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Writing Prompts, Thanksgiving Corn, Spelling Help

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, November 23, 2009

                The Homeschooler's Notebook
     Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
   Vol. 10 No 85                        November 23, 2009
                      ISSN: 1536-2035                              
   Copyright (c) 2009 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

  Welcome to The Homeschooler's Notebook!

  If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!
  And please visit our sponsors!  They make it possible.


  Knowledge Quest's Homeschooling ABCs Class

  Don't miss the list of FREE bonuses in today's issue!



  Guest Article
  -- Writing Prompts to Go
  Helpful Tip
  -- Unit Study on Corn!
  Reader Question
  -- Help with Spelling
  Additional Notes
  -- Newsletter Archives
  -- Sponsorship Information
  -- Reprint Information
  -- Subscriber Information

       Guest Article

  Writing Prompts to Go
    by Karen Lange

  What are writing prompts?  They are ideas that encourage students
  to write.  Sometimes a ready-made prompt is just the thing to
  get those creative writing juices flowing.  Often prompts suit
  multiple ages, so they can be used with different grade levels or
  in a group or co-op setting.  Even reluctant writers who need help
  brainstorming can do well with a writing prompt.

  What's the best way to use a writing prompt?  There really is no
  right or wrong approach.  First, students need to read it.  Then
  they think about it, either alone or with a little help.  Encourage
  them; tell them that this is called brainstorming and remind them
  that brainstorming is an important part of the writing process.
  The next step is prewriting.  This is not always necessary; some
  students like to jot down ideas before writing, while others prefer
  to just start writing.  Either way is fine.  They should be encouraged
  to choose their preferred method when using a prompt.  The next step
  is to write about or finish the prompt.  The final step is revision,
  but this is not always necessary depending on what your goals are.
  You may simply wish to provide creative writing practice and, if so,
  little to no editing is needed.  If the work is going to be included
  in a portfolio, for example, then you may wish to finalize the
  project with editing and rewriting.

  Don't be discouraged if there is resistance to a writing prompt.
  Reluctant and sometimes even avid writers might balk at any 'have to'
  kind of project.  This is normal.  The best way to get students to
  write is not to force them, but to encourage them.  If they don't
  seem interested or inspired, especially at first, ask them to just
  get some ideas down as a rough draft.  If there is a draft, then
  there is something to work with and students can adjust it, with
  help as necessary, from there.  Once a student gets started and is
  encouraged about their writing, they usually come around.

  Writing prompts can be a nifty tool to encourage self-discipline
  and other life skills and to help children gain confidence and
  writing experience.  Prompts don't have to be long or complicated;
  they can be simple and still produce good results.

  Here are a few examples to try --

  This mock 'Want Ad' listing is an example of a simple yet effective
  writing prompt:

  "Wanted: Tame Elephant.  Call: 555-1234"

  A student's version of this ad could be several lines about who
  wanted the tame elephant, what kind of person they are, where they
  live, and what they want the elephant for.  Or it could be more
  extensive, like the following example.  Show your students this
  example -- sometimes an example will help generate ideas.

  "What is she thinking, planning an African safari at her age?  Who
  does she think she is, Indiana Jones?" Maybelline muttered.  She
  shuffled through the messages on her desk and separated the 'elephant'
  calls from the others.  As she looked over her to-do list, she chewed
  on the end of her pen.  So far, she'd secured plane tickets, made
  hotel arrangements, and ordered safari clothing for Mrs. Doolittle.

  Ringgggg!  Maybelline jumped and dropped her pen as Mrs. D's personal
  phone rang.  "Hello, Mrs. D. -- Yes, I received the plane tickets in
  the mail this morning... Yes, uh huh, I told them who you were.  Yes,
  they were impressed to hear that Dr. Doolittle's granddaughter was
  flying with them... what's that?  Oh yes, I told them that you were
  98 years old!  They were impressed about that too... uh-huh, I told
  them you were as spry as could be and wouldn't need assistance getting
  on and off the plane.  The elephant?  No, I haven't secured one yet,
  but I have several possibilities... Yes, I remember that it's your
  lifelong dream to ride an elephant on an African safari.  Okay, yes,
  I'll get right on that.  Goodbye, Mrs. D."

  This next writing prompt has students write a letter in the form
  of a ransom note:

  "Your favorite possession has been stolen.  Write a ransom note that
  you might receive from the thief.  The note should include information
  on how to get your stuff back.  Make sure you explain what the stolen
  item is and why it is important to you.  Also include the ransom amount
  and what will happen if you don't pay it.  Don't forget to include when
  and where the ransom is to be left and any other important details."

  When I use this prompt, I tell students that no violence, blood or
  guts are allowed, and only inanimate objects can be stolen.  Usually
  this is not a problem, but every once in a while a student might
  have a super active imagination, so it's best to clarify things
  from the start.

  Another popular prompt is one where students finish the story.
  Write a few lines about something that would generate action and
  mystery, and end with a sentence like, "We couldn't believe our
  eyes!"  This causes the writer to have to jump into the action
  and write an interesting finish.

  Often another angle will get a student's imagination going.  Have
  students illustrate their work.  Most will expect to illustrate it
  after they write the story from the prompt, but for a different
  twist, have them illustrate it before they write it.  This provides
  a different way to brainstorm, and can help produce an interesting
  story since the concept develops as they draw.

  Older students or more advanced writers may wish to use the following
  quotations as prompts, and use them as the opening line to a story.
  A quotation, particularly a question, is a great way to grab a
  reader and throw them into the action.

  "How much is this bunch of carrots?" Lydia asked.


  "You did WHAT?"


  "The map is taped to the underside of the chair on the balcony,"
  Maxwell whispered.

  With a little thought and creativity, ordinary things can be turned
  into writing prompts.  Lines from the classified section of the
  paper, an interesting phrase from a book or movie, a common saying
  or lines from a favorite poem all have the potential to inspire
  students to write.  Keep your eyes and ears open; the next thing
  you read could be tomorrow's fabulous writing prompt.


  Copyright 2009, Karen Lange.

  Karen Lange is still a homeschool mom at heart, even though her
  three children have graduated from homeschooling.  She is a
  freelance writer and speaker, and an online writing instructor
  for homeschool teens.

  Visit her website at http://www.hswritingcoop.bravehost.com --
  or email her at writingcoop@yahoo.com


  Do you have comments to share?  Please do!
  Send your emails to:  mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net


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  Free Bonus Gift #3 ($10.00 Value)
  Get started in writing with a gift from WriteShop.  Included in
  this starter package is a 30-page lesson sample from WriteShop I
  (grades 6-10), an 8-day lesson from our brand-new early elementary
  WriteShop Primary, Book A (grades K-2) and StoryBuilders Sampler
  containing creative writing prompts for all ages!

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  to screen out the bad stuff.

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      Helpful Tip

  Thanksgiving: Corn and More

  I've just updated a fascinating unit on CORN at EasyFunSchool.com!
  It is a mix of interesting videos, activities and projects.  Check
  it out here:


  For other Thanksgiving unit ideas, here is the "big" list at EFS:


  Americans -- Have a nice Thanksgiving Day!  I'll see you next
  Monday with our new issue. :-)


  Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share?  Please write!
  Send to:  mailto:HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

      High School Issue

  Monday (11/30) is our next special High School edition!  Please
  send in your contributions.  We can use tips, experiences...
  whatever you would like to contribute to help others with their
  high school level students.

  Please send your emails directly to me at heather@familyclassroom.net
  with "High School" in the subject line.

  Thanks in advance!

  -- Heather

      Last Issue's Reader Question

  "I have 7 year old boy in 2nd grade.  We are currently using Abeka
  and he is at grade level for reading.  The problem is that he cannot
  spell and does not even try.  We have stopped doing spelling tests,
  but continue to do language arts and grammar.  We are currently in
  our 3rd month of vision therapy, but that is not helping his spelling.
  Do you have any suggestions for us?  Thank you." -- Ely

      Our Readers' Responses 

  "If he is an auditory learner then IEW's Phonetic Zoo is wonderful.
  It's a little pricey, but has worked well for both my boys." -- Jen K.


  "You might find out his learning style.  My brother said in his
  private school they were experimenting with learning styles and
  allowed a girl to jump rope while reviewing spelling words.  The
  result was that she got 100% for the first time!  It can make a
  big difference.
  I like Sequential Spelling.  It was developed to help dyslexic
  students.  It also takes all the learning styles into consideration
  in its method -- and it logically builds by word families.  I point
  out (and even mark with a different color) the special sounds,
  occasionally marking vowels for the youngest, even though he does
  not recommend it.  I really believe in phonics (Abeka's my fave) and
  I include the sign language alphabet sometimes for my son that is
  more kinesthetic.  The best part is it's not graded (meaning I use
  it for multiply grade levels), and I really like his theme: 'Mistakes
  are opportunities to learn!' -- Anna H.


  "We have an 8 year old boy who is reading at grade level, but he
  didn't read well until he was 7.  He learned to read sight words
  first (even really large, complicated words), which is why no amount
  of instruction in phonics seemed to help him -- and probably is why
  he cannot spell or write without help today.  He is steadily improving
  with the instruction we are giving him now.  Rather than thinking of
  him as behind in spelling, I think of him as on his own schedule.
  That has helped me not be so frustrated with his efforts, even when
  they don't match what his sisters did at his age.  He is, after all,
  exceptional in many ways -- just not spelling.
  Instead of a typical spelling program, we do just four or five words
  at a time.  We have started with the very basics -- the first forty
  words from the Dolch list.  When he finishes those, we will do the
  next forty.  I am hoping that by working with short, simple words that
  he's been able to read for a long time we are helping to train my son's
  eyes and brain to distinguish the individual letters and their location
  within words, and help him make that conceptual leap that will allow
  him to tackle spelling at a higher level once he's ready -- but not
  scare or frustrate him with long lists of words he's not ready for yet.
  When he is done with the first list I have of about 200 words, we will
  probably change our approach and use AVKO.  This program works well
  for children who are not natural spellers by helping them find patterns
  in words.  You can Google AVKO spelling and find the program. 
  I would encourage you to continue with all of his other subjects, even
  English and reading, as if he were right on schedule.  With our son,
  we have kept up the pace regardless of his ability to write and spell.
  He is doing fifth grade math and can read and understand Bible passages
  at a level that most boys his age can't; he loves to hear classical
  literature read and will join in lively discussions of science and
  history.  He just needs extra patience with spelling, and I try to
  give him that.  Good luck!" -- Anne M.


  "Click n' Read and Click n' Spell are two good programs." -- Paula W.


  "In response to this question, it sounds as if there is an underlying
  problem that is not being addressed.  Beyond that issue, the reality
  is that there are some kids who spell easily and others who don't --
  and maybe never will.  I have twins -- one could spell at the high
  school level as a 3rd grader; the other is still not a good speller
  at age 13.  Suggestions: try 'Spelling Power' for diagnostics and
  remediation.  Perhaps he doesn't spell all that badly really -- find
  out where he is and use their very short, simple method to work on
  spelling.  Don't overdo the emphasis on spelling, but do emphasize
  reading.  Many students will pick up on spelling just by reading
  the words spelled correctly over and over.  Let him learn to type on
  the computer with 'Sponge Bob Typing' and then he can write his own
  sentences and use spell checker to correct his spelling.  It will make
  him look at the words and reinforce the correct spelling right next
  to the wrong one. 
  More than anything, he is still very young for good spelling.  Just
  do lots of read-alouds with great vocabulary and encourage him in his
  Just my 2 cents." -- Cynthia H.


  "Ely -- This sounds similar to my son.  He could read on grade
  level, but not spell.  I had him tested this summer and he is
  dyslexic.  Now he is on new programs.  Abeka is a wonderful phonics
  program, but the spelling is too difficult in my opinion.  I am
  not sure what vision therapy is.  It sounds like he needs to be
  tested for dyslexia or something.  I would have him tested.  You
  may want to try AVKO for spelling.  It is designed for dyslexics.
  My son learned a lot from this program." -- Audra in Alabama


  "I'm the mom of five; I have two sons and three daughters.  Home
  schooling boys is different then schooling girls.  I have home
  schooled the total of 25 years.  Boys just in general don't enjoy
  it the way girls do.  If he is reading on level then don't stress
  -- he will catch on.  You also have to remember he is only seven
  and that he is not going off to college tomorrow.  Keep things
  interesting and fun -- don't be so structured that you forget why
  you homeschool.  Enjoy your child.  Abeka is a hard curriculum.
  Don't stress." -- Margaret S.

     Ask YOUR Question

  Believe it or not, we've run out of reader questions!!

  Do you have a question you would like our readers to answer?

  Send it to mailto:HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
  if we can help you out in the NEXT issue!

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