Posts Tagged ‘writing creatively’
As some of you may remember from last week, one of my resolutions for 2013 is to be a super model …
a super, model writer, that is! I do plenty of writing, but there is something about putting pen (or pencil or marker) that opens my mind to more creative thinking and storytelling.
Similarly, my daughter loves to share her creative stories with us. Ask her to write them down, though, and her mood and interest instantly change. The whining starts, the creative ideas disappear, and we never hear the rest of the story. Until last spring.
Catherine learned about a writing contest open to all elementary students in our area. Students in fourth through sixth grade could enter an original story to become a published author. The winner would earn the chance to have their story published in the school’s quarterly journal and receive a $100 gift card.
Truth be told, Catherine’s initial motivation was the gift card. She was saving for an iPod Touch and knew $100 would significantly help her reach her goal. Once she started playing with the story, though, that goal faded. The story prompt intrigued her:
write a story that somehow / someway incorporates the phrase “the memories on the mantel.”
She couldn’t wait to get started and worked on it (on and off) for two weeks. She was excited about the story, the setting, and her characters … and even asked for editing help!
Why did the writing contest work?
- It wasn’t Mom or Dad’s suggestion. She heard about it from someone else. Once she decided to enter, we encouraged her, but we kept mum on reminding her to do it.
- The topic intrigued her. Catherine likes elaborate, adventurous stories, so the writing prompt fit her literacy style.
- She liked the prizes.
- She got to use the computer. During the week we have a schoolwork-only policy for screens. Working on her contest entry earned her screen time.
Catherine didn’t win the $100 gift card or become a published author, but she did become a writer. She still prefers to tell her original stories over writing them down, but she doesn’t completely shut down at the suggestion.
She has turned an old notebook into a journal, complete with the words “Private – Keep Out!” on the cover. Writing isn’t an everyday thing yet … but we’re closer than we used to be.
Next week, Big Universe opens its 2013 Picture Book Writing Contest. From January 15 until February 28, students in grades Kindergarten through eighth grade can create and submit a book for the Nature Writing Contest, and have a chance to become a published author. Winning books in each age group will be published on BigUniverse.com. You can get more details on the Contest Page of the Big Universe website.
Here’s to sparking creativity and turning kids into passionate writers.
Just before the Thanksgiving break, the principal at my daughter’s elementary school sent a note to parents saying they were “already seeing” the pre-holiday increase in the students’ energy.
It was a kind but specific plea asking us to create / maintain an environment where the kids could still learn … get them a good night’s rest, breakfast, keep a routine, and give them opportunities to burn their energy in other ways.
It is that last point that is both the easiest and the hardest. Easy, because there are plenty of things to do. In OT they call it heavy work: getting the kids to use their big muscles to recenter that energy. It is why daily recess is so important.
Hardest because with so much preparation and activity, the routine can’t help but be disrupted. And since the activities lead up to something important to the kids, well, it just adds to the excitement.
So how DO you make it all work?
I have been thinking about this topic a lot lately. Not just in helping my fifth grader retain her focus, but also in my role as Executive Director of the Reading Tub. Our goal at The Tub is to “bring reading home for families,” and I am always looking for / thinking about / sharing ideas that integrate literacy and learning into daily life. These are a few of my recent suggestions that will also work in a classroom.
age group: 9 and Up
Whether you supervise little ones or let the teens take charge, let the kids spend the afternoon with a video camera (or just a camera) and make a holiday flick or slideshow. Here are some starter ideas for themes
- Newsreel with major events from around the world, school, or home
- autobiography of their three favorite things about the year
- biography with the things they like most about a sibling, friend, or relative
- an original skit / movie
- music video of their favorite song / holiday song
- letters to / lists for Santa
This would be a fun project for small group projects or siblings to do together, too.
Go Top Chef!
age group: 3 to 8
Well, not exactly … but it does involve cookie cutters. There are no limits to what you can create with cookie cutters. Iin addition to sorting by shape, size, and color, they make great props for pretend play and art projects, too.
- The kids can trace them on card stock, cut out the shape, and use pieces of tissue paper to make them like stained glass windows.
- Cut out the various shapes to make a collage or puzzle.
Go American Idol!
age group: 3 and Up
Kids love to sing – and its a great way to get those lungs working and their brains cranking.
- Combine this idea with the recording idea above.
- Let them pick their favorite tune and rewrite the lyrics to fit a theme you select. The 12 Days of Christmas by Straight No Chaser is a fun example of this idea.
For elementary students, check out Mrs. Jones Room. She has lots of Sing-along Songs that start with the classic Alphabet song through the 44 President Rap.
If you’re a fan of Jan Brett’s The Mitten, then you’ll want to check out The Mitten in the Snow Song (where the kids sing the order of the animals) or The Mitten Phonemic Awareness Song (that helps the kids practice the beginning sounds of animals that climb in the mitten).
What are your ideas? I could still use some in my house over the next 14 days … not to mention Winter Break.
The end of the school year can be filled with all sorts of emotions for children: excitement, worry, sadness, joy. These students have been with each other all year and now it’s time to move on into the summer. For some grade levels, the end of the year marks the end of an era for them. Those moving from elementary to middle school, middle to high school and high school and beyond can have an even greater range of emotions. Sometimes we can help transition students out of their final days with carefully chosen activities.
Poetry can serve as a nice activity for students. Here are a a few fun and meaningful poetry activities that can be used for the end of the year.
Name Acrostics – You may know about acrostics, but stick with me for the twist on this one. Instead of having students write an acrostic for their own name, have them do it in a group for each other. Arrange your students in a circle. Ask them to write their name in large letters down the left side of a piece of paper. Once everyone is set, have them all hand their papers to the person on their right. This person needs to think of the student whose name is on the paper and come up with something positive to write about that student on their paper. Whatever they write, it has to start with the letter of the student’s first name. Once everyone is done, ask students to pass their papers to the right again and repeat the process until everyone’s names are completed.
Of course not everyone’s name is the same length and you probably have more students than they have letters in their names. Plan ahead for this as a class. You can have students sit quietly, passing papers along until the end or you could ask students to continue writing something nice to the student whose paper they have in their hand.
Once all is finished, allow your students to get their poems and read what others wrote about them. It should bring a smile to everyone’s face!
Write About a Classmate – Like the title suggests, for this activity, students write about each other. To make the process more special have students pick a person from a hat and keep it a secret until the poem is read. When everyone is finished reading their poems (you can choose the style or formula for the poem or keep it free choice), ask them to read the poems one at a time to the class. You can even have students guess the person to whom the poem is written. As a final fun moment, you can ask the poets to present their poems to the student.
You can decide if you want the poems to be polished and in final form or if you would like to have students just do a cold write in the moment. Either way, it is a special piece of paper for every student.
I Remember and Someday – As a way to reminisce on the good times that were had all year, ask students to write a poem where each line begins with “I remember.” Encourage students have good word choice as they try to make their memories come alive. In an contrasting manner, students can start each line with “Someday” and ponder what lays ahead for them.
Word Splash – For this activity, even students who are weary of poetry will do well. Have them brainstorm all kinds of words and phrases that they think of when they think back on the school year. They can then pick and choose the words they want to use for their poem and then draw them in interesting ways on a piece of blank paper. Let students get creative so that each word really stands out and reflects that memory. The results will be attractive, poetic and memorable for years to come!
Poetry is an art form that can encapsulate moments, feelings and memories. Using poetry in this way will help your students to appreciate all they have accomplished and gained throughout the year in a constructive and creative way.
The elements of a story (Setting, Characters, Narrator, Conflict, Events, and Plot) work together to create a specific story. Changing even one of those elements alters the whole story.
Think about how the nursery rhyme of Jack and Jill would be different if the setting was an area with no hills. Would the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears be the same if it was told from another point of view? Altering a story could be used as an activity to develop and encourage creative and critical thinking skills.
You could take a story like Sink or Swim by Valerie Coulman and brainstorm the ways one story element could be changed. For example, have students think of all the things in the story that would change if the setting of this story was not water (that would probably require a change in the title). What if the setting of the story stayed the same but the characters were ants instead of cows? What if the conflict in the story was not learning how to swim but learning how to fly?
It would be a challenging activity for students to write a version of the story simply changing one of the story elements. You could even use the Writing Tool on Big Universe Learning for this creation (just remember to be aware of copyright). The comparison of the original story and the “slightly altered” one would be interesting and maybe even fun. Imagine how powerful students would feel if they could change a whole story just by changing on thing ….
There are lots of interesting ways for students (or really anybody) to expand on and respond to what they read. An “I Poem” is an example of one type of reading response.
My “I” Poem:
You get a bit stiff when you stand in one place for a long time.
I guess that is what happened to me,
Since I have been standing in . . . well almost . . .
The same place for over 100 years.
Ever since I was put into place,
There have been some dangers-
Erosion, storms, fire
They had to move me in 1999
The waters that I overlook
Tried to overtake me!
They secured me and
I began to move
About 2900 feet
There are many great things about my job:
I have a spectacular view of the ocean,
I see marvelous sunsets and sunrises
Which refresh my outlook on the world everyday!
Since I am so tall,
The tallest in the nations
Nothing blocks my view
When most people think of a black and white striped pole,
It is a Barber Shop Pole that comes to mind.
I am not that kind of pole, but
Those colors in a certain design were given to me in 1873
There is an interesting story behind my design
I knew what design I was to get
And was so excited
Because diamonds are a girl’s best friend
The guy that was supposed to deliver my coat
Got his orders mixed up
Imagine my surprise
Just leave it to a man to mess things up!
The diamonds I was supposed to receive
Went to my friend, Cape Lookout, just down the road
I am the one who warns sailors about the Diamond Shoals
Diamond Shoals equals Diamond Design?
The Diamond Shoals are sand dunes
That create a hazardous maze
Over 14 miles into the Atlantic Ocean
It is my job to protect ships from them!
They are guilty of causing so many shipwrecks over the years,
So they became known as “the graveyard of the Atlantic”
It is my job to reach my fingers of light
Over 20 miles into the sat to guide through the maze
Back to the story about my coat . . .
Instead of diamond,
I ended up receiving a lovely black and white
Spiral coat that has become so well-known
That is how my nickname – “Barber Shop Pole” orginated
I am one of the most famous lighthouses
And one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world,
Even with such a dumb nickname
If you are a swimmer,
A lifeguard is there to warn you of dangers
If you are a ship,
I am there to warn you of danger
There are positives and negatives for any job
One of the few negatives things
About being at the beach every day –
Those dreadful storms
With all the wind and rain
Do their best to defeat me
But I still remain!
Through the year s
And the storms,
I have developed a few wrinkles in my coat,
But they say wrinkles are a sign of wisdom
In case you have not figured out who I am yet,
I happen to be the
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
On the Outer Banks of North Carolina
Here is what I did:
*I read a book I selected about a chosen topic (person, place, or animal)
*As I read, I took notes on any facts of interest about my topic
*Then I used the facts I noted as well as my imagination to draft an “I” poem
“I poems” should:
-Reveal factual information about the topic
-Include precise and interesting words
-Provide readers with a sense of wonder about the topic, something that might not be noticed or considered with just a list of facts or characteristics
Perhaps this sense of wonder might be conveyed through the use of a surprising comparison. Think about the characters in the books you read. Remember Sally’s eyes that were like Egypt? And Joey Pigza, who whirled in the hallway like a Tasmanian Devil? And Summer, who had been treated like a homework assignment? The authors that write about Sally, Joey, and Summer found ways to let their readers understand their characters through the words they chose to describe them.
These books are examples of extended “I” poems:
- Hall, Donald I am the Dog. I am the Cat.
- Karas, G. Brian. Atlantic.
- Locker, Thomas. Water Dance.
- Mitton, Jacqueline. Kingdom of the Sun: A Book of the Planets.
- Siebert, Diane. Heartland.
- Siebert, Diane. Sierra.
- Siebert, Diane. Mississippi
- Siebert, Dianne. Mohave.
Posted on December 20, 2009 by Suzan Woodard in Personal Experiences, Uncategorized.
Tags: Big Universe, Books, creativity, Reading, writers block, writing, writing creatively, Writing prompts, writing with children
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If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you know what it’s like to have the words dry up. It’s like you’re dying of thirst, and the rusty ol’ spigot just won’t give up a drop.
I probably felt that most intensely as a newspaper reporter and editor with a daily deadline. Writing facts in an orderly fashion was easy enough, but I worked in the Feature Department, so creativity was in high demand. Clever headlines. Intriguing lead sentences. Weekly humor columns. (Funny can’t be forced.)
It wasn’t long before I learned the merits of a “slush file” – also known as a backlog. I kept a file with random ideas, outlines of columns, and puns to prompt creative headlines when I was in a pinch.
I also made a habit of reading the news feeds and other literature resources, jotting down interesting facts and thought-provoking quotes – all stored away to use like one of those yeast bread “starters” that periodically get passed around the office and among friends.
You can do the same for children, who claim they can’t think of anything to write about. Here are a few ideas to get those creative juices flowing.
- Provide physical prompts. Place a dog collar on a stool or a deflated football, a heart-shaped box of chocolates with one candy missing or a gift-wrapped box. Ask “How did this get here?” or “Tell me the story behind this item.” Or, use an intriguing photo.
- Make it safe. While I think spelling and grammar are important, it is crucial to avoid striking fear of failure in the young writer. It is more important to nurture the joy of storytelling and the beauty of words. The mechanics will follow.
- Give a fun situational prompt. a.) “If you could have three wishes, what would they be?” b.) “If I were invisible, I….” c.) “If you had to live on an island by yourself for a year, what 5 things would you take with you?”
- Use words to connect to others. Encourage kids to make cards for friends and grandparents – visual and language arts rolled into one. Plus, it teaches them to think of others: thank you notes, get well cards, holiday greetings. (My kids loved getting to add their two cents to the Christmas letter.)
- Mimic a book character. Give a verbal prompt and ask your child to write something in the voice of a book character with whom they are familiar – the Cat in the Hat or Junie B. Jones, for example. “It’s fun, I tell you.”
- Allow a little fun. Make writing notes in class “legal” on Thursday afternoons or turn on some music for 10 minutes and have kids take part in a written “Word Spill.”
- Ask kids to be convincing. Encourage children to write a persuasive paragraph about a trip they would like to take or why they would like a particular toy.
- Keep a family meeting notebook. I knew one family with five girls who kept notebooks in which their children could write anything: Why they got mad. How they broke the vase in the den. A prayer request. A thank you note. A joke.
- Tap humor. Kids get spelling and vocabulary words for school and often are required to use them in sentences. When my girls dragged their feet, I encouraged them to have fun with their words. Anything was legal as long as it wasn’t mean-spirited. They ended up laughing and liked to read their favorite sentences to me. “Mom grumbled when I ate her last piece of delicious dark chocolate.”
- Gravitate toward superlatives. Kids love them. “Blank is the worst food in the entire world.” Tell them to write three sentences explaining why. Or, “My cat is the best pet because….”
- Let kids lock up secrets. Diaries don’t entice all children to write, but a book with a lock and key hints at secrets and treasure. Write a secret. Lock it up. Hide the key! Or, have children write clues for a big treasure hunt.
- Read books. What can I say? I saved the best for last. Good books breed active imaginations. Books expand the mind until the words must flow somewhere. (Grab pencil and paper, a recording device or the easy-to-use authoring tool at BigUniverse.com to record the creative stories that result.)
I’m sure there are a gazillion other great ideas out there. Please share how you encouraged the children in your life to write!
Giving students a final exam about a novel unit sometimes becomes a test of: matching, mulitiple choice, true false, and short essay. Aside from the essay portion, none of these exam parts truly shows student mastery and digestion of what was studied during a given novel unit. Therefore, I suggest something completely different for any novel study.
Have your students plan their own novel, while reading a curriculum based novel. Students can use journals to do this.
Day 1: Fears
The first three days are spent developing a conflict for their novel. On Day 1, I have students describe something they are afraid of. You can draw two columns on the board, explaining that fears can be physical (illness, disease, disfigurement, snakes, thunder) or mental (loneliness, embarrassment, failure, insanity.)
Day 2: Principle
Preface this piece of writing by quoting on the board Martin Luther King, Jr.:” Every man should have something he’d be willing to die for. A man who isn’t willing to die for something isn’t fit to live.” Then ask the students, “What are you willing to die for?” “What is so important to you that you just cannot back down on it?”
Day 3: Conflict
To introduce conflict, first explain its Latin meaning: “to collide with.” Tell the students, “To create a really good conflict for your main character, make your fear collide with your principles.” Think of a movie or novel that most students are familiar with and present conflict using that material for an example of fears colliding with principles. Then, make up spontaneous examples with the class: a man afraid of flying must fly an airplane when the pilot has a heart attack. A woman afraid of roller coasters must leap on one that is out of control to save her son. The goal is to get students to express their conflict in a single sentence, while applying the “fear colliding with principle” formula.
Day 4: Characterization
The students may use the following checklist to create their main character.
- Name the character
- Create a physical description: gender, age, appearance
- Create a dominant character trait: perseverance, courage, shyness
- Create a personal background: childhood, education, relationships, profession
- Create goals and obstacles that interfere with those goals
- Show how goals are reached and the way the character changes in the process
Day 5: Setting
This need not take long; students simply should describe where the novel takes place. For example: The story is set in a large city, in Illinois. The time is 1875. Most of the people in this city are middle-class. The character’s house sits near Lake Michigan, about two blocks from a university town. The novel begins on an October evening, a Saturday.
When we teach students about the varied uses and understanding of onomatopoeia, our approach to learning is often a traditional one. It is expected and necessary to teach the proper definition of onomatopoeia, which is the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named (e.g. woof, chirp, sizzle, tweet), and to give traditional examples of usage (e.g. nursery rhymes, poems, and jokes). Further, students must learn to pronounce this quirky word, and they even may inquire about the origins of their newest vocabulary feat (the Greeks). Without a doubt, most would teach a lesson about onomatopoeia, by allowing students the joy of practicing its many uses individually or in groups. However, it is at this point, where I would bring forth the “Carnival of Harlequin,” by Joan Miro, as there is a slice of synaesthesia as well as onomatopoeia in this lesson about “Listening to the Art of Miro.”
It is my belief, that the most important reason for teaching onomatopoeia is so that children understand why it is they are giddy, delighted, and amused when their parents read nursery rhymes, poetry, or comics aloud to them. By showing students the art of Joan Miro (via Internet or poster), one can easily ask “What sounds do you hear when you look at this picture?” The discussion that follows will amaze you! Afterwards, play a CD of comic book style sounds, for a couple of minutes. Ask students to discuss which sounds match the differing shapes and colors of Miro’s work. Next, allow students to work individually or in groups to create a storyline that stems from “Carnival.” As they work to create their story, encourage the use of onomatopoetic language to describe the setting or the introductory sentences, the climax or conclusion. This narrative need not be lengthy; the focus is on descriptive language that revolves around the sense of sound. To take the lesson step further, students could record their stories using the sounds manufactured by their new, sensory descriptions.
The sense of sound, in itself, will prompt incredibly wild imaginings by your students.
Did you know the olfactory sense is capable of discriminating over 10,000 scents? Some of the words we use to describe scents are: fruity, flowery, spicy, putrid, burnt, and rancid. The goal of this lesson is to go beyond the limitations of the words listed above. First, demonstrate with students how the olfactory senses flavor, by having students pinch their nostrils shut and taste a pinch of cinnamon – they should taste only a fraction of sweetness. As soon as the nostrils are opened, they can taste the cinnamon – rather, smell it. Next, have the students smell sulphur and ask how the odor affects them. As the students try to describe the odor, the teacher writes those descriptions on the board, pointing out the limits we place on describing smells. Now, pass around vials of various scents and have the students describe each odor in terms of other sensory perceptions. How does the smell feel? What are its dimensions? What is its temperature? How does it move? Students should practice writing descriptions about 10 or 12 different smells. Finally, students should visit some place of their choice, and write about their impressions of the place and the odors they find there. Relaying sensations to the audience is the goal.