Creative Writing

“I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson

In a recent Oak Meadow blog, I wrote about the book character, Flat Stanley, and how author Jeff Brown initially created this funny fellow as a bedtime story for his sons. Creative writing, especially for the younger grades, often begins with oral and artistic expression. In Oak Meadow’s early elementary language arts lessons, the students are introduced to the art of storytelling by listening to stories and then practice retelling story events with detail and in sequential order. They compose simple story summaries and draw story scenes showing specific details. Puppet shows and play acting are also encouraged in the retelling of stories or in creating imaginative scenarios.

As the students mature and develop, creative writing is introduced through detailed story summaries, short stories, and original poetry and rhyming compositions, along with descriptive and opinion paragraphs. By the time the student reaches grades three and four, creative writing is generated through brainstorming story ideas, identifying story components (character, setting, story problem, conflict, and resolution), expressing thoughts and ideas in informal journal form, and completing other free writing exercises.

For some students creative writing flows with ease, while for others information research projects are much more appealing. As American novelist and non-fiction writer Anne Lamott once wrote, “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”  When I work with my local home school students on creative writing projects, we often tell stories together. It’s kind of like a Round-Robin storytelling session, where we sit in a circle and I (or one of the students) begin the story with a few sentences or a short scenario and then pass it on to the next person  to continue with a few more sentences. It goes all the way around the circle until the last person gives the story an ending. It’s not only a great activity for oral participation, it also provides a nice segue into writing ideas in story format.

Photo Credit: Leslie Ann Daniels

When my students and I learned about Flat Stanley and each participant made a “Flat Me”, we created adventurous settings and stories for our characters. Perhaps we visited a jungle or a deep enchanted forest, or we climbed atop a mountain or visited the deep blue sea. The stories that were written to accompany the activity included questions that helped in composing the imaginary stories:

 

 

1 – Who went with you?

2 – Why did you go?

3 – How did you travel?

4 – What trail did you follow?

5 – How long did it take?

6 – What did you see?

7 – Who did you meet?

8 – What special memories did you bring back with you?

No matter how you approach creative writing, it can enrich the student’s imagination. Knowing where to begin or what to write about allows the activity to flow easier, naturally, and more creatively. Inspiring the student to write with their own passion and excitement allows a new freedom to write about many things.

Extreme Weather

Here she comes again. April is her name.

One of twelve children, they all call her Rain.

All around the world, weather events are happening in every corner of the globe. In Oak Meadow’s coursework, observing seasonal weather and its effect on plants and animals is a significant part of the kindergarten, first grade and second grade science lessons. In the third grade science curriculum, weather conditions are studied by tracking weather and clouds, learning about lightning and thunder, and engaging in educational activities and artistic exercises in relation to tornadoes, blizzards, and hurricanes (or typhoons). According to econet.com, the definition for extreme weather is weather on a larger, more serious and devastating scale.

For additional information on weather, meteorologist Crystal Wicker created an informational site for children called Weather Wiz Kids. Kids Discover also created an interactive iPad app for kids, which displays the most extreme forms of weather on Earth. It includes an interactive cross-section of a hurricane, HD videos of tornadoes and lightning, and the science behind extreme climates.

In addition to the serious side of extreme weather, you might like to read the book, Thunder Cake, written by Patricia Polacco. It is a heartwarming and beautifully written story about Patricia (the author) when she was a young girl, and how she overcame the fear of storms with the help of her grandmother. You can also introduce some fun ways we use the weather through idioms and phrases, such as under the weather, weather the storm, or fair-weather friends. It might be a great time to include a spelling and vocabulary exercise on the difference between weather, whether and wether.

The wonders of science are wonderful!

 

Dr. Seuss Day

The more that you read, the more things you will know.

The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

Dr. Seuss

Curling up with a good book and reading a story with children is often considered a family’s favorite pastime. Whether it is a picture book for the younger child or a chapter book for a more advanced reader, sharing stories is not only a delightful experience but also aids in the development of independent reading.

For the young child, rhyme and repetition are the precursors for early literacy and reading readiness. In the Oak Meadow kindergarten and first grade coursework, the practice of rhyme and repetition are emphasized as critical skills in the preparation of reading. The student is encouraged to listen to books with repeated phrases, along with listening to and reciting short rhyming poems, verses and tongue twisters. The student is also encouraged to retell stories, as well as act out stories with puppets and other props. Oftentimes a child will even imitate what the parent has read by pretending to read books, which can also aid in the development of memorization. These types of activities provide the child with a sense of mastery and accomplishment, which naturally enhances the joy of literacy and the desire for reading.

A favorite American children’s author, illustrator, and co-founder of Beginner Books is Dr. Seuss. March 2 marks his 113th birthday and is now celebrated as Dr. Seuss Day. Did you know his real name is Theodor Seuss Geisel, but he used the pen name Dr. Seuss? Did you know his very first book (published in 1938), And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was rejected by the first forty-three publishers he showed it to? Since that time, forty-four of Dr. Seuss’s children’s books filled with zany rhymes and repetition have been published and are now available worldwide.

It’s a good week to visit the library and enjoy perusing the classics of Dr. Seuss. You might also like to visit Seussville or have fun testing your knowledge with the following Dr. Seuss book trivia quizzes:

https://www.familyeducation.com/quizzes/dr-seuss/dr-seusss-books

https://www.familyeducation.com/quizzes/dr-seuss/dr-seuss-book-trivia

My favorite Dr. Seuss book is The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. Which one is your favorite?

Snow!

“Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.” Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley 1925

One of my favorite stories to share with children during the winter is Else Beskow’s book, Ollie’s Ski Trip. Ollie goes on a snowy adventure and discovers King Winter’s palace where he finds him sitting on his icy throne with sheer pride and pleasure. Ollie also meets King Winter’s spritely right hand man, Jack Frost, as well as Mrs. Thaw, who shows up with her broom to sweep away the last of the winter snow in preparation for the entrance of Lady Spring.

The season of winter goes hand in hand with the wonder of snow, which brings to mind a man by the name of Wilson Bentley, better known as the Snowflake Man. Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley was a farmer who grew up and lived in Vermont. As a young boy, he was home schooled. He had a natural affinity with nature, and with snowflakes in particular. He received his first microscope on his 15th birthday (in 1881) and began examining snowflakes. He soon discovered that no snowflake is like any other. At the age of 19, Bentley took his first micro-photograph of a snowflake, and this was the beginning of a passionate hobby. He spent his entire adult life photographing snowflakes, and by the time he died in 1931, he had photographed over 5,000 images. Imagine that!

William Bentley’s official home site also provides an assortment of books for all ages on this marvelous “Snowflake Man”. If you are fortunate to live close to or pass by Jericho, Vermont, you can visit the Bentley Museum to view his photographed snowflakes and to learn more about his fascinating life and the captivating beauty of snow!

The Oak Meadow syllabus in kindergarten and in first grade offers the artistic project of making paper snowflake designs. Oak Meadow’s fourth grade coursework offers a block on poetry, which involves creating a portfolio of freestyle, rhyming and acrostic poems. Student Maren Doughty wrote a lovely acrostic poem on “SNOWFLAKES”…

Smelling hot chocolate
Now winter is here
Outside we go!
Wind howling
Freezing fingers and noses
Lots of snow angels shaped in the snow
All the gournd is covered white
Kids building snowman
Everyone is excited
Seeing snowflakes falling

World Read Aloud Day

The Commission on Reading stated in a report, Becoming a Nation of Readers, that “THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ACTIVITY for building knowledge for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

This year, World Read Aloud Day is celebrated on Thursday, February 16. Whether your children are babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergartners, a primary school students or beyond, reading aloud provides a perfect opportunity to value the world of literature. It allows the child to become inspired and motivated to read independently, to strengthen reading and listening comprehension skills, and to learn new vocabulary words. It offers an introduction to new books and different types of literature that children might not discover on their own, such as the classics, poetry, short stories, biographies, etc. It offers the ability to use their imagination (and beyond personal experiences) to explore people and places from around the world, as well as events that occurred in the past or might occur in the future.

One of Oak Meadow’s primary focuses of the language arts in the early years is to build an appreciation for the richness of language, to emphasize the value of reading, and to attain strong foundational skills in reading. Reading aloud to young children is known to be one of the best reading readiness activities there is and lends a cozy closeness to your time together. You can read outside in a hammock, or under the table in a makeshift fort, or in a tree house. You can sit on the steps and read while your children are eating their snack. You can read anywhere, anytime. Read when your children are a bit too wild and need settling down, or when they are tired and just want to relax. Choose books that have themes your children are interested in and choose books that expose them to things they might not otherwise experience. Reading classic tales you remember from your childhood is a wonderful experience and often exposes children to language that has richness and depth that modern literature often lacks.

Story and book suggestions offered in Oak Meadow’s Grades K-4 language arts coursework, with intentions to form a foundation for rich and effective reading, include fairy tales and other archetypal stories, bedtime stories, poetry, tongue twisters, fables, folktales, world cultural stories and children’s classics. So now is the time to curl up with your little bookworms and celebrate World Read Aloud Day by reading books and sharing stories, not just on February 16, but each and every day!

Summertime Poetry Challenge!

A Summer Challenge! (For my Northern Hemisphere Friends!)

When I was in kindergarten, my school had one requirement in order to move on to first grade. Each child had to memorize ten nursery rhymes before “graduating” from kindergarten! I recall that this wasn’t such a hard thing for me to do since I delighted in the joy and rhythm of the nursery rhymes. Little did I know that not only was I enjoying the beautiful rhythmical patterns, but I was also building my memorization skills, my vocabulary, and my language comprehension skills at a very young age.

Memorizing a poem can just be so satisfying! The poem’s lines can come to you when you least expect it. Just this spring I saw a group of daffodils and the lines of William Wordsworth’s poem, “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud” sprang into my mind:

“I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze”

And truly, when geese fly overhead in the autumn at my house, I quickly say the first lines of Rachel Field’s poem “Something Told The Wild Geese”:

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go,
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, “snow.”

This summer, why not challenge yourself to memorize at least 6 poems? (You might also enjoy memorizing the lyrics to favorite songs!) You can choose some of your own liking, or try the ones listed on the Mensa For Kids website. There are 12 poems listed there and each one has an explanation of the idea of the poem, definition of specific vocabulary words in the poem, and then great ideas to help you memorize the poem more easily.

Butterfly Art Project

Fly, fly butterfly.

Whither lies your way?

I fly to the sun

On this lovely spring day.

Fly, fly butterfly.

With wings of colored hue.

From the sun please bring us

A message or two.

Author unknown

I have discovered that watching butterflies is a delight at any age. I am in awe as I watch the butterflies emerge from their winter sleep or return home from their long migration. Butterfly watching is fast becoming a popular hobby. Did you know there are more than 650 species of these colorful winged insects in the U.S. alone? Did you know that people who study them are called lepidopterists?

Butterfly conservatories are a great way to observe many different species of butterflies, but most of you don’t even have to leave your backyard before you’ll notice them flitting about. If you are enthusiastic about attracting even more butterflies, you can plant particular varieties of flowers, such as Butterfly Bush, Butterfly Weed, Zinnia, Bergamot, Day Lily, Black-Eyed Susan, and Purple Coneflower, as well as herbs like Tansy, Garlic, and Chives.

1519fg78jCuL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Oak Meadow’s science courses in grades k-4 include various studies of the butterfly. In addition to the suggested lesson activities, you might include a guidebook, such as Robert Michael Pyle’s book, National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Or perhaps you would enjoy sharing a butterfly story, such as Alan Madison’s Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly or Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Bruce Coville’s The Prince of Butterflies.

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Photo Credit: Leslie Daniels

If it’s a rainy day, and no butterflies can be observed, then you and your children might like to make a butterfly template, paint it with watercolors, and then create your own butterfly kite or wind waver. Before painting,  you might like to view pictures of butterflies to study the symmetry of their patterns. They truly are amazingly beautiful insects!

 

Books for Kindergarten Students

As many of us are winding down the school year, it is encouraged to continue reading stories and picture books to our children throughout the summer season. This is especially important for the preschool and kindergarten aged students, so the Oak Meadow teachers teamed up and shared some of their favorite books for this age level:

Michelle Menegaz: Our family loved the very repetitive but very soothing Milly Molly Mandy stories by Joyce Lankester Brisley. There really is something magical about this story of a little girl and her family doing very normal things in an old English village from somewhat long ago.

Another one with plenty of adventure that starts off seeming to be in the most nothing-ever-happens-here kind of place is Twig, written by Elizabeth Orton Jones.

If you want a rollicking very high adventure, very high language read aloud, and the child can sustain through long complex storylines, then The Borrowers, written by Mary Norton, is a treat and a half, but no easy ride for sure.

Another long-time favorite of ours forever and ever is Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm… very understated humor and delightful drawings accompanying tales of real animals living with a real family in a real and imperfect old farmhouse. This is just one of many that Alice and Martin Provensen wrote.

Regarding the letter activities, the book LMNOP and All the Letters A to Z looks at the poetic nature of letters with beautiful block/beeswax crayon drawings.

Your children may delight in a deeper approach to the alphabet. Maybe they can come up with their own ways to blend the letters into a picture, or make them from pretzel dough, or act them out with their body.

And have you ever read On Beyond Zebra?  It is about the letters AFTER Z, written by classic, hilarious Dr. Seuss.

Claudine Kaplan: For animal stories with valuable morals, Thornton Burgess’s Old Mother West Wind books are great stories that were first published in 1910.

Sarah Antel: Tasha Tudor wrote some sweet animal stories.

What about Robert McClosky’s Blueberries for Sal and One Morning in Maine?

I have memories of my parents reading me The Wind in the Willows no matter how old I was; it was my favorite story growing up.

Shannon Miller: My boys and the kindergarten group I just worked with loved the whole series by Julia Donaldson (The Gruffalo, A Gold Star for Zog, etc.) They feature great rhyme schemes so younger kids who aren’t quite reading can “read” along. The author does an excellent job featuring female characters in different roles. (For example, one character refuses to be a princess because she really wants to be a dragon doctor.) They are fun and usually cheap to obtain!

Leslie Daniels: One of my favorites for a kindergarten student is Adrienne Keith’s book, Fairies From A to Z. The drawings are colorful and delightful, and the book is formatted in poetry style. This book also includes special “fairy words” for each letter that are found along the borders of the pages. In addition, there is a fairy box (home) to construct at the back of the book. My own children at this age level loved this book – and they also loved making their own fairy boxes.

Also, we can’t forget the wonderful books written by Margaret Wise Brown, Elsa Beskow, and Barbara Berger. They are perfect for kindergarten students!

Meg Minehan: In addition to some already mentioned, here are a few of my kids’ kindergarten favorites: My Father’s Dragon series, Jenny Linsky series, Pierre The Truffle Pig, and for a newer book – the Tumtum and Nutmeg series, which are contemporary but with that charm and adventure of The Wind in the Willows, etc. They are fabulous to read aloud.

Andy Kilroy: My kindergarten-aged granddaughter is already reading pretty easily, so I have been spending my time with her on Explode the Code books. I have also been doing poetry with her, as she loves to make up rhymes. We are both rhyming straight up and she is writing songs, which she loves to do. When we do read, we do books in the “easy reader” genre, so they vary. I have not hit upon any that she likes as much as she likes the rhyming books. I have been trying to do some longer stories with her; she likes Mo Willems books that are written in the non-rhyming format, and she loved Angela and Her Alligator, which is a “chapter book”. She also liked the Berenstain Bears series, which includes great morals and values. My granddaughter also loves Gruffalo and Where the Wild Things Are.

Michelle Menegaz: Choosing which books to share with your kindergartener is where the home teacher can use intuition and knowledge of the child to branch out and get creative!

Doodle4Google

The Oak Meadow coursework in all grade levels (particularly in grades k-4) highly emphasizes the integration of artwork with the academics. Throughout the coursework, students are encouraged to complete artistic activities and projects in the form of drawing, painting, and/or making crafts in all the main subjects. Main lesson books are made by the students to preserve their ideas and knowledge of the content for each lesson, which includes the combination of written work and creative expression.

1DoodleThe students are also encouraged to express themselves artistically through freestyle form. One of the most enjoyable freestyle forms of artistic expression is doodling! Doodling runs the gamut of personal creations to adding color to created forms, such as The Original DoodleArt Flowers Coloring Poster or The Original DoodleArt Fairy Tales Coloring Poster.

If your child likes to doodle, then I highly recommend participating in the 8th annual Doodle4Google art contest (for grades k-12). The theme for this year is “What Makes Me…Me”. The contest is open for entries from now until December 7, 2015. If you are interested in seeing a gallery of past winners, you and your children might get some great ideas! 

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So, doodly doo your way into a winning “doodle4google” day; and if you need some added inspiration, you can always take a break and enjoy the Doodly Doo song with hand actions!

Doodly Doo Song (Wadally ah cha)

Lyrics

Please sing to me 

That sweet melody

Called the doo, doodly doo

I like it so wherever I go

It’s the doo doodly doo

CHORUS

It’s the simplest thing

There isn’t much to it

All you got to do is doodly doo it

I love it so

That wherever I go

It’s doodly, doodly, doodly, doodly doo

Come on and…

Wadally ah cha, wadally ah cha

Wadally oh, wadally oh

Wadally ah cha, wadally ah cha

Wadally, wadally oh

Action

pat knees twice

clap twice

stay in clapping position and click to the right then the left

take right hand put on nose then on shoulder same with right, start the actions when you get to the line: come on and…

Summer Reading!

Throughout each grade level, Oak Meadow offers a wonderful supply of classics and other cherished books for you and your children to read throughout the school year. However, free reading should also be encouraged during the summer months. Do you need some summer reading ideas? Here’s a good reading list provided by Common Sense Media. This site also provides a section on Wonderful Wordless Books that offers a list of “wordless books” you might like to share with your children. They are perfect for using as story writing prompts, too.

1Summer-Reading-Image-2014The Bookworm for Younger Kids booklist for June is also available to peruse for good reading materials. However, if you would like to subscribe for each month’s group of booklists, you can sign up for free by visiting the Bookworm for Kids official website.

 

HAPPY SUMMER READING!

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