Draw a Story Starters

My kids' favorite way to do a quick writing practice.

One of the things I’ve been working on with my kids is just getting things down on paper when they are given a writing assignment.  They seem to have these mental blocks where they just stare at the paper. So I made these story starters to use during a timed “writing frenzy”.  Since you draw from four different idea bags, this method gives endless story starters. Before we start writing the kids chose one slip of paper from each of the baggies.  In one baggie is the topic, in another is the problem, in another is an adjective, and in the last is an object.  You can mix the cards around any way you like for your story.  In the cards drawn below, either the mom could be crazy or the math homework could be. The rule for our writing frenzy is that everyone has to write for the entire … click to read more

Design A Postage Stamp

Your kids can design a postage stamp of their very own.  How cool would it be to be a stamp designer? This printable can be used for lots and lots of things.  Here are a few ideas: Design a stamp about a famous person or event you are studying from history. Make a stamp similar to a coat of arms, that represents significant things about a historical person. After learning about a country, design a postage stamp that would highlight something or someone important from the country. Make your postage stamp feature an important invention or inventor. Create a stamp based on your favorite book, author, or character. Make a stamp all about you.  Draw yourself in the center surrounded by things that represent who you are. Design a postage stamp about an important scientist and their contribution. Make your postage stamp feature your favorite subject, or even the job … click to read more


Idioms are phrases that have both a literal (exact) and a figurative (understood) meaning.  They can’t be understood by evaluating the individual meaning of their parts.  For example, if I say “when pigs fly” you may know the literal meanings of the words “when,” “pigs,” and “fly,” but that still doesn’t let you in on the figurative idea that something is never going to happen. John Randal wrote a poem that gives perfect examples of the figurative language of idioms: ‘You can’t cry over spilled milk!’ my mother always said. ‘Life’s not a piece of cake!’ she hammered in my head. ‘That’s the way it goes, that’s the way the cookie crumbles’ My mother saved her idioms for all my idiotic troubles. “Don’t cry over spilled milk” is another perfect example of an idiom.  Literally, it means that you shouldn’t cry if you spill a glass of milk, but figuratively, … click to read more

Northeast Woodland Tribes Research Project

The Northeast Woodland tribes lived in wigwams or longhouses, hunted and fished, and grew crops like maize, beans, and melons. Some of the tribes were very warlike and others were more peace loving.  The region of the Northeast Woodland Indians extended from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean and from Southern Canada to northern Virginia. Within the Northeast Indian Tribe region were hundreds of distinct tribes who spoke different languages, had different customs, wore different styles of clothing, and lived different lifestyles.  There really is no way to study “Indians” as a whole group or even a region as a whole.  Instead, choose a single tribe or confederation and study that one tribe in detail. Research Exploration We recommend reading short descriptions of several tribes and then picking one to do further research on.   Once you have chosen your tribe head to the library and find information on … click to read more

Persuasive Writing

Persuasive writing can seem a little intimidating at first, but if you understand some basics of what to include, it can be really fun for kids to try.  Simply stated, it’s any writing that is trying to convince someone of something.  We use persuasion all the time everyday – when you’re convincing Mom to let you have that cookie, or when you want your sister to go for a bike ride with you, or when you don’t think that punishment is fair and you want to negotiate a new one.  The question is, can you convince me in writing? Persuasive writing gives kids a chance to tell their opinions and ideas instead of just facts like a lot of other essays (although some supporting facts go a long way in convincing people!).  Writing like this can take on a lot of different formats: a letter to the editor compare and … click to read more

The 6 Traits of Writing

When my kids write I never just slap a grade on what they’ve done. Instead, I give them real feedback using the 6 traits of writing: Ideas and Content Organization Word Choice Sentence Fluency Conventions Voice I typically give them a score for each trait 1-5, along with a brief comment about what they did well and how they can improve. Effective writing includes ideas that are valuable and interesting.  It should be organized in a logical, effective way.  Word choice should be specific, descriptive, and memorable.  It should include sentence fluency that is smooth, with sentences of varying lengths and varying patterns.  It should have conventions that are correct and communicative rather than being riddled with mistakes.  Finally, effective writing is full of voice, meaning it has a personal tone specific to the author.  Here is a printable form that will help you as you evaluate your kids’ writing. … click to read more

African Folk Tales For Kids

African folk tales have been told for centuries, passed down from generation to generation by families and by griots, storytellers who have preserved African history orally since ancient days.  Folk tales are especially fun for kids because they tend to be pretty short and have fun animals as characters. African folk tales, in particular, use a lot of animals as characters. The communities and storytellers from the region would likely have had a lot more interaction with wild animals than we are used to. The stories reflect a culture where animals abound. The natural world is very much a part of everyday life in many regions of the continent. In the tales, we meet jaguars, snakes, monkeys, lions, giraffes, zebras, crocodiles, and more. Storytellers gave the animals human characteristics in order to teach lessons and illustrate the virtues and foibles of humankind. Choose a folk tale that has animal characters … click to read more

East of the Sun and West of the Moon

Norway is a Scandinavian country in the far north of Europe.  It is an old country, civilized for many thousands of years. It is the land of the Vikings, their gods, sprites, elves, and monsters. The Norse have many old tales handed down for generations by skalds, poets and storytellers.  East of the Sun and West of the Moon is one of them. One of those tales is East of the Sun and West of the Moon.  It has been retold many times.  Here we offer our version of East of the Sun and West of the Moon.  Read it with your children, then have them make puppets or drawings and retell the story in their own words.  You can click on the link above or on the picture below to get the printable. Narration Once you’ve read the story and made a project to go along with it, finish … click to read more

A Christmas Creative Writing Elf Adventure

Ready for some most excellent Christmas creative writing?  Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean we should quit thinking and learning.  Meld a bit of Christmas cheer into the ol’ school assignments and you’ll have willing little learners, excited little learners even! Try this simple Christmas creative writing assignment.  You’ll be finding out your elf name, coloring your elf and his or her Christmas tree, and then writing an elf adventure story.  Use this free printable to accomplish it all!  Go ahead, find out what your elf name is.  And get those gears turning about what your elf adventure will be . . . starring yourself as an elf! My elf name is Cookie Angel-Pants.  I haven’t finished my story yet, but I already know it will involve delivering goodies to other North Pole residents on the snowmobile.  Oh, and also a large polar bear who wants to have all … click to read more

Library Activities

A friend of mine once told me that she won’t take her kids to library because letting them handle all those books other people have touched just seems dirty.  SHOCK.  AWE.  Seriously?  Never in my life had I considered the library to be dirty.  It makes me feel quite the opposite.  Something about mountains of shelves full of thousands of books makes me feel all warm and hopeful, a little lovey even.  We try not to let a week go by without an outing to the library.  It’s our favorite, and most often made expedition. How To Make A Library Outing Fun I do a couple of things to make it stay fun for my kids: 1.  I allow us plenty of time to peruse, play, do any activities they have, and just browse through all those glorious books.  Ours has a little puppet theater and computer stations, so it … click to read more