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.


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.


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.


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?


Have a Very Merry Christmas & an Awesome New Year!

Candles In Terracotta Pots

Snow blessed us with an early start to Winter Break this year. What beauty, what wonder, what delight!

As I bake and sew, preparing for a celebration with loved ones, I want to pause a moment and wish you a blessed holiday season. May you know peace, the smiles of those you love, and wonder, awe and wonder. (And may you find a little time to curl up with a good book.) Have a very merry Christmas and God bless you in the coming year!

Christmas Star Dangle

P.S. I will be taking a little time off, I’ll see you back here January 5, 2017!

Read to Your Kids/Summer is Here

It’s official. The graduation ceremonies and parties have wound down. The make ups for snow days have been served. The sun has come out—even in my rainy little corner of the country. Summer is here. Make sure you use some of the free time to read with your kids.

Reading together and talking about literature builds your children’s awareness of reading fluency, helps them enjoy and develop positive associations with literature and reading (even if it is an area in which they struggle at school), develops critical thinking skills, and is just plain fun (not to mention a good way to bond as a family).

The books my children and I have read together enrich our common history and created a bond in which sharing books and reading remains a part of our family identity. There are so many stories we all love, and some characters who feel like family.

How can you get in more reading time with your kids?

  • Take advantage of the extended daylight hours and take a picnic blanket and dessert out into the backyard to relax and enjoy a book together.
  • Listen to an audio book in the car when your family travels. Our family has shared many a laugh on a drive down to Grandma’s, or the beach, or the mountains. Sometimes we would laugh so hard we had to stop the “book,” go back a few minutes, and listen to what we missed while laughing.
  • Read a book together around the campfire or in the hotel room to wind down after a busy day of travel and touring. Consider selecting a book that takes place in the part of the country you are exploring.
  • I just read about a library program called Prime Time that you could implement at home. Sit down as a family and share a picture book together then discuss it honoring the ideas and opinions of even the youngest members of the family. Consider things like: what is learned by the characters through the story? Who did you like best? What did you think of what that character did? In addition, you can always use Literate Lives reading response questions to kick-start your discussion.

Enjoy your summer. Enjoy reading together. Enjoy each other, and have fun!

P.S. How do you and your family enjoy reading together?

Writing Through the “Between Times”

In his “Picture This” blog last week, Rob Sanders spoke of a conversation he had with a friend who observed,

“I think you’re living in the in-between right now.” She went on to say she had been reading about those times in life that are in-between and how challenging those times can be. I’ve thought a lot about living in the in-between since then. Most of us are in between something…. We can be in between relationships, in between times of happiness, in between jobs, in between career paths, in between doing what we have to do and doing what we’d love to do, in between periods of health, and more.

As writers, we have lots of in-between times, too. We can be in between a completed project and the beginning of a new one, in between ideas, in between periods of inspiration, in between the time we send off a manuscript and the time we hear back, in between the time a manuscript is sold and the time a book is released, in between sales of books, in between agents, in between critique groups, and more.

I am most definitely in an in-between place right now. I have two finished novels for which I am searching for agents. I am working on world-building for a new fantasy novel. And I am looking for a job—a task I’ve discovered that takes up more time than forty-hour-a-week employment!

Being in between is not a comfortable place. Frustration is likely to be its dominant emotion. Certainty and stability suddenly are certain and stable no more. You have to spend time doing things you don’t want to do in order to move forward out of this limbo, and what lies ahead is often cloaked in mist.

So how do you live, and stay sane and productive in-between?

  • Take care of yourself—brush your teeth, eat your fruits and vegetables, get a good night’s sleep.
  • Set goals and break them down into simple doable steps.
  • Do what you need to do.
  • Keep your eyes and heart open to the simple pleasures of daily life
  • Allow yourself a little time to do things you love.
  • Read.
  • Write—journal entries, notes, poetry, letters, lists…
  • Spend time with people you love.
  • Remember what you believe and why you believe it.

I know eventually I will find employment and be freed from this time gobbler known as a job-hunting. I’ll finish world-building and start writing the novel I am eager to adventure into. I’ll establish new routines, a new normal, and my life will have regular places for the things that matter to me.

In the meantime, I will work and rest, read and write, learn and grow.

How about you? Are you in a between time, too?

The Long Train Ride

I am writing from my Mom’s kitchen table. I should be en route home when this post appears. I’ll be taking the train overnight, leaving from Modesto, CA at 11:00 P.M. and arriving home Wednesday at 4:00 P.M. There will be a two-hour layover in Sacramento from 12:30 until 2:30 AM.

Sound grueling? Yeah, I know. But do you know what? I’m looking forward to it.

I adore family vacations, and a road trip with my husband can’t be beat. But there is a certain alure to traveling alone. All that time, all to oneself.  It’s just not convenient, or expected that I should work, so I feel free to do whatever quiet activity I’d like. I’m a quiet person. I love quiet activities. I’m looking forward to my long train ride.

So what will I do? I’m bringing three books (one I’m nearly done with, one short one that comes next on my reading rotation, and a longer book that’s next  just in case I finish the first two). I’ve also got magazines: a news magazine, a women’s magazine, and two writing magazines. In addition I’ve packed a spiral notebook and pen. While here at Mom’s I finally found the story to go with a scene I came up with during a free-write at a writer’s conference. The scene just wouldn’t go away but finding a setting and story that works to go with it has long eluded me. So I’ll probably jot some notes on the trip. Maybe I’ll even start writing the story. There’s so many possibilities for enjoying activities I love!

And then, I’ll be home!

What would you do on a seventeen hour train ride?

Better yet, what kind of short story can you launch from a seventeen hour train ride? The working title for mine is The Magic Tea Bag. Hmm. Now what kind of story could you write that combines a train trip and a magic tea bag? Tell me about it. I’d love to hear from you.

Read All Day!

This is the blog post I should have written for Monday, but if you read on, you’ll see why I didn’t.

Saturday, I arrived home after visiting friends and family in California. My son and I drove down (twelve hours on the road) and drove all over while visiting. Therefore, when we got home, I was tired!

We went to church Saturday night, and so Sunday the whole day was free to really and truly be a day of rest. How did I rest? I read. All day. I finished a book I had been only 18 pages into when I woke up Sunday morning, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Can you remember the last time you let yourself real all day or you allowed your book-loving child to do so?

Can you remember school days when your nose was too runny and your cough too fierce for you to go to school, but you weren’t too sick to snuggle up in bed and read a book in a day?

I know in our nation at this time we are concerned about whether our children are getting enough physical activity. However, school will soon start, if it hasn’t for your family already, and wouldn’t it be nice to let your little book lovers indulge in a whole day of reading just what they want to?

How about embarking on a read-all-day family picnic? Pack a yummy lunch, soft blankets (maybe even a pillow or two), your favorite camping chairs and a stack of books, and head out to a place you love for a day of reading and relaxation.

I realize for some people what I am describing sounds more like a horror movie than a day of luxurious indulgence. However, if you or your children are introverts or book lovers or both, a quiet day with nose-in-book, could be just the refreshment needed before embarking on another busy school year.