rising action, climax, denouement, and ending. Write a scene from the story.
Write a mini-essay commenting on the following quote from Helen Keller: “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit. This writing prompt includes questions to consider to prepare for writing and concepts to consider in evaluating the effectiveness of the essay.
It’s the beginning of another school year—time to get to know your students and to warm them up to writing by having them write about themselves. Thus, the “Who am I?” poem, a poetry template that uses the list poem format to write a description of self. Using the template, write your poem leaving one line of space between each stanza. Revise, edit, and share.
Write a narrative account of a time when you have been frightened. Be sure to weave in sensory details to suck your reader in and ground him in the experience.
Capture the essence of summer’s outdoor world by writing a haiku. Think about several of your outdoor experiences this summer. Choose an image to focus on in you haiku. The most simplistic American haiku form is the 5-7-5 pattern, but You can choose to vary your syllables and their spread over the three lines or reduce your haiku to the least number of syllables possible without losing its meaning.
I found just the right words for summer at Mom’s, and even words for reentry into daily life when I got home. I’ll share them. Then, review the steps for the Essence of Summer haiku and write your memories or farewells to this sweet season, or perhaps your welcome to the new school year and fall. Includes, “Mom’s Hummingbird Feeder,” “Pinecrest,” and “Reentry.”
Dream up a character that has to run some errands. Think of at least four places he or she might need to go, brainstorm the kinds of things that could be purchased at each store and people or incidents he or she might encounter along the way. (These could range from kindly great aunts to licorice addicted zombies). Write the story of the encounter and its outcome.
Webstorm to prepare to write a letter to someone who disapproves of your reading choice, defending your favorite comic or graphic novel. When done consider how clearly you explain yourself and how you use specific details to defend your choice.
Write a story, from the point-of-view of a possession you carry with you every day. Give your possession its own style. Have fun with this prompt.
Write a poem that both honors the spirit of summer and includes a health or safety warning. Have fun with it. If you’d like, make a poster and upload it. I’ll make sure it appears here on the blog as well as on my Pinterest board.
Plan a story using an outline based on the classic plot pyramid. Write a scene from your story. Remember to include a setting, dialogue, and action.
Practice using figurative language. Complete the pre-write exercise then write a richly descriptive paragraph using sensory imagery and figurative language to describe summer.
“The whole town was in an uproar.” Craft a scene that explains the statement.
Consider an Oliver Wendell Holmes quote. Write an essay explaining whether or not you agree or disagree with Holmes’ quote, and explain why. T-chart organizer and step by step instructions for writing this persuasive essay included.
Write a poem about your dreams and plans for the summer. Post includes instructions for brainstorming, drafting, and revising, and links to information about free verse and sound effects in writing.
Write an expository essay exploring the following quote: “Measure wealth not by the things you have, but by the things you have for which you would not take money.”
What Feeds or Destroys Your Soul? List possible responses to both questions, then choose one and write an expository essay describing the option of your choice.
Delete all adjectives from something you have written. Analyze what can be left out and what needs to go back in.
Write a poem based on A.E. Housman’s “When I was 0ne-and-twenty. Focus on word choice, the sound and fluency of the poem, and of course on the concept of advice not taken.
I received the following epigram in the wrapping of a chocolate bar: “Expect the best, and you may get it.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Prepare to write about it.
How is your day? Write a pair of quatrains describing your April 20, 2012.
Think back over this last week. Choose a moment in time that felt magical or nourishing. Write a detailed description of the experience. Preschool literacy adaptation available.
April is National Poetry Month and Writer’s Digest is running a “poem a day” challenge. Day 1’s assignment? Write a communication poem.
Sir Arthur Wing Pinero said, ““Those who love deeply…” Do you agree or disagree? Explain why.
List three wishes you would like to make. Describe in detail what it would be like if that wish were to come true. Preschool Literacy adaptation included.
Write a short essay explaining the meaning of your favorite song. Practice using quotation marks and proper punctuation while doing this. Punctuating quotes examples included.
Write a scene between this friend and your character where the friend demonstrates what he or she knows about your character without saying a word describing it.
When writing a poem about an object, feeling, or idea it is challenging to find something new to say. However, a little pre-writing can provide you with a list of vivid associations and images to draw on that will make your poem uniquely your own. Decide on a topic for your poem and then follow these steps.
Pre-Writing Exercise: Web ideas for a story about an object that gets carried off on a journey.
If you could write several new rules, policies or procedures for home, work or school, what would they be? How would you argue for them? Preschool Literacy option included.
Musical Muse: Freewrite to instrumental music then go back over what you’ve written and highlight what you like best. Use the highlighted bits, and add to them if you wish, to write a poem. Revise your poem for sound and share. Optional preschool activity included.
An Exploration of Kindness: Respond to the quote by Eric Hoffer on kindness. Preschool literacy option available.
A Narrative Disagreement: Using this two-part process, write about a time you had a disagreement with someone you love from that person’s point of view. Evaluate your work for the vividness of the setting, the clarity of the emotion, effectiveness of dialogue and internal dialogue, and the intensity of the mood.
What Could You do with a Butter Knife? Use your imagination and logical, concrete/linear thinking skills. What else could you do with a butter knife other than prepare food? Write a how-to article that details the many uses for a butter knife.
Datebook Poem: Write a poem in the form of date book entries representing your goals, hopes and or dreams for the coming year.
Card Inspired Writing. Choose a holiday card you have received or are planning to mail. Write a story, essay, or poem inspired by your selection.
Love is the Gift: What are your thoughts and feelings regarding Christmas, gifts, and love? Write a few paragraphs or a short essay sharing your thoughts on this quote or these topics.
Write a Story with a focus on Plot, Characterization, and Setting: Play With Your Words Art Prompt: Look at the picture, Johnny Raven by Barbara Herkert, and write a story. Focus on including elements of fiction–an inciting incident, conflict, obstacles, a story climax, characters who show what they are like through what they think, say, and do, and a richly-imagined setting. A preschool literacy activity is included.
Gratitude/Expository Writing: Read this quote on gratitude. Think about it. Write a response. Share your thoughts.
Write a Current Event Poem: Find an article in a newspaper, news magazine or news website. Write a poem inspired by what you read.
Write a scene that ends with the words: “The train roared on into the night.”
Tell Me a Good Dog Story: Look at the picture of the two dogs. Write a story about them from whatever point of view you choose. Preschool Literacy modifications included.
Revising: Tighten your Text: Freewrite a page on any topic, any genre, or select a page from something you have recently written. Count how many words on the page, then revise to reduce your word count by 10%.
Inner Landscape Poem: For this month’s poetry prompt, you are to write a poem that describes the landscape inside you—in your mind, your heart, your spirit. Use sensory details. Show how this landscape relates to who you are. Revise, edit, and share.
Narrative Review of Yesterday: Write a narrative account describing your experience of the best thing that happened yesterday. Preschool Literacy: Ask your preschooler what was the best thing that happened to him or her yesterday. As she responds, write down what she says.
Write about an Unexpected Gift: Dream up the most bizarre thing you can imagine that could be delivered in a package. “Send” it to someone, imaginary or real. Write the scene showing the recipient receiving the gift. Preschool Literacy option included.
Compare your definition of success with Erma Bombeck’s. Write an argument for your point of view.
The Self-Metaphor Poem is a poem that describes the inner and outer you. The Self-Metaphor Poem is composed of two parts. The first part details who we are in the world, and the second part consists of an extended metaphor for the person you are inside. Here’s how to write one.
Think of someone you love and dream up a fantastic birthday bash you wish you could throw for them then Write out the party like a scene from a novel.
What would have happened if Goldilocks had stumbled upon the home of three goats, or three of any other species besides humans or bears? Make a timeline of your new story, and write one of the scenes.
Happiness is a Warm Puppy, by Charles Schultz, is an example of a book based on a collection of metaphors. Collect your own metaphors to write a “Summer is…” metaphor poem.Look for a pattern in your collection. Select items that go well together to create a “Summer is…” poem.
Take a look at the wonderful picture by Jane Kiskaddon. As a writer, here are several ways you can respond to this painting. Choose one and complete the writing exercise.
Are you going on vacation? If so, you may want to collect some travel brochures. Sit down as a family and plan your trip. Have each person select some pictures from your collection and write about how that picture inspires her look forward to on your trip. After you visit the location, discuss it and write down a favorite memory from that site.
For the Play With Your Words Writing Prompt: “I’m Going to the Art Fair,” find a picture that intrigues you. Now imagine you can step into that image’s time and space. Write a first person narrative account of your adventures in the picture.
Where have you gone this past week? Choose a place, brainstorm sensory details, and write a description of this setting, placing yourself or a character in it and writing with a particular point of view.
Read Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing.” Write a free verse or structured poem celebrating something you love about life in the United States of America.
Gather a group and brainstorm a list of memorable times you and your family or friends have shared. Individually, write down your memories of the event and share. Save your work to preserve group memories, or if on vacation to provide a unique souvenir of your trip.
This summer, you can combine bargain-hunting with a game that utilizes everyone in the family’s descriptive skills.
Visit one of the listed cake sites. Select a cake that inspires you. Write a story about an event at which that cake is served.
Write a letter to someone you know recommending they see your favorite movie from this year. Tailor your arguments to the tastes and preferences of that individual.
Imagine a “perfect moment” this summer. Write a poem in the past tense describing it as though it has already happened.
Write the story of a day in your life when you felt proud. Tell it as a story including who, what, where, when, why, and how you came to that moment.
Dreamers: An Exercise in Characterization. Create a character who truly dreams for a living. It could be a realistic or historical character. Or it could be a fantastic, out-of-this-world character. Put your character in a scene.
Play With Your Words Art Prompt: Look at the back side of this awesome sculpture by Kathy Ross. Imagine this is a place. Create a scene or a short story that takes place in this setting.
Find a picture of your mom. List a bunch of words or phrases you associate with this photo. Use your list to write a poem.
Persuade Me. Using the terms “a lot” and “supposed to” correctly write 1-3 paragraphs arguing for the way you think something should be done.
Write about a time you felt close to, inspired by, comforted by, awed by, renewed by nature.
Take a Seat. Choose one of the twelve chairs pictured and write either a scene based on the character who might own or covet the chair or describe a setting that includes the chair and bring in some characters to interact in your fictional environment.
Have you ever showed up for a group activity only to find your leader was unable to be present and had sent an inexperienced substitute? Write a scene, either from memory or made up, from the point of view of an inexperienced, substitute leader. Enjoy exploring your life and experiences from inside someone else’s heart and head.
Learn how to write a “What is…?” Poem, and write a poem that only you can write. Web or brainstorm topics, web or brainstorm descriptions, and write your poem.
Look around you. Select an ordinary object. Examine it closely, looking to find something beautiful in it. Write about your object.
Write a story or scene to accompany this painting, “Midnight Chicken,” by Liz Collins. Whose chicken is this and what is she doing out on her own in the night? Is this chicken on a mission? How will her little expedition end?
Choose words from time, place, and mood categories and use them to craft a scene or story.
Writing a list poem is a good way to process your life. How to write a list poem: Choose a topic; brainstorm ideas that relate to the topic; choose the ones you want to use in the poem; decide the order in which you wish to present them; write your poem.
Write a short story or scene that includes the words, “going down the drain.” Write in any genre you want—contemporary, mystery, fantasy, science fiction, or anything else you might choose.
Which would you rather be a fish or a bird? Breakfast or dinner? A novel or a film? Choose which of the two options you would rather be. Write a three paragraph persuasive essay explaining which of the two options you would rather be and the reasons for your choice.
Write a description of yourself from the point of view of someone you dislike or with whom you feel uncomfortable.
Write a Farewell poem. Characteristics of a Farewell poem are: It is written as though its audience is the person, place, or thing the author is saying good-bye to. It is written as a means of saying good-bye, be it permanently or only for a time to the subject about whom it is written.
Imagine a setting; it could be a busy cityscape, the highest tower of a cliff-top castle, a hover-port above a moon base, or a steep mountainside overlooking a green valley. Imagine a setting; it could be a busy cityscape, the highest tower of a cliff-top castle, a hover-port above a moon base, or a steep mountainside overlooking a green valley. Describe the setting you see before you.
Write a first person account of this dog’s vacation. Consider your character’s manner of speaking, word choice, and worldview.
Being able to explain your thoughts and ideas is an important life skill. Consider this: Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Happiness is when you see the rainbow and not the dishes in the soapsuds.” What do your think? Write your response.
Write a free verse poem. Use sound effects of poetry and line breaks for poetic effect.
Look back over the past year and write about your favorite memory. Savor the full experience and write it up as a first person narrative.
Check out the awesome piece of art crafted by Mary Ennis Davis, then write a character description and story.
Check out this week’s photo and write a scene or story.
Write a poem that plays off the pattern of a poem or song you like. Use the built-in repetitions of the model poem or song to establish the organizational framework for your poem.
Be inspired by two of Lisa Telling Kattenbraker’s batiks to write a first person scene in the voice of the character of your choice.
Practice putting your thinking and speaking skills into your writing. Read the quote from Helen Keller, and then write what you think.
Good dialogue reads like a conversation, but does not mirror conversation. What should you include and what should you leave out? Go on a dialogue quest and see.
To play poetry poker, you need to collect words, and build yourself a “deck” of words. Shuffle your deck, draw cards from it, and use the words you drew to craft a poem.
Pacing and flow are important in writing, particularly in fiction writing. Do a sentence analysis to determine the relationship between sentence length and pacing.
Create a pirate name and a character to go with it.
Using observation, recall, and note taking, craft a Six Pack Poem.
Use Play with Your Words prompts to build pre-literacy skills and pleasant literacy associations for your preschool child.
At last, my first art inspired writing prompt is ready for upload. Spend a few minutes examining this painting. What kind of place do you see? What kind of person might find him or herself here? What kinds of stories might take place in a setting like this? Does anything in particular catch your eye? Now write.
Use a trip to the hardware store to exercise your imagination and descriptive writing skills.