How to Build up A Repertoire of Words

Blog, She Wrote: How to Build up A Repertoire of WordsThis post may contain affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

It’s easier to write when you have the tools to work with and one tool which goes a long way is vocabulary. Today’s post is all about How to Build up A Repertoire of Words.

Blog, She Wrote: Story Cubes Review at Curriculum Choice

Ideas on How to Play with Words

Enjoying and playing around with words is a great way to build up a repertoire of new words. Sure, you can focus on vocabulary and word exercises and programs, but an authentic approach helps you to hold on to the new words better.

  • How to Make a Word Collage {& Why}- A post from earlier this school year on how to use a thesaurus and art supplies to reflect on a word and all its uses and meanings. It’s one of our favorites and my word kids love this activity.
  • Five Ways to Play with Words- A post I did for Bright Ideas Press in the fall on all sorts of ways to get to know words.
  • Rory’s Story Cubes- Fun way to create story and practice words with friends or alone. This one is my recent review over at The Curriculum Choice.
  • Writing with Word Cards- Give word cards kids have to use in their writing. They can be ordinary or not, but always try to give a new word.
  • The Dictionary Quest- The perfect activity to make friends with a printed dictionary. Use the dictionary to explore a word and the words around it. Those of us growing our vocabularies before the internet, have the advantage of wandering through print dictionaries and stumbling across all sorts of words surrounding the target word. Use this activity to investigate new words. At random!

Blog, She Wrote: The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home

Reading Builds Vocabulary

The more kids are exposed to words in a variety of contexts, the more they get to know new words. Be sure to get your kids reading- whether they like the process or not! Madeline L’Engle said it well when she talked about how we need many words to make sure our thoughts can stay big (that’s the Heather Woodie paraphrase).

The more limited our language is, the more limited we are; the more limited the literature we give to our children, the more limited their capacity to respond, and therefore, in their turn, to create. The more our vocabulary is controlled, the less we will be able to think for ourselves. We do think in words, and the fewer words we know, the more restricted our thoughts. As our vocabulary expands, so does our power to think. – Madeline L’Engle

If you need ideas for how to getting ready to be a regular part of your home, here are a few I’ve compiled.


Coaching Writing Helps to Build a Word Repertoire

One of my favorite things to do as a homeschool mom is to banter with my kids over their writing. From the youngest to the oldest, it is always an engaging time to see what their vision is and to hear them tell about their writing choices. Often, we’ll talk about using strong words to replace weak choices so they can convey a thought more precisely.

  • Resources for Coaching Writers- Do you need some help finding things that will help you to work with your students? This post is full of books, websites, and general information on working with student writing.
  • Coaching Writing Pinterest Board- This board has all sorts of ideas on how to work directly with student writers. Mostly for middle and high school students, you’ll find many resources here.
  • Essay Rockstar- Do you find that you have trouble being a mentor to your student’s writing? Essay Rockstar could be the tool you are looking for to have occasional or routine outsourced help with writing.

Whatever you choose to do to enhance your use of words, make it fun. Try out new activities and think about words. Use them. Try them out. Surprise people with them. Make words enjoyable. Play with meanings. Challenge yourself to find precise words. See how your use of language changes and see how your writing changes. Join your kids with word challenges. See what happens!

A Homeschooler’s Guide to The Persuasive Essay

Blog, She Wrote: A Homeschooler's Guide to the Persuasive Essay

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

If you have a middle or high schooler, chances are you’ve come across the requirement for a persuasive essay. What’s the big deal about writing one? Why is it a good idea to teach your student to write a good one? Here are some tips for you in A Homeschooler’s Guide to The Persuasive Essay.

What is a Persuasive Essay?

A persuasive essay tries to convince others to agree with our facts, share our values, and accept our arguments and conclusions.

When Do We Use The Persuasive Essay?

Students might wonder when the time is right for a convincing argument. These are common occasions for just that:

  • Editorial comments- ranging from letters to law makers to convincing your boss to try a new method in the workplace. We try and win arguments all the time!
  • Speech writing
  • College Entrance Exams- like the SAT require an essay with a solid argument

Blog, She Wrote: A Homeschooler's Guide to the Persuasive Essay

Ways We Engage with The Persuasive Essay in Our Homeschool

In our homeschool we use strong persuasive essays in a variety of ways. It’s a long practiced skill at our house and the results are effective.

  • Permission- to be allowed to do something new or buy something they want or to do something they love. They know the best way to Dan is to offer a well written argument explaining their cause.
  • Speech Writing- Ethan chose to do a speech for 4-H public presentations this year. His speech is titled, “Video Games: Harmful or Helpful?” and is about violence in video games. It has served him quite well and he qualified for the state competition which is tomorrow.
  • High School Literature Class- Excellence in Literature often will ask the student to form an opinion on a literary topic from a book or to compare elements of a book and explain their decision.

Resources for Teaching The Persuasive Essay

So, how do you go about preparing your students to write a persuasive argument. The trick is to be compelling while being concise. Your student needs valid arguments and a logical organization of the facts. Here are a few ideas for practicing the persuasive essay:

  • Topic Lists- It’s helpful to have many prompts or topics in mind that a student could use, but the best essays often arise out of a subject that is near and dear to your student’s heart. Relevance makes the task easier. Choose a topic a week and have your student write. Practice makes perfect- especially when preparing for exams.
  • College Board Site- The company that creates the SAT offers help for students preparing for the exam. Note that the class of 2016 (Ethan’s class) is the last to take the current form of the SAT which includes the mandatory essay. This year’s freshman will have the option of taking the essay portion, but it won’t be mandatory.
  • Essay Rockstar- Fortuigence offers a course in Mastering The Persuasive Essay. Your student can take a four week class with a mentor who will give personal feedback as they work through the essay on a topic of their choice. Ethan’s persuasive essay for this course was on the value of reading aloud in making readers.

Right now Essay Rockstar classes are 20% off through May 26, 2014 so it’s a great time to sign on. Use the code 461-0-6668488. The time limit for the class is open ended and students work at their own pace so if you register now you can start it any time.

Being able to write a strong, well organized and concise persuasive argument is a life skill every person should have. How are you preparing your students for an effective written argument?

High School Skills: Analyzing Text

Blog, She Wrote: High School Skills- Analyzing Text

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Reading classic literature and writing about it seems to be a high school education staple. Our homeschool is no different there, but what are the benefits to having high school skills like analyzing text?

Why Analyzing Text is Important for Your High Schooler

Being able to analyze a text and synthesize thoughts and opinions on it is key to a successful college experience. What skills does this involve?

  • Summarizing text
  • Analyzing the text for meaning
  • Comparing the text to another text similar in nature or not (FYI- contrasting is not listed separately because it is inherent in comparing!)
  • Forming an opinion on the text and being able to succinctly write it
  • Synthesizing new text based on reading others

Whatever your field of study is in college and beyond, chances are you will meet up with assignments to analyze text. How so?

  • Humanities- It’s easy to imagine majors in English, History, Sociology, etc will have to read and do something written with what they read
  • Sciences- As a biology major, I spent a lot of time reading research and writing about it.
  • Graduate School- I’m pretty sure my graduate degree is made up of two things: reading educational research and writing about it and projects. Ok…there was a little matter of a thesis and exam, but trust me. I spent a lot of time marking up research papers and preparing new text based on what I’d read.
  • College Entrance Exams- Yes! Your student will have to write a quick and concise essay on these tests.
  • Blogging- Come to think of it. I use this skill when I blog. Does your student blog? Mine do! And they do an awful lot of reading the work of others and writing about it.

Clearly, being able to write a well organized textual analysis is one of the most important writing skills we can impart to our high schoolers.

Blog, She Wrote: High School Skills- Analyzing Text

Using Books to Communicate with Your Teen

Sharing books together is an excellent way to communicate with your teenagers. High school literature studies allow us to engage in a book together without forcing it because it’s already a requirement. You are in a position to influence the literature choices for your teen. Use this fact to your advantage!

  • Establish a Reading Culture in Your Home- Certainly from early on you’ll want to do this, but you can re-establish it as your students grow older and more mature in their studies.
  • Listen to Story Narrations- Even when you don’t have time to read the book yourself, you can listen to narrations about the story from your student.
  • Talk about Big Ideas- Whether or not you have read the whole book (I know time is crunched for many of us), you can talk about themes that present themselves in books. Reinforce family values and find out where your student is on a topic.
  • Don’t Shy Away from the Hard Books- Reading and discussing a book that questions values is something to face head on in your homeschool. How much better to talk about the morals and values you hold than to meet them in books and talk about them together at a time when your student is exercising independence and beginning to forge their own way.
  • Require a Wide Range of Classics and Modern Books to Expand Their Horizons- Many times a curriculum will take care of this for you, but make sure you add in titles you’d like to approach if they aren’t on the list.

This semester Ethan has been taking a co-op class on the book Dracula. It’s been an amazing class for the teens. They read on their own and meet weekly to discuss the book. A well-read, trusted adult and friend is teaching this class and I know she works with the teens to help them see the overriding themes in this book.

Vampires aren’t often homeschool fare, but the original book by Bram Stoker offers a very different view of vampires than the ones we see today. Dracula is portrayed for his true anti-Christ nature without the glamorization of vampires we see in modern media. The book has been an effective tool in showing just how much the modern vampire has been made to look misunderstood and harmless- when they really represent evil.

Just imagine all the engaging conversation you and your teens could have with a good book to guide the way. And think of all the issues and themes you could address in a significant way before your student leaves home.

Blog, She Wrote: High School Skills- Analyzing TextOur 10th Grader’s Book List for 2013-2014

We take about a month per book or group of stories and he does research on the author, the history, and other materials that relate to the story he is studying.

  • Short Stories- such as The Necklace, The Ransom of Red Chief, Xingu by Edith Wharton (loved this one!)
  • Around the World in 80 Days- Love this classic by Jules Verne. We even watched the 1956 film version which won best picture that year.
  • Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court- This is one we both enjoyed. Fast read and quite funny.
  • The Great Gatsby- Just as sad I remember…
  • Julius Ceasar- Dover Thrift Edition. When looking for Kindle titles, make sure to look for a good edition.
  • Till We Have Faces- A look at a modern myth and a chance to experience CS Lewis outside of the Chronicles of Narnia
  • Dracula- As part of our 10 session co-op semester

One of the things I’ve done to save me the most time is to use the Kindle editions of many but not all of these books. Using a Kindle saves time and space. Have you considered using a Kindle in your homeschool? Here are 10 Reason to Use a Kindle: Part 1 and Part 2.

How Do I Teach Textual Analysis?

There are many resources available to homeschooling parents. We use Excellence in Literature as the spine of our high school literature courses, but it assumes some level of knowledge when beginning with the program. There are examples, but if you haven’t done this before then it can be hard to help your teen develop a good analysis. Using quotes from the text can be tricky to incorporate well and takes some getting used to.

Fortuigence offers a four week course on Textual Analysis. This is a class that will lead your student through an essay on a book that you choose. You’ll have a personal mentor for your student.The webroom interface is easy to use and if you aren’t sure of how to help your student with this type of essay, this is a resourceful way to outsource the task. One module saves you money over trying a whole course or semester and it allows your student to focus on just one type of essay at his own pace- with the bonus of a mentor.

Great news! Through April 28th, you can receive 10% off the regular course price with this coupon code: 436-0-1481712

Reading text, comparing various texts, assimilating information and being able to form a solid opinion while logically sharing it is a mainstay of higher education. Is your high school student ready?

My Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

Blog, She Wrote: Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

This post may contain affiliate links. Thanks always for your support!

Today I’m eager to share the Top 5 Blog, She Wrote Pinterest Boards for Homeschooling Teens. Honestly, I love Pinterest and I’ve been creating new boards whenever I can classify content specifically for middle and high school. I only got to choose 5 for this post, but I have more boards for teens that I adore. Feel free to follow any of my boards. The more, the merrier! Are you ready for my favorites?

eReader Homeschooling

This board is a collecting place for all things Kindle related and beyond. You’ll find free book series, ways to use a Kindle in your homeschool, and plenty of content for your eReader. Blog, She Wrote: Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

Blog, She Wrote posts related to eReader Homeschooling:

Homeschool High School

All things high school related are found on this board. I started out with just one highschool board, but I’m starting to add specific course names to my boards like chemistry, biology, and U.S. History.

Blog, She Wrote: Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

Blog, She Wrote posts on Homeschooling High School:

Teaching with Technology

You’ll find ways to incorporate technology into your homeschool- whether it’s using Netflix or using an Arduino unit to program simple electronics. I’m not much for apps though we use a select few for a select purpose. I’m much more interested in our kids being makers and I try to focus on that as I collect ideas.

Blog, She Wrote: Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

Blog, She Wrote Technology Posts:

Project Based Homeschooling

The projects gathered here are ideas and reporting on student-driven projects. These aren’t units or parent directed projects, but the kind that come from a student’s own motivation and desire to learn.

Blog, She Wrote: Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

Blog, She Wrote Project Posts:

  • Steampunk Fashion & Design- The story of Rebecca’s history and fashion project for the year.
  • Workspace- One of the keys to successful projects is the space you devote to what your kids are doing. This post shares all of our project spaces.

Coaching Writers

This board showcases ideas and programs that allow us to mentor our writers at home. There’s a lot of good stuff out there!

Blog, She Wrote: Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

Blog, She Wrote Coaching Writer’s Posts:

I love to spend time on Pinterest saving things for a day when I need a great idea. Sometimes it’s all you need to spark something you can really use. Do you use Pinterest?

Enjoy this Cream of the Crop iHN Pinterest Boards for Homeschoolers. Join other bloggers from the iHomeschool Network as we all share our favorite Pinterest Boards today.

iHN: Our Pintastic Pinboards

Coaching Writing with a Writer’s Workshop

Blog, She Wrote: Coaching Writing with a Writer's Workshop

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks so much for your support!

I’ve mentioned before that we’ve been hosting a writer’s workshop twice a month since September. I use the model for a workshop found in the book Workshops Work by Patricia Zaballos. I’ve shared a review over at Curriculum Choice, but I want to focus on how our workshop plays out each week.

Who Attends Our Writer’s Workshop?

  • Our workshop has 6-8 kids week to week ranging in age from 11-15 (and my 8yo jumps in sometimes).
  • I sent an invitation to the workshop to our entire homeschool group and we’ve had some kids come and go, but we’ve had a core group of writers since September. I wanted to be sure we had a diverse group of kids as much as possible and not just pick our friends.
  • One requirement I specified is that the kids be able to be in a somewhat unstructured setting for two hours.
  • Kids have to share their writing. If someone doesn’t like to share their work, then workshop is not a great environment for them. I don’t mind if they don’t share at first, but the idea is to give feedback and to enjoy writing for an audience.
  • Not everyone who attends loves to write! This is a big one because even the kids who don’t profess to love writing enjoy coming to workshop and they are often inspired by others to write.
  • We did have one special event in early November where I invited a local author to join us. The kids invited some of their friends and some of them stayed on with us. Anne Mazer was a real treat to see and I am so thankful she was able to encourage the kids and show us all what it’s like to be a published author.

Blog, She Wrote: Coaching Writing with a Writer's Workshop

What Happens at a Workshop?

  • I start the workshop with announcements- usually I share websites I’ve found that I think the kids will like related to writing and writers.
  • The students share their homework- yes they have homework. They beg me for it! I send them home with a second writing exploration to do during the interim and we share it first thing when we gather.
  • We share the piece we’ve prepared on our own
  • Writing Exploration- they get a short writing exercise during the workshop time and we share those.
  • Share Time- after the writing exploration we have more sharing time. Our group is small enough that sometimes we share all at once before doing the exploration. I split it up only if it looks like everyone could use a break.
  • Assign the Homework- this is an exercise they get to take home and bring back the next time. These are helpful if you have students who don’t always bring something of their own.

Blog, She Wrote: Coaching Writing with a Writer's Workshop

How Do You Handle Peer Feedback During the Workshop?

This is the tricky part everyone wonders about! How do I get the kids to engage with each other in a positive way? Many of your questions are answered in the book, Workshops Work. However, I’ll share a few things that have worked for us so far.

  • Teach them how to do it- I went over how we would go about the process and I modeled that behavior when we started and occasionally now to keep things moving.
  • Reminders- on the positive feedback we are looking for. We want writers to share each week so we aren’t looking for super critical reviews.
  • They are specific with feedback- they tell something they thought was interesting or a word they really liked. It’s fun to ask more questions and help the students to remember specific things in a story.
  • I have a poster- with language they can use or ideas on what to look for as a person reads just as a visual reminder. I pull it out when they need to see it again.

The feedback portion is so interesting to watch. The kids really listen for those golden sentences- the ones they want to hear again. And I’ve seen multiple chapters of the same stories show up because kids are encouraged to continue the tale.

We’ve been working together for six months and the group loves to hear what they will all read. They love it so much they can’t imagine taking a break for the summer! In fact, they were appalled I would even suggest it! How is that not a win?

Blog, She Wrote: Coaching Writing with a Writer's Workshop

What Happens If You Lack Confidence in Coaching Your Own Writers?

  • The first thing I’d say is the workshop doesn’t require a lot of editing. It does require thoughtful feedback.
  • Hands down the writer’s workshop is the best value for my effort as a mentor! It’s easy to implement and the kids grow to love it more and more each week.
  • As a facilitator, after the kids get to know one another and understand how workshop time goes, you get to say less and less. The students really drive the workshop time. They are delightful to hear!

However, if overall you do not feel equipped to take on coaching writers through high school, there are other options! That is the great news about homeschooling- we can tailor our students’ experiences to fit their needs and ours. One such offering is the Essay Rockstar by Fortuigence. We had the opportunity to participate in the program last spring and summer and Lily Iatridis, the instructor, mentors the students through an essay assignment using an online format.


Fortuigence offers families four Essay Rockstar Personal Essay

modules that teach various aspects of essay writing. You can pay for the entire course or you can take them a la carte. The personal essay is a great start and allows Lily Iatridis to personally coach your student at writing a personal essay. College applications always require a personal statement of some kind.


 Resources for Coaching Writers

Don’t forget to visit my post on resources for coaching writing. We have enjoyed using many of these during the workshop time. They are also what I pull from to assign homework to the workshop participants.

You might also enjoy my Pinterest board on Coaching Writers.

Whatever resources you choose, enjoy the process and remain consistent- whether you are the coach or you defer so you can be the assistant coach.