Tips & Inspiration

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Tips for Teaching Creative Writing Using Literature

While I’ve loved creative writing – actually writing creatively, teaching it can get rather boring. How many writing prompts and story starters can one person handle?

Instead of relying on repetitive techniques, I would incorporate creative writing projects into literature assignments. Not only did this spice up the lesson plans, but the creative writing is a great way to reinforce what your child just read.

Teaching Creative Writing Using Literature

Reading books with your children not only opens up the whole world to them, but often kick-starts their creative writing juices.   For instance, after reading “The Wizard of Oz,” ask your children to write a story about a strange world.

When teaching creative writing to children, I’ve found that using maps, props, cards, books they’ve read, or pictures help them organize their thoughts and create characters and a plot.  Here are a few books and activities that will help your child get started.

The Adventures of Grassie Green in the Colored Worlds: Create a Map of a New World


In this assignment, students will create a “new old world.” It incorporates art, writing and geography skills.

Draw an island on a crinkled up paper bag to show that the map is old.  Add some features like mountains, a volcano, rivers, forests, beaches, caves, villages, swamps, or lakes.  How about adding an old, deserted pirate town?

Islands don’t have to be tropical.  There can be rocky islands, jungle islands, and since this is an imaginary story, how about rainbow islands, candy islands, islands made of toys, or any combination of elements you want.

Decide who lives on the island. Maybe it’s a clan of long-lost Vikings, rock people, whacky animals, or talking birds. Maybe there are two groups on each side of the island that don’t get along with each other. This might help you give the land a name.

Finally, start the story by bringing to the island a main character or two. What would happen when two kids get shipwrecked there, or a time-traveler shows up?  They need to have a goal as well.  It could be as simple as trying to get home, or as grand as finding an object that’s needed to save the world.

Because you have a picture of your island it is easy to create a plot as your characters move from one part of the island to the other.  Create a problem to overcome at each feature.  For instance, the cave may be full of poisonous snakes or spiders and you have to swing on a rope to get past them.

The Little Squeegy Bug: Imagine Yourself as a Tiny Bug Explorer

While this book is geared or the younger set, this activity can be used with older students too.

First, give your character a reason to explore.  Maybe you’re looking for a lost treasure, a rare animal, or a cure for a terrible bug disease.  As a tiny creature, everything looks different to you.
Use numbered popsicle sticks and string to map out your journey in the yard.  Wind the string around each stick as you place it in the ground.  Each stick represents a problem that you must overcome to continue your quest.  Maybe you have to think of a way to get over a big rock, cross a puddle on a leaf raft, get away from a hungry bird, ride on a dandelion seed, or in a toy car.

Finally, decide how you solve the final problem and find what you’re looking for.

Asian Children’s Favorite Stories: A Treasury of Folktales from China, Japan, Korea, India, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia: How Did the Tiger Get Its Stripes?

Origin stories are all the rage. It’s fun to imagine how things became they way there are.

These types of stories are called folktales.  They have historically explained things.  Have your child draw a picture or make a clay figure of his favorite animal.

Make a list of the characteristics that make this animal unusual or different.

Write a story that explains how the animal got a particular trait.  (How a tiger gets his stripes, how an elephant got large ears, why an eagle has a white head, or how a giraffe got a long neck.)   For instance, start the story about elephants when they had tiny ears.  Tell us the problems the elephant had.  Tell how his ears grew to solve his problems.

It’s never too early to start training your child in creative writing.  If your child is too young to write the story himself, have him tell you the story and you can write it down.  Children love to illustrate their stories in a fancy notebook.  There are even book making kits available at bookstores.  Once you start exploring the endless number of props that are available to inspire writing, you will be amazed by your child’s imagination and writing ability.  Who knows?  They may become a famous author someday.

For more ideas on teaching writing, check out these Writing Units for Middle School. 

Using-Sketchnoting-For-Learning-Featured

Using Sketchnoting for Learning

Sketchnoting can be a powerful learning tool for adolescents. The process is highly individualized, and students can choose to sketchnote in a notebook or digitally on a tablet or phone with a stylus and tons of free or low-cost apps.

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How to Start a Homeschool Support Group

There are many reasons why parent decide to form a new support group. In many cases the parents simply have trouble finding a group that meets their needs or that they feel comfortable in. Before creating your new support group there are some very important items to consider before announcing your new group to the public.

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What to Do When Your Child is Struggling with Reading

When children struggle with reading, it’s not a shock that they do not want to read. As a teacher and parent, it’s helpful to understand what to do when your middle school student has a hard time comprehending what they read. Read on to find out what to do when your child is struggling with reading.

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Ten Rules for Homeschool Convention Etiquette

I believe every situation calls for some etiquette, and homeschool conventions are no exception. Often, vendors represent small, family-run businesses, and sales at conventions provide their largest source of revenue. When customers follow these ten simple rules, everyone benefits.

Ten Rules for Homeschool Convention Etiquette

The next time you enjoy a homeschool convention, I encourage you to practice these ten demonstrations of courtesy. As you do so, you can be sure that you will bless and encourage the vendors and your fellow attendees.

Homeschool Convention Etiquette Rule #1

Make sure checks or credit cards are good, or pay in cash. Most vendors are able to authorize credit cards at their booths. However, if your credit card does not go through, valuable time will be lost in rectifying the situation, so make sure your accounts are in good shape before you go to a convention. If a check bounces, fees are charged and both the vendor and the customer have to deal with the account balance problems. Many vendors prefer cash, which sometimes helps vendors pay for immediate needs associated with convention expenses, such as such as food, gas, hotel expenses, etc.

Homeschool Convention Etiquette Rule #2

Handle all products carefully and respectfully. The vendor’s inventory is expensive and should be handled gently. If items are damaged, vendors may not be able to sell them. One way to appropriately inspect books would be to open them up gently, not spreading them completely open, thereby keeping their spines intact and preserving the “new” feel of the book. Of course, it is always best to peruse sample copies when they are available.

After reviewing a product, put it back in the same location where you found it. If you don’t know where it goes, hand it back to the vendor, or ask where to put it back in its proper place.

Homeschool Convention Etiquette Rule #3

Don’t shop before the vendor hall officially opens. Many vendors are scrambling to “set up shop” right up until the moment the convention sales officially begin. Honor the starting and ending times posted for sales, and don’t rush the vendors. They are eager to serve you, but they need to get organized first.

Homeschool Convention Etiquette Rule #4

Diligently supervise your children at all times. Take advantage of the wonderful children’s programs that convention coordinators have provided for your children. The convention sponsors may also offer babysitting services, or the hotel may provide those services. You can also share “babysitting duty” with another mom: one of you watches all the children while the other mom shops; then you trade off. If you prefer to keep your children with you, be sure to keep them within reach—literally—at all times, for their protection and for the protection of the vendors’ products as well.

Homeschool Convention Etiquette Rule #5

Shop, don’t study. Vendors understand that you would like to browse through a book before buying it, but to stand in front of the booth and read through the entire book is rude. Not only will the booth be less accessible to other potential customers while you are there reading, but it’s likely that the book will look “used” after you have read it from cover to cover, and no one else will want to purchase it. If you are thoroughly “sold” on a product, buy it and use it at home.

Homeschool Convention Etiquette Rule #6

Keep the traffic moving, as much as it is in your power to do so. Don’t congregate with friends (new or old) directly in front of a booth, especially with your shopping carts or strollers in tow. Vendors are dependent on person-to-person sales, so be polite and congregate elsewhere; avoid creating traffic jams that can rob vendors of business.

Homeschool Convention Etiquette Rule #7

Remember that the vendor needs to talk to as many potential customers as possible. Vendors love to talk with you, especially when homeschooling is the topic, but remember that the time they have available to interact—hopefully with everyone at the convention—is limited. Be friendly, ask your questions, and step aside so that the next guy can ask his questions.

Homeschool Convention Etiquette Rule #8

Expect to pay for good customer service. Vendors who don’t deal with high-volume inventories are often more willing to discuss their products and personally answer your questions. If a vendor “sells” you on his product, buy it from him—not from the high-volume-sales vendor on the next row, who was too busy to answer your questions. Pay for what you get, and don’t take unfair advantage of helpful people—instead, support their businesses with your purchases.

Homeschool Convention Etiquette Rule #9

Support the speakers. Most speakers at homeschool conventions receive no compensation for their contributions to the event. In fact, many speakers are required to pay a fee in order to conduct a workshop, demonstration, or class at a convention. Take advantage of the information and encouragement the speakers can offer, and if you like what you hear and see, seek out their booths and consider trying the products that impress you the most.

Homeschool Convention Etiquette Rule #10

Please honor the established closing time at the convention sales. When the vendor hall is closing, make your purchases and leave on time, like the way you “kindly make your way to the circulation desk” (sound familiar?) when the public library announces it “will close in fifteen minutes.” You can be sure that most vendors are very tired after a long day’s work and are eager to get off their feet too. Make your final purchases . . . and come back tomorrow, bright and early.

Most convention vendors love what they do or they wouldn’t be there. Many regard the hours they spend interacting with, and explaining their products/services to, potential customers as ministry. I encourage you to practice these ten rules of etiquette to enhance not only your shopping experience but the vendors’ experiences too!

See you at the conventions!

 

Linda Brodsky and her husband Mark have owned Brodsky Ministries for more than ten years. They sell curricula, T-shirts, U.S.-made toys, natural health products, and more. Their children can be found at homeschool conventions painting faces and making balloon sculptures. They have five children on earth, three in heaven, and are praying for more. Visit their website at www.brodskyministries.com.

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free TOS apps to read the magazine on your Kindle Fire or Apple or Android devices.

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