Posts Tagged “Creative Writing”

Prompting Creative Writing

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Disclosure: While this is not a sponsored post, it does contain affiliate links. The contents and opinions expressed herein are strictly my own.

writing-prompt-pic-2Even for the most creative or artistic students, creative writing can be challenging. Many students struggle with a blank sheet of lined paper, not knowing where to begin. Will the topic be enough to write about? Do I have anything interesting to say about this? My advice for parents trying to inspire children to write creatively – openly, is to offer smaller digestible writing exercises. Thank you cards, for instance, are perfect.  Along the same line, postcards offer a terrific way to fold in some writing skills without having it become overbearing. As an alternative, have your child describe the picture on the front side of the postcard. He/She can make up a story or describe a recently visited place. Then they can be mailed for sharing… or not, but it’s really about making writing feel less intimidating.

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Another writing trick is to incorporate lists but in such a way that the child is expanding on each bullet point. This of course is the start of an outline, but that already is projecting too far. Keeping the concept simple allows for freedom and eliminates unnecessary pressure. Outlines will come later but for now we’ll look at my example below about summer break. Again the idea isn’t to “teach” your child how to write but instead allow your child the freedom to write. Normally a child would jot down 3 to 5 favorite places he’s been in the summer. Instead encourage a string of thoughts, not necessarily not complete sentences. Once the child has written a few points, then he can pull them together into a small paragraph. For me, I don’t worry about the spelling, grammar and punctuation… I just want to see well constructed thoughts expressed in a simple paragraph or essay, depending the age/skill level.

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A third option for getting the creative juices flowing is using a tool like Daybook of Critical Reading and Writing by Great Source.  Using small passages, this resource prompts children to dig deeper into the story to answer open ended questions, look for clues, draw inferences and in some cases write an essay in response to the lesson. It will be awhile before Victoria is ready for the copy I picked up at a second-hand shop. In the meantime, we have a book called Monkey Business (Road to Writing) by Sarah Albee that incorporates doodles into simple writing exercises. For instance, one activity is to create an ad for skunk perfume… super silly, colorful and engaging story prompts to build the child’s confidence and creativity.

writing-prompt-picBefore long, the essays and research projects will creep into our children’s routine. Let’s empower our children to feel confident about writing. Let’s help them overcome writer’s block and fear of written expression. A small prompt can kick off a full discussion and plenty of insight… and afterall that’s the gold, right? Knowing what’s going on inside their minds.

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Create A Story With Storymaker Cards

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This #sponsored product review was instantly adored as we have our own avid storyteller. This post contains our honest opinion and some affiliate links.

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The most simplest things turns out to be some of the most beautiful. Here we have some cards… some very simple Storymaker Create-A-Story cards with some very beautiful and whimsical designs and on the reverse side… just one or two-word descriptions of the illustration. That’s it. Oh but it’s so much more…

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In the simplicity of the design and the fact that there are “no rules”, children are free allow their imaginations to wonder and craft their stories. The Storymaker Create-A-Story cards showcase images to include a rainbow, pirate ship, sea monster, monkey forest, and many characters among other places and objects.

Here are our three suggestions for using these Create-A-Story cards to enhance your child’s creativity, storytelling skills and creative writing skills. Of course, the sky is the limit… and don’t be surprised if your little masterminds have an idea of their own too, but here are mine:

  1. Solo stories. In a small group of 2-4 people (adults and/or children), each participant selects three Create-A-Story cards. Taking volunteers turns, each participants creates and shares aloud a (very) short story using those 3 cards. If a participant struggles, they can trade in one card for a new item or location card. Stories should be kept short to ensure everyone has their turn and if interest still allows, participants can later expand on their story line… with or without adding new cards. (Hint, if “game play” has concluded and participants are no longer interested in extended versions, player can write their full story down. It would be a shame to cut off creativity, so allow children a second option to continue on their own.)
  2. Story Share. In a small group of 3-10 participants, each player selects a random Create-A-Story card. All participants will create a colorful story with the player holding the card that comes first alphabetically starting the story line. One by one, players continue the story from where the last player ended, incorporating the person, place or item on their card. By example, the story may start with the Black Sand Beach being the letter “b” and the player holding that card would begin a tale, to then pass to the next player in a clockwise motion until all participants have spoken. The story would either end with the last person or each player could take a second card and continue for a second round. (Hint: Each participant shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to share their contribution to keep the flow of the story. Perhaps use a 2 min timer.)
  3. Story Swap. Similar to the Story Share concept, except written so have paper and pencils available. In a small group of 3-5 participants, each selects 3-5 Create-A-Story cards (depending on the number of participants). Each participant then begins to write a story using ONE of their Create-A-Story cards for inspiration. After a few moments (two to four minutes for writing), each participant passes their story to the person on the left. Then each participants reads the stories to themselves and selects another card from their hand to incorporate into the next paragraph. Again give approx 2-4 minutes for writing and allow increasingly more time for reading the previous contributions. Repeat by handing off the story to the person on the left and continue with another card in their hand. After the final round, each participant should have their original beginning story… with four other paragraphs. For laugh-out-loud fun… take turns reading the stories to the group.

Personally, I can see this as a wonderful Girl Scout activity and can’t wait to try it with my troop. I think it not only encourages creative thinking and storytelling but also public speaking/reading aloud and sequencing skills (option 2 and 3) providing that “what comes next” in the story line. And of course the third option is a sneaky way to get some creative writing accomplished. Either way, it is fun; it is sharing; it is valuable and educational.

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Heartfelt Letters From Santa To You

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Veroncia Steck My Letters From SantaIt is the time of year for traditions and nothing beats the heartfelt kind.  Kids everywhere are writing out their Christmas wishlists and some might actually write a little more (like an apology, for example).  Obviously this is a great opportunity for parents to engage their children in a little creative writing – telling Santa about their proudest accomplishment or largest challenge.  Click below for my video review on an awesome holiday tool to even further engage your child’s writing skills (not to mention a beautiful keepsake tradition to be enjoyed for years to come).

Veronica Christine Steck’s Heartfelt Letters from Santa is an amazing, creative gift of words from Santa to your child year after year to capture the warmth of the holiday spirit, to acknowledge his/her challenging efforts, showcase the cool stuff and keep childhood memories and the Christmas magic close at heart forever.  The 2 book program includes a journal (red) with blank pages for Santa’s letters to be written and The Parent
‘s Guide (green) with helpful suggestions on what to write, how to introduce the concept to your family and answers to many of kids’ curiosities.  Ten chapters to guide you through a tradition that you can stick to; ten chapters to help you capture the joy of Christmas through this new tradition.

Heartfelt Letters from Santa to You can be purchased via Amazon for $34.95 and additional journals (it is suggested that each child have their own for personal messages and keepsake) can be purchased separately at their website: http://www.heartfeltlettersfromsantatoyou.com/order.htm for $15.95.

Disclosure:  I received a complimentary 2 book set for review and FELL IN LOVE with this idea.  The article is otherwise not compensated and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.  I very much look forward to starting this tradition and especially appreciate the guidebook to help me through the writer’s block.

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VTech InnoTab 2 Baby– Toys That Make Learning Sense

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I’ve been that mom, standing in the toy isle poking and playing with all the “smart” toys… for well over an hour. I’ve done it twice now – just before the holiday season, trying to decide if the options on the shelf really made sense. In both cases – I walked away empty-handed. Why? Many reasons – I didn’t want to be persuaded by fancy packaging, colorful options or buttons that light up and down. Cost was another factor – could there really be a justifiable reason for the large swing from one brand/toy to another? But sure enough the next holiday season came, with the upgraded models and there I stood in the Target isle poking and playing all over again. Were last year’s model the better bargain, or should I take the advise of many and just buy a grown-up tablet to share, which I did. (I’ll let you know how the sharing has been working in an another post… sigh.)

The technology is great IF you have the patience for it and extra patience for all the ads and nickle-n-dime approaches to apps on these “real” tablets. Needless to say, my daughter wasn’t the primary user. We wouldn’t allow her to take it in the car – she still has a tendency to toss things around; and we wouldn’t allow her to carry it from room to room. It is not a toy and it didn’t come with a safety bumper. Nonetheless, I’ll continue to find age appropriate apps and tools for her on the tablet and we’ll use it side-by-side for learning fun.

Now having said that – I finally got the opportunity I needed to truly test drive one of the leading brands in smart toys – VTech. During a recent media event, I had the great pleasure of meeting with a representative and getting a hands-on demo for the newly released InnoTab 2 Baby. The device was not on some demo setting or strapped to the store shelf but actually available to hold, play and maneuver. Better yet, as part of this media event we were issued one to take home and review… the real test would be Victoria’s reaction and ability to use the technology. You’ll see from our video below that she not only loved it – but didn’t want to deviate from her creative platform. After only a couple of instructions and 15 mins of play activities – she was set to go with the InnoTab 2 Baby, maneuvering around games and programs and to/from other programs.

I haven’t even fully installed all the programs that come with the device… we just opened, placed the batteries and handed it over… oh and that’s the other great thing – we CAN hand it over to a 3 year-old and not worry about her dropping it or being less than gentle. Her confidence has soared, as she feels like such a big girl doing the apps on her own.  We don’t hand her the device to be on her own, but some apps allow for that solo creative time, and that’s fine… we all need our space.  Others are better suited for family time and sharing.

Now after all this you’re probably wondering why am I going on and on about a baby’s learning toy. Where does this fit for Homeroom At Home? The simple answer is the tablet advances with your child. It is designed and preloaded for infants 12 months ( to include apps like coloring and baby sign language and word/picture games) but as your child develops and requires more challenge, the cartridges and online downloads allow you the flexibility to match your son/daughters needs.

And here’s another thing… since so many parents have a mix of school-age children and a younger ones… the InnoTab 2 Baby, given to your baby or toddler will reduce the need for sharing the old child’s smart toy devices. (While the cartridges remain inter-changable between both the original versions and this baby version.)

And speaking of cartridges – there are tons to choose from with new ones being created and developed regularly. Some of my favorite educationally enriched InnoTab software are Brave and Madagascar 3 and InnoTab Software – Cars 2, all for their Problem-Solving Skills, Vocabulary and Math/Logic skills. We look forward to showcasing these and other titles as a viable fun learning activity for your sons and daughters. And let’s not forget the hundreds of online apps you can download through the VTech app-store for even more learning-enrichment and fun.

VTech is a well-known toy manufacture and the brand behind the InnoTab children’s tablet. They graciously provided my family with a tablet for the purpose of reviewing and sharing our experience with the product. The opinions and thoughts expressed here are strictly my own.

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East Coast Bruce Springsteen Collection & Giveaway

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Bruce Springsteen Exhibit At the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia

Come explore the “From Asbury Park To The Promised Land; The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen” exhibit at the National Constitution Center as a temporary but extraordinary showcase. This must see time capsule includes clips of Springsteen’s early music with the band “The Castiles”. Other early exhibit pieces include the band’s scrapbook and record labels. Following the exhibit space through Bruce’s personal collection of belongings tells many stories of the Americans people. Many songs are centered around specific events, like the September 11 attacks or life during the Vietnam War. Album after album, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band tell one compelling story after another, even if it is the everyday story of the everyday working class family. That is their charm; their legacy. With artifacts ranging from clothing pieces to concert photos and the large guitar collection, there is something for everyone to reflect on.

As for me, well, if I’m being totally honest, I’d have to admit prior to admission, I didn’t know much about Springsteen’s music or his political views or have the ability to even name more than a handful of his songs. I knew my father, John, could of course. My Dad related well to many of Springsteen’s themes and loves his unique and raspy rock & roll style. I’m glad I asked my Dad to join me. While we toured the exhibit, I got to glance back in time to things that mattered to my father’s generation. While my childhood concerns included learning to ride a bike and cutting gum out of my hair, Springsteen was writing about the working people of America and the everyday struggles they faced; my parents included. Never had I appreciated all this more than walking side by side with my father, reliving some memories and experiencing others for the first time. Springsteen’s talent with words and music simply transcends generations as well as, backgrounds, race and industry. His music simply speaks of the people and it was ever-so fitting that this exhibit sits at the National Constitution Center in historic Philadelphia.

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On my tour, I was the child with my parent, learning and appreciating new things around every corner. As a parent, I encourage you to embrace the beauty of Springsteen’s musical ability to tell a story, open our hearts and actually teach a thing or two to your children. The exhibit held several interactive features including musical videos, a trivia game centered around major historical events that he wrote and sung about, musical clips of his earlier performances and his Oscar for “Streets Of Philadelphia”. His “Born In The USA” album cover outfit is available on showcase as well as, many other interesting and engaging items. Be sure to take an extra moment to reflect on the lyrics which are blown up from his original notepad to poster size.

A fantastic addition to a fabulously interactive historical museum. While visiting, be sure to stop by the popular “Six Word Memoir” and “Signers’ Hall”. Inside the main exhibit, you’ll find fascinating facts about our nation’s governing roots and our founding fathers’ struggles to create and sustain the government that is still in existence today. The National Constitution Center offers many hands-on activities, lectures, interactive displays and tools for education. Be sure to pick up the fold-out worksheet on Bruce Springsteen, as it ties his musical legacy to our nation’s constitution in an easy to understand manner. The worksheet has activities for your child to think through while taking in the exhibits, both the main floor and Springsteen exhibits. Additionally, the brochure titled “From Darkness To A Dream” features some of the photography of Danny Clinch and Frank Stefanko as they capture Springsteen’s journey in an artistic manner. Art is available on display in the exhibits and reproductions available for sale through the Morrison Hotel Gallery. And something as simple as the visitor’s guide has a couple of quick tips under the “Top 10” section… for a quick review/highlight.

Giveaway

Enter here for multiple entries to win a family four pack. The family four pack includes admission to the National Constitution Center, live performance of “Freedom Rising”, Signers’ Hall, and “From Asbury Park To The Promised Land; The Life and Music Of Bruce Springsteen” temporary* exhibit. (*Please note this exhibit is open now until September 3, 2012.) Be sure to leave a comment with your favorite Springsteen song and its significance to you.  Giveaway entries open until July 18, 2012.  Winner will be announced via email and must respond within 3 days to remain eligible.

The National Constitution Center is located at 525 Arch Street, Independence Mall, Philadelphia, PA 19106.  Visit their website at www.constitutioncenter.org for more information, educational tools and museum store items.

In full disclosure, I had been offered a pair of complementary admission tickets to experience the Bruce Springsteen exhibit and tour the National Constitution Center. The ideas and opinions expressed here are solely mine. I was not compensated further for this review.

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Frog and Toad Come to Local Theater

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Favorite Children’s Classic comes to theater…

Appel Farm Arts and Music Center of Salem County is offering a theater performance: A Year With Frog and Toad on February 11th at 2 PM.  For ticket information, directions and details please visit their website at : www.appelfarm.org.

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Calling All Creative Writers…

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PBS Kids is holding a Writing Contest for kids in grades K-3.

What a wonderful addition to the creative writing curriculum on the main website www.HomeroomAtHome.com and a great tool to encourage your little one to pick up his or her pencil.   Be sure to check out the contest rules and specifics at http://pbskids.org/writerscontest/contest.php but some details for this local/national contest are included below.

Kindergarten and 1st grade entries are required to have a minimum of 50 words and a max of 200 words.  Grades 2nd and 3rd with submissions require a minimum of 100 words and a max of 350 words.

Awesome prizes at the National level include tablet computers, e-readers, and MP3 players for 4 winners in each 1st, 2nd and 3rd placements. National winners will be announced mid-July 2012.   Stories and illustrations must be original work by a single student author.  Download the entry form and find your local PBS station http://pbskids.org/writerscontest/contest.php.

Such an exciting opportunity!  Parents, consider sharing last year’s entries with your children as well.  Happy Writing!!

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