Category Archives: Writing

Writing is a common, if occasionally frustrating, way to connect our stories with a wider audience. Here are my thoughts on upping your game as a writer and facilitator of writing.

Planning Future Stories: Summer Edition!

Phew! It’s been a while since my last post, I know. The end of the school year seems to hit like a ton of bricks every year. Recitals, concerts, final exams, and the end of… things. It consumes me and exhausts me. I’m on track again, though, having attended a wonderfully restorative retreat with my fellow Brave Writer staffers, and I am now in possession of that elusive free time that comes with the end of schooly things.

For me, free time is planning time. I love to plan. I’ve shared some of my initial thoughts about my two big planning projects, a Shakespeare and U.S. history class for next year. I imagined a free form movement through the year, hitting upon a topic and exploring it in the way that felt best at that moment. My lovely student has informed me, however, that she really prefers having a plan to follow. Ah, she is my daughter in that way. I struggle to be unschoolish in my approach, but I do like having the route established ahead of time. So, it seems, does Olivia. Okay, time to plan!

I have finished working though my ideas for the first quarter of Shakespeare and the entire school year for U.S. History. I would like to say I created the timeline for our studies on my own, but in fact, I borrowed a ton from resources that exist. I not only don’t believe in reinventing the wheel, I also can’t reinvent the wheel. My inner inventor has gone quiet. Ha.

So, what’s happening?

I. Shakespeare. Twelfth Night. We’re going to start with this comedy because Olivia and I both like it, and there is a wonderful group of lessons created by the Folger Shakespeare people around it.

shakespeare set free

Yes, I’m speaking once again of the Shakespeare Set Free series. I so wish I had a group of Shakespeare nuts to do this book properly, but Olivia and I are going to give it a go on our own. The series helps teachers guide students into Shakespeare primarily through performance rather than text-based study. We look closely at text, of course, but the main idea is that Shakespeare is best done aloud. There are lessons on movement, blocking, role playing, sword fighting, and sight gags. There are also lessons on character analysis, close reading, and explicating a scene.

There is  a log to be kept with reflections on the play. I love the prompts because they help the reader connect with the play. One example: Find and comment on four lines from the scenes you’ve read so far: a line that has beauty in it, a line with a good joke, a line that sounds modern, a line that appeals to you for any reason.  We’ll work on Shakespeare three times a week, finishing the play in nine weeks, then we’ll evaluate how it went.

II. U.S. History. I struggled a bit here at first, since I have a lot of websites, videos, and books, but no clear idea how to pull them into a plan. Then I happened upon Karen’s blog post of an American History plan (find it here).  She did the thing I was loathe to do, which was to create a plan with textbook readings, supplementary book readings, videos, and examination of primary source documents. While the textbook is a hefty beast (something I was trying to avoid), I decided to go with it anyway. We’ll see if Olivia balks. If so, we can always ditch the textbook and pursue other sources for reading.

I added five things into Karen’s plan:

  1. Crash Course Videos. This was easy to do, since the videos follow a distinct timeline. Olivia finds them funny, and I know she’ll enjoy watching and perhaps making some of her own.
  2. Field Trips. Once I saw when we would hit Jamestown, the American Revolution, and the Civil War, I went ahead and put a few trips on the calendar. I’ll aim for Williamsburg in October, Boston over Thanksgiving, Ft. McHenry in January and Gettysburg in March.
  3. Help for High School.  I’ve talked about this one before, but we’re going to give it another go this year, trying to put a bit of a historical twist on the writing prompts. This Brave Writer product helps kids get in touch with their inner thought process, discovering what they think about controversial topics and formulating their ideas in the traditional essay format. HelpforHighSchool_largeFor example, while kids are asked to choose a controversial topic such as gun rights, abortion, body piercing, etc., I have substituted in history topics that Olivia will be able to pick a side on after some study, such as war, Columbus, immigration, and colonization.
  4. Alternative Assessments. One thing I find really kills history and science study is an over-reliance on answering comprehension questions as a way to demonstrate understanding. I wanted Olivia to have some options here. She already has a blog idea in mind that she will use to recount some of the information she’s learning. I borrowed these two ideas (1 & 2) for a supplemental list of ways to demonstrate learning. I’ll leave it up to her to pick what she wants to do each week, though I suspect the video-making ideas will have a big appeal. Olivia is a video maker by nature.
  5. Musicals. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Musicals drive interest-led learning around here. In addition to our beloved Hamilton, we’ll include viewings of 1776; Bloody, Bloody, Andrew Jackson; and Little Women, the Musical.

This planner is signing off now! Happy summer to you.

Writing down your kids’ stories: One mom’s approach

This picture was taken many years ago, when my daughter was active on the storytelling circuit.

308370_2479162537772_1381077034_n

Storytellers travel from festival to festival crafting a bridge of communication to recreate the vision held in their brains within yours. One storyteller told me, “I have a picture in my brain. It’s so vivid. I want you to see it the way I see it.” Then he told the story.

You can see how this idea is key to writing stories, as well. As a writer, I have a vision of a world or an experience I want to share with you, my reader. I use all the tricks I know to make this image vivid and lively, drawing you into my brain so you can see it as I do. Those are the books we readers love to read the most, right?

Olivia was an oral storyteller. The stories my daughter told were sometimes folktales (The Barking Mouse and Martina the Beautiful Cockroach were two favorites), but Olivia mostly told personal tales. In the storytelling world, a personal tale is based on the teller’s past experiences. It can range from completely truthful to downright tall tale-ish. I already told the story on this blog of how I wrote the first story Olivia told. Today I’d like to help you explore ways you can capture the experiences of your own children in writing.

I thought about capturing my own stories in writing so that my kids would have something to read about my childhood. I have struggled writing down my own story since it seems necessary to start at the beginning and work my way forward. I tried this once. I got to the elementary school part of my timeline and stopped. It was exhausting trying to remember everything in order, and I noticed my memories from back then were fuzzy at best. My sentences ran along the lines of: “I remember switching to a new Kindergarten sometime mid-year. They were having a cool snack that day. It might have been ice cream.” These images are disconnected and not vivid. I decided that capturing moments of times in my kids’ lives was easier somehow. So I started writing their stories, instead.

So how do you capture a moment in your child’s life in a story? Here is one path to writing a captivating tale:

  1. Write a list of moments.
  2. Think of a theme.
  3. Tell the story.
  4. Write the opening with a compelling hook.
  5. Loop back to your opening hook in the closing.

1. Write a list of moments.

Are you like me? Do you have trouble calling up memories from your childhood or that of your child? Here’s one thing I did when I needed a new theme for a story for Olivia to tell: I sent out a request to friends on social media to help me remember some of the crazy stuff that had happened to Olivia. Any memory at all. The time she got an ice cream cone and the dog ate it. The time she left half her overnight items at a sleepover. Any little memory has the potential for story greatness. My friends and family came through!

For one story, I ended up choosing to tell about the time Olivia banged her nose on her knee when trying out a trampoline for the first time. It was sad at the time, but hilarious when we thought back on the events of the day. Great fodder for a story!

2. Think of a theme.

With a list of memories, you can ponder which ones you’d like to turn into a story. In the storytelling world, a personal story has an overarching theme. A theme is some sort of lesson or deeper truth that the listener can hear and agree with, nodding his head enthusiastically and feeling a connection  with the teller. The overarching theme is a nice way to begin framing a tale.

When I thought about Olivia’s time on the trampoline, I imagined the middle-aged listeners who would hear the story and I tried to think what they might be interested in hearing. I knew they would have fun traveling down their own memory lanes as they heard a story of kid high jinks.  It’s always thrilling to remember being a kid. But I wanted something else for them in this story. I realized the theme of this story wasn’t “Kids will do silly things sometimes.” It was really about me. I was one of those overprotective mothers who didn’t want her kids on trampolines. At all. The theme of this story quickly became “Overprotective parents can let go of their worry. Sometimes.”

3. Write the story.

I milked my overprotective nature for all it was worth as I wrote this story. I called on every memory of picking child-safe dishware, installing protective car seats, and worrying over scary news reports about the dangers of ______ (fill in the blank with your worst parental fear).

Moms today have lots of fodder for a story about being overprotective, don’t we? We are under such pressure to micromanage our kids’ lives. A recent article about parents being visited by Child Protective Services for letting their kids walk to the park alone illustrates my point. Storyteller Andy Offut Irwin speaks of growing up as a “free-range child.” In this day and age, we’re expected never to let our kids roam free. No free-range chicks in our yard. We need to build those coops sturdy and tall with lots of wire fencing. The pressure is intense!

So I told the story of the time my daughter begged me for a chance to jump on a friend’s trampoline. I finally agreed. And wouldn’t you know it? She tried to do a flip on the trampoline and gave herself a bloody nose. Typical. Ha. I filled in the details with all the reluctance I felt and all the cajoling my daughter had to do to get me to agree. It wasn’t all true, but the general theme was spot on. I was an overprotective mother, and I had to find a way to get over it. This trampoline experience helped me do that!

4. Write the opening with a compelling hook.

If you’d like to make your story even more exciting, perhaps worthy of sharing at your next family reunion, talent show, or even a storytelling gig, then you can spice it up with a compelling opening. Openings for stories are hard. “Once upon a time” may work for fairy tales, but it doesn’t usually grab the listener’s attention (Well, perhaps if you say something like, “Once upon a time, I died.” That would certainly make your listener sit up and take notice.) For my audience – the middle-aged listeners at a typical storytelling event – I tried to pull on our common experience from childhood in the 50s, 60s, and 70s when coming up with an opening to draw listeners in. In stories over the years I have used references from television; old-fashioned video, board  and outdoor games; movies; memories from dining out or shopping; and more. What I try to do with listeners is give them a flashback to childhood in their time and then contrast it with my kids’ childhood. The contrast is often funny and sometimes poignant.

For my trampoline story, I could have referred to the hands-off way our parents let us play as kids (“Be back home by sundown! Bye!”). I could have referenced the relative lameness of toys back then (“Kids today have trampolines and airsoft guns. We had a jump rope and the ring with a lemon attached to it you could swing around on your ankle!”)

[Note: Remember that one? It was called the Lemon Twist. Here’s a trip down memory lane for you.]

For this story, I chose to evoke a familiar scene: the opening credits from Little House on the Prairie. The way the girls in pigtails careen down a steep slope while their parents look on fondly from the wagon stood in sharp contrast to my parenting style. I would imagine my child cracking her skull in three places on that grassy hill of doom and I would tell her to “Slow down!” With this opening, I let listeners remember that iconic scene and then I brought them into the theme of my story. Opening hook. Kabam.

5. Loop back to your opening hook in the closing.

One way to close your child’s story is to wrap back around to the opening hook. I might have chosen to relate the time in Little House when the “Great Gambini” tried a magic trick and ended up dying in the burning box. Sometimes it pays to be overprotective, eh?  That would have cemented my theme quite well, although it might have been a tad depressing for the audience. Tying back to an opening gives a story a rounded out feeling.  In the end, for the trampoline story, I went a different way. Listen below to hear what I did!

I hope you all will think about telling some of your children’s stories. They make wonderful keepsakes and it’s an easy way to dip your toe into the writing pool. We all love telling stories about our kids, right?

Here’s the trampoline story for those who’d like to hear it.:

 

Making Points: How to Organize Facts

This week, I’ve been thinking about the Internet a lot, and not in a “Gosh, how I love the Internet” kind of way. Ha. Quite the opposite. I have a group of kids who need to find factual information to support their positions in a writing class. Have any of you adults tried to accomplish this task lately? If not, I invite you to do the following. It will give you a new understanding of the difficulties your teens face in this age of too much information.

  1. Pick a controversial topic. Gun control, abortion, vaccination. That kind of thing.
  2. Pick a side.
  3. Find information from experts to support your side. Research studies, surveys, expert testimony. You get the idea.
  4. Are you ready to scream yet? If not, try to find supporting texts for the other side of the argument. I’m sure you’re screaming by now.

It is a labor intensive process to find support material that would pass muster in an academic essay. It is never a half hour session of Internet searching to find what you need. Set aside hours. Pain. So much pain.

So assuming your cherub has gotten past the difficulties of searching for reliable data, what then? I’m interested in this question, because it gets at the heart of a skill that is still in development in the teen years, namely, the organizational or “outline” ability.

Teens must take a series of facts and organize them into some sort of outline in order to use them effectively to support the points they are trying to make in a paper. When faced with thousands of words and no clue how to arrange them, a child may  be daunted by the task.

My suggestion for you today: Have your kids practice with fake facts! I made the following exercise for kids in my co-op class, using a topic I love: chocolate. I made up a thesis statement and provided a list of imaginary facts found in my “research” (though I wouldn’t be surprised if someone put up some of these “facts” on the Internet by now. They’re all true, honest!).

My goal was to give the kids a variety of supporting particulars and then to ask them to write overall points these particulars supported. We were working through material in Help for High School by Julie Bogart. This program is a self-directed writing program for high schoolers. I love it! You can find it here.

HelpforHighSchool_large

The kids had fun reading my imaginary facts. It made the task of organizing information less daunting. They worked together and came up with points such as, “Those who consume too much chocolate are prone to violence,” and “Eating chocolate causes consumers to lose the ability to focus on performing tasks unrelated to chocolate.” Luckily we don’t live in this world, right?

Here is the activity. Note that we had already discussed how to make a strong thesis statement and what points and particulars were.

Here is your thesis: Although consuming small quantities of dark chocolate has been shown to improve health, chocolate consumption in fact leads inevitably to the destruction of society.

Now, what are the points? I don’t know yet, but I have the following particulars. Your job is to organize them under three points that help prove my thesis.

Point 1:__________________________________________________________________

 

Point 2:__________________________________________________________________

 

Point 3:__________________________________________________________________

Particulars:

Known fact: Eating a piece of chocolate immediately leads to a quest to eat another piece of chocolate. The cycle continues until the chocolate eater gets tired and has to go to bed.

Joe Bob, author of Chocolate, Oh No You Di-nt recounts the story of his first trip to Hershey’s Chocolate World. After the chocolate ride, as each person emerged and ate their complimentary chocolate, there was a general, “rolling of the eyes” and “jiggling of the bodies” as “drool poured from their mouths in copious amounts.” Then the group ran back to the entrance to ride again.

The Chocolate Research Lab conducted a study of 1200 self-defined chocoholics and found they spent 95% of their time planning the destruction of mankind. The other 5% of their time was spent looking for more chocolate.

In interviewing Pulitzer Prize winner turned chocolatier Julia Dragon, when the interviewer asked her to recall significant works on the existential crises of young men in post-war Vietnam, her sole response was, “Where do you buy your chocolate?”

We must recall the sad events of December 1, 2011. When one man in Topeka, KS stationed himself outside the Godiva chocolate shop and held up pictures of broccoli and carrots to all potential customers, the customers were so traumatized as to require hospitalization due to Post Vegetable Viewing Disorder. The man then entered the store and ate the entire display of Chocorific truffles.

Known fact: Humans have a chocolate gene that, once activated, can never be deactivated.

An entire co-op literature class was arrested in St. Louis, MO and subsequently imprisoned after one chocolate-eating session led to cannibalistic activity. One member of the class was overheard to say, “I know there’s chocolate in there.”

The New York Times article, “Halloween, Family Game Night Killer?” tells the story of the Halloran family who, until Halloween 2009, had faithfully gathered each Friday night for family game night. Not having celebrated Halloween up to that point because of a strict “no sugar, no cavities” policy put in place by their dentist parents, the kids at last gained permission to trick or treat one time, “for the experience of it.” Upon their return, the children’s mouths were covered in chocolate and their eyes had a distinct glassy quality. They then declined an invitation to play Monopoly. In fact, the only way they would agree to play from that date forward was if chocolate gold coins were substituted for paper money in the game.

A survey of 1200 chocolate factory workers revealed that while 95% liked their jobs, 95% also expressed frustration at their inability to make and eat the chocolate at the same time. 98% have requested a transfer to the chocolate tasting department at some time in their careers. 99% failed to identify possible jobs they could hold outside the chocolate factory. One respondent wrote the following: “Why would anyone work outside the chocolate factory? What’s the point?”

Following a Rabbit Trail: Allowing Kids to Direct Their Learning

Rabbit trails. I’ve heard this term a lot lately as I follow some homeschoolers on Periscope and Facebook. Here’s the idea: As homeschoolers, we have a responsibility not to impose the traditional “rules of school” onto our kids. Why homeschool if not to embrace the freedom allowed by our educational choice? Are we really going to set up a traditional classroom at home, complete with prescribed curriculum and schedule of subjects to be covered throughout the day?

If you’re me, the answer has too often been “Yes” to that last question. As a former educator, it was so hard to let go of the school mentality. I felt bound to “cover” a curriculum completely, although I never once got all the way through a textbook when I was a teacher in middle and high school. Ha! I adore the idea of interest-led learning, where a kid finds a topic she is interested in knowing more about, and then takes time to pursue it. We have done this a bit over the years: my kids have delved into the Celts, ancient China, and animé. But too often, I must admit, we depended on prescribed curriculum to get through a homeschool year, mostly because I was busy doing other things and didn’t have time to help my kids access the resources needed to follow a rabbit trail.

I am inspired to give my daughter the opportunity to build her history class for next year, though. Her story begins with a love of the soundtrack for this musical:

hamilton

The girl has gone absolutely bananas for all things related to Alexander Hamilton, first Treasury secretary under George Washington. No one could have predicted this obsession! I had a sudden idea: What if we created a year of history related to Alexander Hamilton? A sort of “Six Degrees of Separation from Alexander Hamilton” if you will?

My daughter was on board. Great! Now what? Internet searching is a tiring procedure, but I started there. Resources for teaching history to a high schooler, U.S. history from the colonial era to the Civil War, to be exact. My daughter is going to create a website tying whatever we discover to Alexander Hamilton in some way. Here are some of the resources we’ll be using:

  1. Crash Course. Author John Green and his brother have created a series of informative, engaging videos on a range of topics. My daughter finds them hilarious, so we’ll definitely include the U.S. History ones.
  2. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.  A search for topics related to the AP U.S. History exam led me here. I love the collection of videos, essays, and primary source documents because they are organized by time periods and by themes. There’s even an Alexander Hamilton-themed page! Score!
  3. Musicals. We’re looking into every historical musical we can find as well as information about what musical theater looked like during this era. We’ll see Hamilton this summer, and we’ll try to find 1776, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Amazing Grace and any other musical of note either in person or on video. I love the idea one educator had of comparing songs from the musical Hamilton with primary source documents (Washington’s farewell letter and the song “One Last Time,” for example).
  4. Field Trips. Historical sites from colonial times and the Civil War era abound in our neck of the woods, so we’ll definitely make a few pilgrimages. Gettysburg, Yorktown, Williamsburg, the Freedom Trail, Historic Philadelphia, and the Minute Man National Historic Park are all possibilities. As well as any site where Alexander Hamilton may have set foot, of course. 😉
  5. Books. We are trying out this book for a spine since it’s not a meaty textbook, but covers the basic scope of the time period.  We’ll pull from the great suggestions of the homeschool community for light reads, including Genevieve Foster’s books and the Horrible Histories series. Because, books = fun.
  6. Othello. We’re also delving into a year of Shakespeare per my daughter’s request, so I’d like to pair a study of Othello with the topic of slavery. While many of Shakespeare’s plays explore the problem of difference, this play does it excellently. I’m learning a lot from the Folgers Shakespeare library, and I relish using the wonderful ideas in this text to learn Shakespeare by doing Shakespeare.

[Edit: I had to add in this fabulous article tying the language in Hamilton to that of Shakespeare.]

That will get us started, anyway. I leave room for new stuff to crop up as we explore the topic. If we’re feeling ambitious, we might also explore History Day and see if we want to get in on that action. How are you planning for rabbit trails next year?

 

Freaky Panda

This is a story about how stories can shape your life.

When my daughter was seven, she was terrified of big things. It didn’t matter if said things were “alive looking” or not. She found the stuffed polar bear at the nature center and the cardboard cutout of Wall-E at the movie theater equally menacing. I found a need to help my daughter, to connect with her about her fears. But how?

I’m not a lifelong writer. My shelves aren’t filled with journals from my childhood. In fact, I felt pretty lousy at the whole writing thing until one university professor finally declared, “Relax, Kirsten. Your writing is fine.” So writing has never been my way to interpret the world or to cope with it.

I’m not sure how it started, but I sat in the kitchen one evening and thought about Olivia’s scary experience at the movie theater. The time when she thought the cardboard Wall-E was going to “eat her, for sure.” And I decided to write about it. I told her story but twisted the end a bit to feature a courageous girl who was ready to defeat Wall-E should they have any future encounters.

I read the story to the family, and they laughed. Well, Olivia laughed, but through some tears. It had been a while, but the fear of Wall-E was still a bit too fresh, too raw. I changed Wall-E to Po the Panda from Kung Fu Panda, and suddenly, the story was funny to her. My goal was to help her get over a fear and to show her, though a humorous story, that I understood how big and scary the world could be when you were seven.

The story could have ended there, but it didn’t! Because of the “Freaky Panda” story, Olivia had the chance to launch her career as a youth storyteller. She first told this story at the Brandywine Storytelling Festival and eventually ended up at the National Youth Storytelling Showcase in Pigeon Forge, TN. As a family, we forged a connection to the storytelling community. Opportunities to tell stories and to meet fantastic tellers have shaped our family in untold ways. Stories can indeed change your life!

Here is Olivia’s rendition of “Freaky Panda,” told in Tennessee.

Can your family’s stories create new opportunities to grow and explore? Absolutely! Start by telling one at a local storytelling event.

Wizard Language Arts

Where to begin? I have so many ideas rolling around in my brain. It’s a bit messy up there in that caffeine-fueled space where I do all my thinking, let me tell you. I want to tell you about stories and the myriad of ways they fit into my life.

So the best way to start is just to start. Here’s a story I’d like to tell. Let me set a scene for you:

A small church classroom. A group of homeschoolers, ages 9-11 is gathered in front of you on the small area rug near the chalkboard. They are sprawled on the floor, bodies in various stages of sitting/lying/crawling-into-the-bookcase. Shoes are cast off, and everyone is at ease.

So, what to do? What to teach? As I got to know this particular group of homeschoolers, I learned they had one thing in common: they were all huge fans of fantasy novels. Magic. Wizards. Trolls. Dragons. Knights. This was the world where they lived in all their spare moments.

This was the genesis of my class Wizard Language Arts. I’m teaching it for the second time this year to ages 10-14, and I want to share it with you. If you have kids (at home or in a co-op) who love fantasy, why not structure your language arts time around this fabulous genre?

1. Pick a book. Or two.

apothecary

This was our October book choice. I liked it because the world created was not just magic and fantasy, but had a basis in science and history. It’s a departure from your typical wizard-medieval-castle-knights-dragon fantasy story. Plus my daughter loved it, so I always take recommendations from her seriously.

2. Pillage and borrow from the Internet.

My big secret to success is the fact that there are so many great lesson ideas out there already, I hardly ever have to come up with one of my own. I assigned this book to be read at home over the month of October, and we turned our attention to writing during our in-class time. In September the kids had worked on creating their own magical world, complete with 3-D displays of their world which they presented in class. In October, I spent my time getting kids excited about writing their own novel. Yes! We decided to get involved in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I used the wonderful materials provided by the folks at NaNoWriMo to give my kids practice:

  • Developing Interesting Characters
  • Developing a Conflict
  • Planning a Plot
  • Getting Ready to Write Your Novel

Of course all the kids chose to write a fantasy novel of some sort.  So, during October, the kids read The Apothecary and prepared to write their novels during the month of November.

3. Every book talk is better with snacks.

At the beginning of November, we devoted our co-op class to book discussion on The Apothecary. My approach to book talk is pretty simple: questions, snacks, and souvenirs. I prepared a book-themed snack (in The Apothecary, birds feature prominently, so I made these). I found some discussion questions to get the chatter going, though I am always willing to let the kids talk about whatever they’re exited about/disgusted by in the book. They often have strong opinions. So much so, in fact, that for my first Wizard class, I had to pull this out on occasion:

talking hat

This was the “talking hat.” If you weren’t holding the talking hat, you had to try your best to hold your ideas in for a few seconds until it was your turn to hold on to the hat. Honestly, I only resorted to this tactic because the kids were all so excited to share their ideas that class discussion became a game of who could shout the loudest.  Ha.

Finally, I think it’s fun to do a science experiment, craft, or other hands-on activity that goes with our book theme. I’m probably one of the least crafty people I know, so I turned to my friend Mr. Inter Net to find a simple craft. The kids loved it. We made apothecary jars with these supplies:

Apothecary jars

The labels came from Etsy; everything else came from Michael’s. Glue a favorite label to a label tag, fill the jar with something delicious and chemical-looking, and tie the label on to the jar with cool string. Voilà! It was candy to go, basically, but the kids loved making them, so I was happy to sugar them up and send them on their merry way. 😉

4. Rinse and repeat.

This is the model we follow month to month. For December, we read this one:

the alchemyst

and during book talk, we used branches to make our own fancy tree houses/Yggdrasils (Norse mythology, anyone?).  I got the hubby to drill holes into wood so we could glue branches into a base. Add glue guns, small sticks, pipe cleaners, and string, and you’re good to go.

Yggdrasil

For in-class writing activities, I pull heavily from the Brave Writer methodology. We do freewrites, we play with words, we practice using all our senses to enhance descriptions, and we include improv games to enhance our storytelling abilities.

Wizard Language Arts is one way I share stories I love with kids. How do you expose your kids to the wonderful tales that make up who you are today?