Thanksgiving lesson: write a how-to paper on preparing a Thanksgiving feast

ThanksgivingFeastThanksgiving is the season for giving thanks…but your students have written thanks-themed pieces every year.  Why not try something different?  Challenge your students to write a paper on how to make  Thanksgiving dinner.  The results will be hilarious, and the piece will become a family favorite for years to come.

Plan for your students to spend at least an hour on this project.  They’ll want to brainstorm (as a class), write, then decorate their paper.  It’s really important that you have students do this project on a paper they decorate.  One, it makes a better Thanksgiving souvenir.  Two, decorating the paper makes kids want to spend a little more time on their writing.

You’ll probably need to brainstorm as a class.  Have the kids list common Thanksgiving dishes.  Don’t let them crowd source tips on how to make the dinner.  You don’t want a practical child ruining a family’s fun.  You want parents cackling as they read naive tips on how to prepare a feast.  (Heat the oven to 1000 degrees, cook the turkey in the microwave, etc.)

You can make this project simple or complex.  The simple version is to focus on preparing the turkey.  That’s good for kindergarten-first grade.  Older kids should tackle the whole feast.  That way, they’ll have more opportunities to write something unintentionally hilarious.

This writing assignment is perfect for a buddy-class project.  Older kids can help younger kids type the assignment, or older kids can do the writing or help with spelling.

Click here for printable Thanksgiving stationery.  Click here for Thanksgiving stationery files.  (Perfect for the computer lab with your buddy class.)

Other ClassAntics posts about Thanksgiving:

Let Scholastic Help You Teach the First Thanksgiving

The Mouse on the Mayflower

FREE Worksheet for the Movie The Mouse on the Mayflower

Posted in Food,Holidays,Writing by Corey Green @ Nov 21, 2016

 

Write spooky Halloween stories using a sensory word bank

HalloweenIt’s not often that students are truly interested in imbuing their writing with sensory details.  Halloween is one of those rare occasions.  Here are some tips for encouraging students to write vivid details.

Practice as a class

Working together, choose a spooky setting and story premise.  On the board, create a chart with five columns, one for each sense.  (Sight, smell, taste, sound, touch)  Fill each column with at least three examples.  Then, encourage students to try turning the sensory details into sentences that could fit into a story.

Create individual sensory word banks

Once students start writing their spooky Halloween stories, they are more interested in action than description.  A little planning can go a long way.  Encourage students to brainstorm sensory details for their stories.

Separate description from storytelling

Writing a Halloween story with vivid descriptions might be too much for your students.  You could encourage students to write descriptive Halloween paragraphs and illustrate them.

Create a grab bag of sensory details

Cut scratch paper into eighths.  Give each student five scraps.  Then, have each student write a sensory detail on each scrap.  Put all the scraps in a grab bag and redistribute them.  Challenge students to create a paragraph that incorporates all the sensory details they pulled from the grab bag.

Read spooky stories and descriptions aloud

As students work, take frequent breaks for sharing.  You can choose good examples or allow students to volunteer to read their efforts to the class.  Students will be motivated by seeing their peers succeed at description.

Happy writing!

You might enjoy these other Halloween posts at ClassAntics:

New Orleans Halloween: teach a Fall Festival lesson about the culture of New Orleans.  Includes a FREE powerpoint of New Orleans cultural symbols and landmarks, book recommendations, and music tips.

A good way to organize a Halloween Party: learn how to create a party for your whole grade level by setting up a rotation.  Each teacher need only prepare one activity.

Do any of your students opt out of celebrating Halloween or other holidays?  Read how to accommodate that student in a pleasant way in the post Buddy Up to Help Students Who Don’t Celebrate Holidays or Birthdays.

Make it a theme day with Halloween Math Worksheets.

Posted in Holidays,Writing by Corey Green @ Oct 24, 2016

 

Unlikely but engrossing essay topic–the Swiffer Duster

SwifferNo one sets out to assign an essay about the Swiffer.  I stumbled across this magical essay topic by accident.

It began with the feather duster I provided as equipment for one of our class jobs.  (Click here for tips on setting up an extremely effective class jobs system.)  My students told me that a Swiffer would work much better.  I bought a Swiffer starter kit for the classroom.  The kids took great pride in showing me how to set up and use it.

It became clear that my third graders had strong feelings about the Swiffer.  I assigned it as that week’s essay topic.  Students could pick their own style of essay: persuasive, personal narrative, how-to, compare/contrast, or descriptive.  Their essays ran the gamut.  All of them were at least a page long.  Even the most reluctant writers had a lot to say about the Swiffer.

I cut up the Swiffer box and used it to decorate our hallway bulletin board.  We hung up Swiffer papers on yellow backgrounds.  Our classroom was on the way to the cafeteria, so everyone passed our Swiffer board.   Many kids complimented us on it.  It turns out that all elementary students really like the Swiffer.

I hope that the Swiffer assignment works as well for you as it did for G3, Miss Green’s Third Grade.  May it bring you a dust-free classroom full of happily writing students!

Posted in Writing by Corey Green @ May 23, 2016

 

The Dave Barry Essay Challenge: Talk Like a Pirate Day

MuppetTreasureIslandChallenge your students to write a humorous newspaper column using only the facts Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry had at his disposal when he wrote the column that made Talk Like a Pirate Day an international phenomenon. (Or at least an awesome tradition in Miss Green’s class!)

I got the idea for this lesson after reading the incredibly basic website that explains International Talk Like a Pirate Day, a “holiday” created by two friends, John Baur and Mark Summers.  They sent their facts to humorist Dave Barry, hoping he would help promote the holiday.  Did he ever!

It’s remarkable what Dave did with such simple facts.  He created a truly memorable column.  This lesson could run for a week or so because you need to develop students’ knowledge of Dave Barry, teach them about Talk Like a Pirate Day, give them time to write, and then let them compare their essays to the master’s.  I highly recommend that you celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day at the end of the unit!

The official Talk Like a Pirate Day is September 19, Mark’s ex-wife’s birthday.  I like to have my class’s Pirate Day at the very end of the school year, well after standardized testing.  The second-to-last day of school is my favorite time to do this.  (It’s a full day; the last day is a half day with unpredictable attendance.)

Talk Like a Pirate Day Unit Plan

1)      Learn about Dave Barry.  He is a columnist for the Miami Herald who now writes adult novels and children’s books, most notably Peter and the Starcatchers with Ridley Pearson.  I recommend that you read aloud from vintage columns on his website.  Or, take your class to the computer lab and let them peruse the site.  (Depends on the age level you teach.)

2)      Learn about Talk Like a Pirate Day.  You can read aloud from the website, let them peruse it themselves, give them my Factsheet, or make students take notes like real reporters.

3)      Write a humorous essay/column about Talk Like a Pirate Day.

4)      Finish writing, turn in the essays, read Dave Barry’s column aloud.  Note: the dialogue at the end is a little edgy, so I have given you two versions: original and abridged.  Use your judgment on which to choose.  (I’d use the without-dialogue version myself.)

5)      Celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Printable pdf Resources:

Ideas for Talk Like a Pirate Day activities:

  • Talk Like a Pirate!  Teach pirate vocabulary
  • Pirate ships: make ships out of aluminum foil.  The ship that holds the most treasure without sinking wins!
  • Pin the patch on the pirate
  • Pirate word search, crossword puzzle, Mad Libs, etc.
  • Pirate movie: Muppet Treasure Island, perhaps?
  • Pirate math: write fun word problems for classmates to solve
  • Pirate stories: write fun mini-stories about pirates
  • Visit the Pirates in the Classroom section of the Talk Like a Pirate Day website for more ideas

Arrr!  Have a great time, mateys!

Posted in Academics,Fun With Literacy,Tips for Teachers,Writing by Corey Green @ Feb 27, 2014

 

Get Students Writing Now with Paragraph POW! (Part six: values)

LearningGet Students Writing Now with Paragraph POW! (Part six: values)

I invented Paragraph POW! as a way to make writing practice more fun. We practice on special paper—lines in a box, just like on the state writing test. One difference: our paper has an awesome Paragraph POW! logo at the top.

Paragraph POW! became so successful that I developed dozens of writing prompts.  Writing prompts on lined paper are hardly marketable in workbook form, so I’m giving them away for free.

Kids often face writing prompts that require a little soul-searching.  The question asks students to make a value judgment, decide how they’d act in a hypothetical situation, or describe an ideal friend.  Kids love to write these paragraphs, particularly if they get to share their work at the end.  The sharing is especially important for values-based prompts—it encourages quality work and lets students get to know each other on a deeper level.)

Writing to a values-based prompt is not so hard:

Make a decision: don’t waffle.  Commit!  You will not be judged favorably if you change your mind halfway through the paper.  Remember, this paragraph is about your writing, not your value judgments.  (Within reason—really questionable ethics may leave a bad taste in the judges’ mouths.)

Think through your reasoning before you write.  Plan three good reasons for your value judgment, then jot down a detail for each one.  Students who don’t do this often run out of ideas quickly, and their writing reflects this.

Use the traditional structure: topic sentence, reasons, supporting details, conclusion.  Stick with what works.

Here are the Paragraph POW! how-to writing prompts. Click on each link for a printable PDF. I have also given you an all-purpose Paragraph POW! sheet so you and your students can write to your own prompts.


 

Get Students Writing Now with Paragraph POW! (Part five: how-to or instructions)

I invented Paragraph POW! as a way to make writing practice more fun. We practice on special paper—lines in a box, just like on the state writing test. One difference: our paper has an awesome Paragraph POW! logo at the top.

Paragraph POW! became so successful that I developed dozens of writing prompts.  Writing prompts on lined paper are hardly marketable in workbook form, so I’m giving them away for free.

Kids often face how-to prompts.  Kids are not the best at breaking tasks down to their component parts.  Hence, kids should really practice how to mentally break down a task—and how to write about it.

How-to prompts can easily become culturally biased.  I tried to think of the most basic how-to prompts that I could, but they are still based in a certain culture.  For example, not everyone in the world eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Heck, these days kids think that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches come from the freezer!  But I’ve seen it as a practice prompt, so I included it here.

Some suggestions for writing a how-to:

Pick a topic quickly: This becomes important if the prompt lets students write an instructional paragraph on whatever they wish. Kids will spend forever thinking of just the right thing.  I suggest that they choose quickly, based on what is easiest to write about.   That leaves time for better planning, more vivid details, more interesting syntax, etc.  (You’d hope!)

Break the task into steps—but not too many.  I recommend no more than five.  If possible, stick to a magic three structure.  After all, details can always flesh out the paragraph or essay.  When you’re being judged on your paragraph/essay writing, you don’t want a laundry list of steps.

Use transitions: the basic first, next, last are good—if you know how many steps you’ll need.  Otherwise, you may say “last” and then add one more thing.  To be on the safe side, consider “first, second, third.”  It won’t win any awards, but it’s foolproof.

Remember that it’s still a paragraph: give a topic sentence and a conclusion.  Try to fit in details.  Vary sentence structure as much as you can.  Little things will elevate a simple list to something resembling a paragraph.

Here are the Paragraph POW! how-to writing prompts. Click on each link for a printable PDF. I have also given you an all-purpose Paragraph POW! sheet so you and your students can write to your own prompts.

Have fun!


 

Get Students Writing Now with Paragraph POW! (Part four: persuasion)

Test TakingI invented Paragraph POW! as a way to make standardized writing practice more fun.  We practice on special paper—lines in a box, just like on the test.  One difference: our paper has an awesome Paragraph POW! logo at the top.

Paragraph POW! became so successful that I developed dozens of writing prompts.  Writing prompts on lined paper are hardly marketable in workbook form, so I’m giving them away for free.

Practice writing persuasive paragraphs helps students with their reading skills as well as their writing skills.  Students often face “author’s purpose” questions on standardized writings tests.   When students write to persuade, they are more likely to recognize when an author is writing to persuade (as opposed to writing to inform or entertain.)

This is Paragraph POW! and not a formal essay, so the organizational requirements are not as stringent as they would be if students were writing to a prescribed formula.  Nevertheless, students should abide by a few basic rules:

State your purpose: this works well in a topic sentence.  That way, everything about the paragraph should support the purpose/

Give a few reasons: as with many things in life, three is a good number.  One or two are not enough, four gets unwieldy.

Support your reasoning: this is where detail sentences come in.  It’s not enough to just give a reason—state why it is important or offer a detail.

Close with a call to action: this is really just a fancy type of conclusion sentence.

Paragraph POW! works best when students know their writing will be published and assessed.  Since I assign it so often, I don’t box myself in by promising to grade each paper, copyediting every single page.  Instead, I choose the papers that best exemplify qualities that I know standardized test graders value.  I put those papers under the document camera and read them aloud, giving many compliments.  Students want to see their work spotlighted and they put in their best effort.

I always insist that students do these things:

  • Write in the box (on standardized  tests, only writing in the box is graded)
  • Give your piece a title (test assessors love titles, apparently)
  • Start with an attention-getter.  This can be part of your topic sentence, or some fluff just before it.
  • Give examples and description.

Here are the Paragraph POW! persuasive writing prompts. Click on each link for a printable PDF. I have also given you an all-purpose Paragraph POW! sheet so you and your students can write to your own prompts.


 

Get Students Writing Now with Paragraph POW! (Part three: description)

LearningI invented Paragraph POW! as a way to make writing practice more fun. We practice on special paper—lines in a box, just like on the state writing test. One difference: our paper has an awesome Paragraph POW! logo at the top.

Kids live in the moment, not necessarily paying attention to what’s going on around them.  They get impatient—they just don’t care to notice details, and they certainly don’t want to hear about them.

You can see why kids have trouble describing things.

I created several Paragraph POW! prompts that challenge kids to describe.  These prompts are often real brain-busters for the class—I’m warning you!  Don’t load the kids up with too many of these at once.  Have them do one every few days or each week, building their ability to describe.

Some tips:

  • Remind students that a descriptive essay has its own structure.  It’s often built around 3 paragraphs that delve into details about 3 main attributes.  It does NOT devolve into a persuasive essay or personal narrative.
  • Challenge kids to think of at least one attribute for each of their five senses.  That should give them ideas that will flesh out their descriptive essays.
  • Suggest that kids make quick decisions.  This isn’t a contest to see who can design the best treehouse, it’s a prompt to describe a treehouse.  Make some quick decisions about what that treehouse looks like, then spend your effort describing it.
  • Challenge students to make at least one of their descriptions a simile.  Once kids practice this skill, they get pretty good at it.  They can compare a treehouse to a watchtower, a sunset to a fading spotlight.  Whatever.  Any stab at figurative language will be appreciated by the assessors.

It’s very important to praise students’ efforts as they learn to write descriptive essays.  It really is a hard style to master, so compliment progress.  I like to choose several good papers and spotlight them under the document camera.  With descriptive essays, I try to find something special in as many student papers as I can.  It gives students hope as they tackle the next tough descriptive topic.

Here are the Paragraph POW! descriptive  writing prompts. Click on each link for a printable PDF. I have also given you an all-purpose Paragraph POW! sheet so you and your students can write to your own prompts.

Good luck!

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Tips for Teachers,Writing by Corey Green @ Aug 30, 2013

 

Get Students Writing Now with Paragraph POW! (Part two: favorites)

 I invented Paragraph POW! as a way to make writing practice more fun. We practice on special paper—lines in a box, just like on the state writing test. One difference: our paper has an awesome Paragraph POW! logo at the top.

 A lot of people think that favorites make good essay prompts. These people have never watched students chew a pencil and stare into space for forty minutes, trying to decide if they prefer Snickers or Butterfinger.

Seriously.  Any teacher will tell you—that’s what kids do.  A “fun” writing prompt turns into an intense session of soul-searching followed by a few minutes of dashing off a slapdash essay.

It helps to prepare students to pick favorites in high-stakes essays.  More important, it helps to teach students a few techniques and tips:

  • Just pick something!  This is not a lie detector.  No one’s going to know if you chose to write about Snickers even though you really prefer Three Musketeers.  It’s easier to write details about peanuts, satisfying hunger, and caramel than it is to expound on the merits of nougat.
  • Whatever you pick, stick to it.  Don’t go getting bright ideas halfway through the essay.  If you switch from one candy to the next halfway through the essay, you’ll lose points for organization, persuasiveness, and who knows what else.
  • Don’t go off topic.  So you don’t have a favorite candy or you’re not allowed to eat sweets?  Just pick something.  If you turn the essay topic into something other than Favorite Candy, you might get a big fat zero for Off Topic.

Once my students understand the parameters of the assignment, they get really into Paragraph Pow! lessons on favorites.  It helps that I choose the essays that best exemplify what the state assessors are looking for and spotlight them under the document camera.  Everyone likes to have their work acknowledged.

Here are the Paragraph POW! favorites-based writing prompts. Click on each link for a printable PDF. I have also given you an all-purpose Paragraph POW! sheet so you and your students can write to your own prompts.

Have fun picking favorites!

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Tips for Teachers,Writing by Corey Green @ Aug 9, 2013

 

Get Students Writing Now with Paragraph POW! (Part one: choice-based prompts)

Test TakingI invented Paragraph POW! as a way to make writing practice more fun.  We practice on special paper—lines in a box, just like on the state writing test.  One difference: our paper has an awesome Paragraph POW! logo at the top.

Paragraph POW! became so successful that I developed dozens of writing prompts.  Writing prompts on lined paper are hardly marketable in workbook form, so I’m giving them away for free.

Paragraph POW! works best when students know their writing will be published and assessed.  Since I assign it so often, I don’t box myself in by promising to grade each paper, copyediting every single page.  Instead, I choose the papers that best exemplify qualities that I know standardized test graders value.  I put those papers under the document camera and read them aloud, giving many compliments.  Students want to see their work spotlighted and they put in their best effort.

I always insist that students do these things:

  • Write in the box (on standardized  tests, only writing in the box is graded)
  • Give your piece a title (test assessors love titles, apparently)
  • Start with an attention-getter.  This can be part of your topic sentence, or some fluff just before it.
  • Give examples and description.

I don’t get too picky about Paragraph POW! because I want students to practice extemporaneous writing—the opposite of our regular lessons, where they have to make an outline or fill in a graphic organizer.

Here are some of our choice-based writing prompts.  They ask for students’ opinions, but limit the options to just two choices.  Yes, my prompts are fun and thought-provoking, in a superficial way.  But I think the two-choice option is what really gets students to write.  Here’s why:

  • With two choices, there’s no overthinking.  Pick a knee-jerk reaction and justify it.  (Sort of like politics—my prompt presents you with a false choice, and you go from there!)
  • These prompts play on strong emotion.  Face it—everyone has an opinion on chocolate versus vanilla, cats versus dogs.
  • It’s not often that the school actually cares about your opinion on anything.  With Paragraph POW! students suddenly have a forum.
  • It’s just easier to give kids a choice of two.  This works on almost everything.

Here are the Paragraph POW! choice-based writing prompts.  Click on each link for a printable PDF.  I have also given you an all-purpose Paragraph POW! sheet so you and your students can write to your own prompts.

Have fun!

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Tips for Teachers,Writing by Corey Green @ Jul 26, 2013

 

How to Use the PlagTracker Plagiarism Checking Site in Elementary School

A National Board Certified Teacher offers advice on how to teach elementary school students to research and write papers. The PlagTracker website helps teachers show what NOT to do.

Elementary school teachers struggle to teach students how to write a research paper. Every single step is hard:

Choosing a topic (some kids aren’t interested in ANYTHING!)

Finding resources (most nonfiction goes over kids’ heads; some kids choose difficult-to-document topics)

Behaving in the library or computer lab during research time

Taking notes (some kids copy everything; others have no notes)

Writing the rough draft in your own words (does changing “the” to “a” count?)

Revising the rough draft (no kid cares about this step)

Writing the final draft (with some kids, the whole process was such a struggle that not even the teacher honestly still cares at this point)

PlagTracker can help with at least part of the research-paper process. The free website lets you copy and paste your paper into a form box. Then PlagTracker scans the paper against 20 million academic works (and the Internet) and generates a report showing whether your paper has issues. Each issue is highlighted and the site explains exactly what the problem is.

Elementary school teachers can copy-and-paste past and current papers to show students just what constitutes original work. Many students think that if they change a few words here and there, they can basically copy out of reference books. Other students don’t even bother to change a word here and there. PlagTracker shows why this is a problem.

The site really works. For my first test case, I uploaded a blog entry I wrote about the Tuskegee Airmen. PlagTracker calculated that my blog entry was 92% non-unique content—because PlagTracker knew about my blog entry! PlagTracker must be really thorough if it even checks ClassAntics. (Just to be clear—I didn’t really plagiarize the post. I did real research, honest!)

Additionally, PlagTracker can be used to scare students about the dire consequences that can arise from plagiarism.

“Many college and university students face extreme penalties for plagiarism such as failing an assignment, loss of privileges, academic probation, or even expulsion. In some cases, punishments can include lawsuits, criminal charges, and sometimes imprisonment. Even if you commit unintentional plagiarism, it can still be viewed as plagiarism in the eyes of the law. Why risk being penalized for plagiarism when with PlagTracker.com you can be 100% sure that your writing is unique?” (http://www.plagtracker.com/)

Scary stuff! I think we’ll all be more careful about what we write and how we cite!

Happy research paper writing! Quick help with some of the other research paper issues:

Get kids to choose topics quickly by scheduling topic-choosing time about 10 minutes before recess. Once kids choose a topic, they can go out to play.

As for the behavior in the library and computer lab—may I suggest a bribe? Extra recess (or even just a lollipop) for every child who remains quiet during research time and emerges with at least two actual sources.

Posted in Tips for Teachers,Writing by Corey Green @ Dec 21, 2012

 

Relationships Make Compelling Stories: The Hunger Games

Writing tips from Corey Green, National Board Certified Teacher;
use them in class or for fun! 

When creating characters for your story, remember that the relationships between characters will drive your plot.  Here are tips to help you create those relationships.

Writers will tell you that it’s important to know your characters well, especially your main character.  You should develop your characters’ strengths and weaknesses, habits, likes and dislikes, fears, hopes for the future, and favorites.  When I first began to write the Buckley School Books, I developed profiles like that for every kid in Mr. Hoker’s class.

However, my stories really gelled when I realized that the relationships between characters are as important, if not more important, than knowing every tiny detail about each individual character.  The relationships between characters should create conflict in the story.

Here are some common threads between characters.  Weave these phrases between your characters’ names for some great plot ideas!

Ideas for relationships between characters:
> Loves
> Hates
> Envies (Is jealous of)
> Admires (looks up to)
> Rivals (competition between characters)
> Fears
> Protects
> Defies (goes up against, challenges)
> Owes
> Upsets

The Hunger Games is an excellent example of how complex relationships between characters can create a compelling story that captivates millions of people all over the world.  Suzanne Collins created a complex web of characters as she wove her plot.

> Katniss Loves Gale, Peeta, Primrose (in different ways and at different times in the story)

> Katniss Hates the Career Tributes because they are cruel, the Capitol

> Katniss Envies (Is jealous of) Peeta’s ability to deal with the Hunger Games—he does better in front of the cameras, he seems more confident

> Katniss Admires (looks up to) Foxface’s cunning and cleverness

> Peeta Rivals Gale because they both love Katniss

> Katniss Fears the Capitol, the Hunger Games, President Snow, her competitors

> Katniss Protects Primrose, Rue, and Peeta

> Katniss Defies (goes up against, challenges) President Snow, the Gamemaker, and the Capitol

> Katniss Owes Peeta because he loves her, saves her, looks out for her

> Katniss Upsets lots of people!  Gale and Peeta, President Snow, the Gamemaker, Effie, Haymitch…she can be one prickly girl and she is a magnet for trouble.

Now, use this information to create your own story!  Create three or more characters for your story and develop the relationships between them.  You can also practice by figuring out the relationships between characters in stories you love.  Harry Potter, Twilight, Percy Jackson—these are few bestsellers with complex relationships between characters.  Can you list them all?

Posted in Fun With Literacy,Writing by Corey Green @ Apr 12, 2012

 

The Hunger Games in the Classroom: How to Write a Dystopia

Use the popularity of The Hunger Games to interest your class in dystopias.  Teach your students how to write a dystopia using tips from Corey Green, writer and National Board Certified Teacher.

People are eternally interested in dystopias.  A new one comes along for each generation.  Fahrenheit 451, 1984, The Hunger Games—these books address issues in our society and imagine a world where the solution takes the problem to its opposite extreme.

A dystopia seems like a difficult and complex genre, but it’s really just another genre in the field of fiction.  That sounds manageable, doesn’t it?  Your students can learn a lot about literature, society, and their own personal beliefs as they create their own dystopias.

Use my printable dystopia planning guide to help your students create their own dystopian story.  Help your students focus on the issue they want to address, create a dystopian “solution” that takes the problem to its opposite extreme, and decide how they want to address oppression.

> What is the problem or issue?
> How does the solution take the problem to its opposite extreme?
> How will the system of oppression work?
> Will the main character overcome oppression?
> Will it be on a large or small scale?
> Or will the character fall prey to the oppression, becoming another victim or even a perpetrator?

Big questions, but your students can handle it if they use my story planning sheet.  After all, a dystopia is really just a story with a beginning, middle and end—students simply need to address the conventions of the genre as they craft a satisfying story.

Good luck to you and your students as you create your dystopias.  May the odds be ever in your favor.

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Fun With Literacy,Writing by Corey Green @ Apr 9, 2012

 

Back to School Catch-up for Families: Write Something!

Assessments abound at back to school time, and one test your child will face is the “Writing Sample.” Shortly after spending a summer goofing off, your child will be tasked with spending several hours (over a few days) to write an essay.

It’s pretty obvious to most teachers that many students never even hold a pencil during summer break. Imagine your child dealing with that on top of the stress of having to write an essay. The results aren’t pretty.

You can help your child by encouraging him to write something—even a paragraph—before school starts. It will make a difference. By the way, this is a good time to have the “what is a paragraph?” talk with your child. I can’t tell you how many children ask me that question during the writing sample. It’s a good thing that last year’s teacher can’t hear them.

Note: I don’t want to cause stress to you and your child about these back-to-school assessments. I merely want to show you how to help your child brush up skills so her work reflects their actual ability, not the results of summer slide.

Posted in Back to School,Tips for Parents,Writing by Corey Green @ Aug 19, 2011

 

Dos and Don’ts for the State Writing Test

Test TakingThese are tips I give my students in preparation for the writing portion of the state achievement tests.

Do…
  — Read the directions.
— Make sure you understand the topic and the question.
— Stick to the topic.
— Plan!  Make a list or a web, whatever works for you.
— Organize!  Have a clear beginning, middle, end.
— Open with an attention getter: a question, announcement, or onomatopoeia. (Bang!  I’ll never forget the sound of the door slamming behind me when I was kicked out of class.)
— Use descriptive words where appropriate.
— Be clear and concise.
— Revise and edit.

 Don’t…
  — Don’t end with “The End.”
— Don’t write a list.  Put the information in paragraph form.
— Don’t introduce new information in the conclusion.  You should restate the main idea, but in different words.
— Don’t write “that’s what…” in the conclusion. (Example: “That’s what makes a good friend.”)
— Don’t repeat, reiterate, and restate the same thing over and over again.

Most of all: DON’T WORRY! You’ve practiced writing essays just like this and you’ll do well on the test, too!

Posted in Academics,Writing by Corey Green @ Apr 29, 2010