Monday, December 8, 2014

100 Not-Boring Writing Prompts for Middle- and High Schoolers





1. Attach an image (photo, magazine, etc.) to a notebook page and write about it.

2. What things will people in the future say about how we live now? (Examples: They ate that? They believed that?)


3. Pick one from each list to make a creature and animal combination. Now write a short story or scene in which this creature appears.
List 1                                                           List 2
Vampire                                                    porcupine
Ninja                                                            armadillo
Zombie                                                                         pig
Pirate                                                          goat
Mummy                                                     lobster
Clown                                                         possum
Banshee                                                     shark
Wraith                                                        moray eel


4. Imagine a future in which we each have a personalized robot servant. What would yours be like? What would it do? What features would it have?


5. What does your name mean? Free write about names: names you like, names you don’t, how a name can affect a person’s life, how you feel about your own name, why your parents chose your name, etc.


6. Create a brand new holiday with its own traditions, rituals, foods, and activities.


7. What road-trip would you take if you suddenly could? Write about it.

8. List six true sentences that begin with the words “I'll never forget…”


9. Imagine that we lost all electricity, water, and gas for a month without any time to prepare. Write about how your life would change and how you would survive.

10. Make your bucket list for the next 5 years, the next 10 years, and for life.

11. Tell this story: “Well, I thought it was going to be a regular summer doing all our regular things…”


12. List 10 places in the world that you would most like to visit, 10 places you’ve been, and 10 places you would never want to go.

13. Think about hospitality in your family. What’s it like to have guests in your house? Do you prefer to have friends to your house or to go to a friend’s house?


14. Pick a family member of two and write about his or her reputation in your family, or tell a family legend.

15. A guitar pick, a red balloon, and a wicker basket. Write a scene or a poem that includes these three objects.

16. What animal would judge us the most? Write a scene (based on truth or fiction) where two or more people are doing something silly, and they're being observed and criticized by animals.


17. Write about your own worst family vacation memory.


18. Write about your best family vacation memory.


19. Imagine that someone says to you, “Because that's how we've always done it!” Write this out as a scene. (Think: Who said it, what were the circumstances, how did you respond, etc.)


20. What do you think about when you can't sleep? Turn it into a piece of writing.

21. What traditions does your family have? List all of them or just pick one and write about it.

22. Think about your strongest emotion right now (irritation, boredom, happiness, contentment, etc.) and find five quotes about this emotion.


23. What do you struggle with the most? Write about it.

24. Write a self-portrait.

25. What can we learn from contrast?  Write a description of something very dark (like a crow) in a very light place (like a field of snow).  Make the dark thing seem innocent and the light thing seem ominous.

26. Write about someone who has no enemies. Is it even possible? 

27. Think of a person from your past who really deserved a good scolding but never got one.  Write a fictional piece where you tell that person off intelligently.

28. Can honesty honestly be bad?  Write about someone, fact or fiction, who gets in trouble for being too truthful.

29. The word “fat” carries a negative connotation.  Write a story or observation where something fat is celebrated.

30. What animal lives beneath your human skin?  A mouse? A cougar? Or what? Explain with writing.

31. Write about the best piece of advice you ever received.

32. Remember a favorite book from your childhood.  Write a scene that includes you and an old copy of that book you find somewhere.

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33.  “I was so mortified, I wanted to crawl in a hole!” Write a short narrative (fiction or nonfiction) where this is your first sentence. Illustrate it if you want.

34. Should books ever be banned? Discuss. If no, explain why. You might want to look at a least of commonly banned books. If yes, explain under what circumstances.
35. Ernest Hemingway said to “write hard and clear about what hurts.” Write about something that hurts, whether it’s an emotional, physical, or phantom pain.

36. What if everyone had to wear a shirt with his or her Myers-Briggs personality type on it? What would this change? How would this affect the way people interact with each other? Would you like this or hate it? (If you don’t know your “type,” try this site.

37. William Shakespeare wrote that: “Conversation should be pleasant without scurrility, witty without affectation, free without indecency, learned without conceitedness, novel without falsehood.” Write your thoughts about conversation, or make up dialogue between two characters who are meeting each other for the first time in an unexpected place.

38. Tell this story: “There it was, finally. Our island. Our very own island. It looked beautiful above the waves of fog, but there was still one question to be answered: why had they sold it to us for only five dollars?”

39. Maya Angelou said “I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way s/he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.” Tell a story in which a character has to deal with one, two, or all three of these scenarios. How does your character respond?

40. You have a chance to go back and completely re-do an event in your life. What is it, and how to you change it? What is the outcome? This can be a real or fictional event.

41. Pick two characters from different books you’ve read this year and have them get in an argument about something (e.g., who has suffered more, who has had a happier life, etc.).

42. The one shoe in the road: why is it there? Write a story about the circumstances that led to one shoe in the middle of the road.

43. You get to guest star on a TV show. What show is it? What happens in this particular episode?

44. What would you pack in your suitcase if you could not go home again?

45. You can only use 20 words for the rest of your life. You can repeat them as often as you wish, but you can only use these words. What are they?

46. What current fashion in clothing do you particularly like or dislike? Why?

47. Choose five symbols or objects that represent you. Why did you choose these things?

48. "When I stepped outside, the whole world smelled like…" Write a scene that starts with that line.

49. Write a poem entitled "Hitchhiking on a Saturday Afternoon."

50. Use these two lines of dialogue in a story: "What's in your hand?" "It's mine. I found it."

51. Write a scene that happens in a parking lot between a teenager and a man in a convertible.

52. If you only had one window to look out of for the next six months, what would you want to see on the other side? Describe the view. How would it change?

53. Write a story for children. Start with “Once upon a time” or “Long ago in a land far away.” Include a dragon, a deadly flower, and a mask.

54.  "Did she actually just say that?" Write a scene that includes this line.

55. “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family.  Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” — Jane Howard. Write what comes to mind when you read this quote.

56. List five things you want in a relationship.

57. List ten favorite lines from movies.

58. Write about the biggest mistake you made this week. Now write about the best thing you did this week.

59. What is the very first memory that you have? Write about it.

60. What if your pet could only talk to you at midnight for an hour?

61. Write an acrostic poem using your full name and three words that describe you—good and bad— for each letter. For example, 
S: sensitive, stubborn, smiling.
A: artistic, argumentative, agoraphobic
M: melodramatic, moody, magical

62. What if you could create your own TV show with all your friends and loved ones as the cast? What kind of show would it be and who would play which parts?

63. Take a photo or draw a picture of every place you go in a day. Put the pictures or drawings in your journal.

64. A to Z: Make an alphabetical list of advice for someone who is about to become a teenager. For example: A: ask forgiveness, not permission. B.: bake cookies. C.:  cook something delicious once a month. D: don't compare yourself to others. 

65. Find 10 quotes about happiness.

66.  Write about 5 things you'd rather be doing right now.

67. Write out the lyrics to your favorite song. Find some pictures to illustrate the song.

68. Who do you spend the most time talking to? Siblings, parents, friends? Make a list of who you actually talk to during the day and estimate the amount of time invested in each individual. Does the list reveal your priorities? Is it proportional to what is important to you? Make notes of what you talk about in your daily conversations.

69. Find a quote for each month of the year.

70. Animals can sometimes seem remarkably human. Describe an
experience with an animal that acted in a very human way.

71. Imagine you opted to have yourself frozen for 50 years. Describe your first days unfrozen, 50 years in the future.

72. Imagine that you are an astronaut who has been doing research on the moon for three years. You are do to go back to earth in a week when nuclear war breaks out on earth. You watch the earth explode. Then what?

73. Create a menu from a fictitious restaurant. Make sure the restaurant has a theme, such as Classic Books, and the food should all be given appropriate names (e.g.,  “Mockingbird Pie”).

74. Preconceived notions are often false. Describe a time when you discovered that a preconceived notion of yours (about a person, place, or thing) turned out to be wrong.


75. Create a story using words of one-syllable only, beginning with a phrase such as:
“The last time I saw her, she...”
“From the back of the truck...”
“On the night of the full moon...”
“The one thing I know for sure…”

76. Describe a significant person (teacher, neighbor, mentor, coach, parent, sibling, sweetheart) with as many physical details as possible and as many similes as possible. (E.g., “Her hair was as golden as straw.”)

77. Write about your first name—why you were given it, what associations or stories are attached to it, what you think or know it means. Do the same for your last name. What name would you give yourself other than the one you actually have?

78. Parents are our first and most important teachers. Describe  a valuable lesson you learned from one of your parents.

79. Imagine a moral dilemma (for example, you see someone shoplift or a friend tells a blatant lie to her parents about where she was last night) and explain what you would do and why you would do it.

80. Review an obituary, birth, or a section from the police record or classified ads section of a local newspaper. Choose one and tell the story behind it.

81. List the most attractive things about your current hometown. Now list the most unattractive things.

82. Come up with a list of nouns and a second list of verbs, all of one syllable each. Describe a scene or situation, using a minimum of ten words from each list.

83. Where is your happy place? Write about it and include a picture or drawing.

84. Create a how-to manual for something you can do well (make a craft, bake cookies, restring a guitar, apply make up, etc.). Describe the process so that someone else could complete the task based on your directions. Use present tense verbs.

85. Free write on this quote by Samuel Johnson: “Ignorance, when voluntary, is criminal.”

86. Find  a favorite quote and work it into an illustration. (Inspiration here.)

87. Make a soundtrack for your life so far. List songs that describe you or different times of your life. (Make the actual soundtrack on Spotify, etc. too!)

88. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that force us to face our deepest fears. Tell about a time when you had to face one of your greatest fears—or make up the story.

89. You’re a talk show host. Pick two guests. Why did you choose them? Are they people who get along, or people with vastly different viewpoints? Write about the episode.

90. What three books do you think should be required reading for everyone? Why?

91. “What you don’t know what hurt you.” Write a story that begins with this statement.

92. Free write on this quote by Woodrow Wilson: “Friendship is the only cement that will hold the world together.”

93. According to a Czechoslovakian proverb, “Better a lie that soothes than a truth that hurts.” Agree or disagree? Explain.

94. Rewrite “The Tale of the Three Little Pigs” by using people that you know as the pigs and the wolf.

95. There is a saying that you should be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. Describe a time when you wished for something and got it—and then wished you hadn’t—or make up a story in which this happens to the character.

96. As the saying goes, “rules are meant to be broken.” Tell about a time when you broke the rules and what happened as a result.

97. "That's not what I meant!" Write a story that has this line in it somewhere.

98. A blue trash can, a red picture frame, a teddy bear with the stuffing falling out, and a padlock. Put these four items somewhere in a story, scene, or poem.

99. Write your name in outline letters on a whole sheet of paper. Now fill in each letter with words you like that begin with that letter. For example:




100. Make a word collage of who YOU are. Use pictures too, if desired.


For more creative writing ideas, check out my free WordSmithery creative writing lessons and my popular Ultimate Guide to Creative Writing Resources!


Check out 100 other 100 Things posts from the bloggers at iHomeschool Network!



Do you have it yet?  The Big Book of Homeschooling Ideas—a collaboration of over 50 authors with 103 chapters— is now available! Don't miss this amazing resource!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

American Heritage Girls: Stars and Stripes




 At long last, our American Heritage Girls journey is really over. Well, over for now. Who knows what the future holds? I retired from being co-coordinator of our troop over a year ago (see Saying Goodbye to a Decade of Little Girls), but Laurel still had a final year—her Stars and Stripes year.

Laurel actually received her Stars and Stripes Award back in August. The Stars and Stripes in American Heritage Girls is modeled after the Boy Scouts Eagle Scout Award. It's a long process, starting really several years beforehand with planning when to get which badges, earning those badges, and fulfilling all the other requirements before even beginning the Stars and Stripes project itself. There is a lot of work that goes into the project.

For her Stars and Stripes project, Laurel directed Troop 131 in making blankets, sleepers, cards, and soap packets for Newborns in Need of East TN, an organization that provides newborn necessities for families in difficult circumstances. She and her troop put in a total of 177 hours on this project, which included not only making blankets and sleepers and assembling hygiene packets, but also packaging 2700 diapers and sorting 300 sleepers. In addition, she held collections at three different locations for donations. In total Laurel’s project brought in 200 diapers, 70 bibs, 50 sleepers, 50 packs of wipes, 30 onesies, 25 pairs of socks, and dozens more items to make a difference in the lives of local newborns in need.

She started her project in August 2013 after approval from the AHG national office. Her major work day was on AHG's National Day of Service in September. On this particular day, she had close to 60 volunteers (girls and moms) working on her project for up to six hours. That was a huge day!




The other two days of her project were much smaller and shorter but necessary to complete the requirements laid out in the Stars and Stripes procedure. These days included sorting items, taking inventory, and packaging diapers.

After the project itself is done, she had to write it all up according to very specific guidelines and assemble it all into a binder—a big, thick binder. That was a long process and perhaps the most frustrating part, but ultimately, organizing her project in writing, collecting references, making out her resume, and writing her spiritual walk essay were excellent learning tools. In July she and her best friend both had their Boards of Review (another excellent experience), and both passed with flying colors.


After submitting her final project binder to the Stars and Stripes Board, she could take a few deep breaths and wait for approval, which arrived a few weeks later.



And then came finding time to do her ceremony. We chose the same location where we did our older son's Eagle Scout Ceremony, sent out invitations, and planned the ceremony. Laurel is a  no-frills kind of girl, and she wanted it simple. I modified one of the ceremony scripts that is available on the AHG website.We had around 80 guests there to help celebrate. It was a perfectly beautiful day and a fabulous ceremony.

Two of her best friends were the emcees. The three girls and we three moms started the troop together. Bess and Laurel finished their Stars and Stripes projects at the same time, and Katriel is just completing her project write up.



One part that we did add to the ceremony is to give Caroline, my co-founder and co-coordinator for a decade, a mentor's pin. AHG doesn't offer a specific pin for mentors, so we purchased an extra parents' pin.

This is the part of the ceremony where we present Laurel with her S&S badge, and then she gives us our parents' pins




Laurel presenting Caroline with a mentor's pin. Because none of this EVER would have happened without her.

Because I have an awesome village, I didn't have to make any food. I asked several friends to bring finger foods, and a fellow AHG mom who owns a cake business made the fabulous cake.




Her display table was simple: we made a project display board, had her Tenderheart and Explorer vests, a scrapbook, a few pictures.






 For a guest book, I had made a photo album, with pictures from her very first year to her S&S award and everything in between, on Shutterfly that we asked people to sign.


Here are a few close-ups of her photo album.     





And finally, the end. Here she is with a few of the girls who did her flag ceremony.







And here she is, done and ready to go home.


I'm so proud of her, the 141st recipient of the American Heritage Girls Stars and Stripes Award, and the 5th member of  TN 131 to receive the award. 

Well done, sweet girl. I have been so incredibly blessed by all these years with my daughter in this organization. 

Thanks, American Heritage Girls, for helping us lead little girls into women of integrity.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Teaching Macbeth: Book Covers and Poem Activity



We've been studying Macbeth in both my 9th/10th and 11th/12th grade English classes. The highlight of our unit was absolutely our trip to the Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta to see a production of Macbeth, which I detail here. We did a lot of reading—and acting out— scenes aloud, which I'll detail in a different post. But I love this activity I had my 9th and 10th graders do.

Here's the assignment and a few of their amazing designs and/or poems below. (The "I Am" poem idea is not mine. I found it in multiple places on the internet, so I don't know whom to give credit to.)

The Assignment:

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Your assignment is to design a book cover for Macbeth. There are two parts to this assignment.



1. Design a book cover. Your front cover should be amazing. You can depict a vivid scene from Macbeth or use a collage of images that best illustrate the play, or you can focus on an image or one character. This is really up to you: what best illustrates Macbeth to you? Think about colors, symbols from the play, significant words or phrases, etc.



You can draw, paint, make a collage of pictures, etc. You should also include the title and author. You may NOT use a Macbeth cover that is directly taken from the internet. You may download a picture and incorporate it into your book cover, but you cannot use only that picture or cover. In other words, there is no shortage of Macbeth illustrations on the internet. You can model your book cover on one of those, or use that picture somehow on your cover; but don’t just use a picture only without some of your creative modifications.



You can make your cover out of construction paper, regular computer paper, butcher paper, etc. This should be around 8 X 12.



DO NOT merely scribble something in pencil on notebook paper. You will be graded on the effort that I perceive that you put into this.



2. On the back of your cover, create an “I Am” poem for one of the characters in Macbeth. Use quotes, words, and phrases from the play itself. See below for poem details. You should follow this pattern directly. You can write this directly on the back of your cover, or you can type it on paper and affix it to the back. (You do not need to depict the same character on both front and back. In my example, I used Macbeth on the cover and Lady Macbeth for the poem.)



The Title is the Character’s Name (Lady Macbeth, for example)



I AM (two special characteristics of this character)

I WONDER (something this character is/could be curious about)

I HEAR (a sound this character is hearing)

I SEE (a sight the character is seeing)

I WANT (something the character desires/would desire)

I AM (repeat the first line of the poem)



I PRETEND (something the character pretends or might pretend)

I FEEL (what the character is feeling in the story)

I TOUCH (could be symbolic or real)

I WORRY (something that is bothering the character)

I CRY (what is making the character cry inside/would make him or her cry)

I AM (repeat the first line of the poem)



I UNDERSTAND (something the character feels is true)

I SAY (something the character could or did say)

I DREAM (something the character did or would dream about)

I TRY (something the character is making an effort about)

I HOPE (something the character wants to happen)

I AM (repeat the first line of the poem)



And a few of the results!


















As always, I am astonished and delighted at what my students can do! If you use these ideas in your classroom, please leave me a link so I can check out your projects, too!


Friday, October 31, 2014

Weekly Wrap-up

This week wrapped up our long-anticipated, giant field trip to Atlanta's Shakespeare Tavern. I've been planning this trip to see Macbeth for my two high school English classes since mid-August. It takes a lot of preparation and organization to get 32 students from Knoxville to Atlanta for a 10 a.m. show. We had to find a place to stay overnight, because there was no way we were leaving at 4 a.m. to get there in time!

And this is just one advantage of going to a small, private college: you make lifetime connections. One of my professors—and also a former pastor of mine— in college now lives in Atlanta, and he cheerfully agreed to let us stay in his church overnight.
Our host in Atlanta, Dr. Jim Street

That was one big hurdle out of the way. Next I had to get parents to chaperone who were willing to drive, spend the night on the floor of a church, navigate Atlanta traffic, and keep track of 34 teenagers. I have the most awesome parents ever. And then there was the buying of tickets, ordering lunches, figuring out Atlanta's public transit system (MARTA), and planning a couple free things to do in Atlanta. 

The kids waiting for the MARTA train.


On the train. At least a couple of kids declared this the highlight of the trip.


I've gotta admit, I've been stressing about this trip. But it all came together beautifully.


These are the best kids in the world. I mean, really. The were fun, flexible, and had great attitudes. We ended up being 25 minutes late for the show, but the Shakespeare Tavern folks were kind enough to understand Atlanta traffic and hold the show for us. The play itself was great. We've been studying Macbeth for a few weeks now, so the kids all really knew the play.

After the play we took in a couple of Atlanta must-see sights: The Varsity Grill and Centennial Olympic Park. 





And then it was time to head back for the 4-hour drive home. As soon as we got back, I started hearing, "When can we do this again, Mrs. Small?"

I took an entire day to recuperate—I think we all did. And yep, I'd do it again.

Bur for now, it's back to business as usual.

Linked up with the Weekly Wrap-up

Friday, October 17, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up

Ah, October. All we really want to do in October is be outside. Summer's are hot and mosquito-laden around here. The real outdoor time is fall.

But this year October is also all about college and senior year. And rain. Lots of rain. Last week we visited the last college on Laurel's list, Lipscomb University in Nashville. It rained the whole way there and most of the time we were there.

Laurel thought she could check this one off her list and that her decision would be easy, with a different college winning out. But she loved it. I loved it, too. So did one of her best friends, although she is a junior and has another year to decide.



Lipscomb's prospective student day was top-notch—I was really impressed. I came away from the day without anything, anything negative to say about it. Well, except for the rain. But that wasn't the college's fault.

Now she's back to filling out college applications and writing essays, as well as studying for the ACT. And then, of course, she has to study for the two college classes she's taking this semester and her regular high school classes. She's kind of mentally exhausted.

Fortunately, there is a little time for fun.

Our support group has such an awesome teen group with around 250 kids ages 13-up. Laurel is on the student council, so she helps plan activities. Here she is at the back-to-school dance with her boyfriend and her best friends. You know. The ones she's been with since she was a teeny little girl. But we're not talking about that right now.



Duncan opted not to go, although, at 13, he could have. Dancing did not sound appealing to him.

Boy Scouts is much more appealing to him. He'd rather tie knots and hike right now, and I'm OK with that. Here he is getting his Life rank in Boy Scouts. If you're not schooled in Scouting, that means he has finished all his ranks but one. All he has left to earn now is his Eagle Scout. We're not in a hurry for that, since he's not quite 14; but I expect he'll have it around age 15.



And speaking of Scouts, we are also busy planning Laurel's American Heritage Girls Stars and Stripes ceremony, which is coming up in November. This is the picture I snapped for her invitations.


And speaking of snapping pictures, Laurel's senior picture photo shoot is coming up this weekend. We're super excited about that! I'm so happy for my sweet girl and all these good things in her life.

Oh, I should talk about school too. Actually, we took fall break all of last week. Or rather, Duncan and I took fall break. Laurel only had one day off from her college classes, and that was the day we went to Lipscomb. It was hard to get back into the swing of things this week. Because, well, we're back where we started: all we really want to do is be outside. And so, Duncan does geometry and then heads outside for a while. Or, while I'm in the shower, leaves me a note like this:


Both the kids are reading Macbeth in my literature classes. I'm taking both my 9th/10th and 11th/12th grade classes to Atlanta to the Shakespeare Tavern at the end of this month to see Macbeth. This is going to be a crazy trip, but lots of fun! I hope it will be a fabulous memory for all of us.

And that's about all that is happening in our small world.

Oh, except for this.




The tarantula molted.

Yep.

Linked up with the Weekly Wrap-up