Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Vocabulary Building: A Family Affair

One hallmark of a great writer is the ability to choose the exact right word and put it in just the right spot in a sentence to maximize meaning, tone, and emotion. Word choice can make the difference between a dull, ordinary sentence and a spectacular one that stands out among the masses.  This sounds simple enough, however word choice depends upon the existence of an excellent vocabulary. The more words a student has in her personal lexicon, the more likely she will choose the perfect one.

The good news is that growing a personal vocabulary does not have to be as boring as memorizing words from a grade level list and regurgitating it back on a test.

Instead, make vocabulary building a family affair! 

Learn words together and use them in ordinary conversation until they come easily and often.  In our house, we have a family word of the day. I write the word and its definition on an index card and tape it to the microwave door. As we file through the kitchen to pack lunches and eat breakfast, we talk about the meaning, laugh at funny pronunciations, and try silly sentences. Over the course of the day, we see who can slip the word into casual conversation or test it out on unsuspecting friends! We began by rewarding each person who successfully used the word in a sentence with a Hershey Kiss. But after only a week, the fun became its own reward and our word of the day habit has thrived ever since.

This sort of family learning accommodates all of us from my seven year old all the way to my 16 year old and beyond. It is a real and meaningful way to introduce excellence into our family speech and vocabulary. In fact, our vocabulary word of the day even became a hit with my children's friends who would come over and try to work the word into conversation with me throughout the day!

Kids are naturally inquisitive and eager to learn. But it can be overwhelming to learn 10 or 20 new words at a time. And it is pointless to memorize a bunch of words and not be using them or hearing them in conversation. The family word of the day demonstrates practicality and usefulness in a fun - and in our family, sometimes competitive - way. 

To get started, find a challenging vocabulary list or subscribe to the dictionary.com word of the day and have a word e-mailed to you each day!
Two of my favorite words that we have learned from our word of the day index cards are pied and panoply.
Pied: having patches of two or more colors (often relating to birds or other animals) ** as in the pied piper**
Panoply: a wide ranging or impressive display **as in a panoply of baked goods**
Are these words part of your regular speech? Perhaps they should be the first words of the day for your family!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Facebook Word of the Week: KINDLE

In today's technology driven world, we may not realize that our students have different (modern) definitions for words we take for granted.

The SAT word for this week is kindle. It means to ignite or set on fire. We kindle a flame for the bonfire. We can use the base of this word and generalize it to kindling as well. Kindling is what we use to assit in starting a fire. We lived out in the woods as a child, and my dad used to send my brother and me out to gather kindling - small branches that would burn quickly and help get the fire going.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Celebrating Three Great Years of Writing!

Online Scribblers is celebrating our third year of encouraging and teaching writing to kids around the world! What began with six students learning to write awesome 5 paragraph papers in my living room has grown into an online platform serving students in 26 states and 3 countries! 

The success of Online Scribblers is testament to the desire of students across the globe to learn writing basics and the passion we have to teach them.

So it only seems fitting, as our first post on our Online Scribblers blog, to look back at how it all began three short years ago. Back then I was busily writing my second novel and blogging about the craft and process of publication. In the time since, I have met wonderful students and dedicated families who have welcomed me into their homeschool lives and inspired a new passion. Thank you!

Here is the first announcement of Online Scribblers (which began as San Diego Scribblers) back in July of  2012...

The Launch of San Diego Scribblers!

As some of you may know, I've been in the process of launching a series of writing classes for children...a uniquely under served group with huge potential for creativity!

It all began this past year with my own children as I noticed my daughter beginning to write stories and illustrations on scraps of white printer paper. She had an interest in creating and writing, just the way I had as a child, yet her desire was not being nourished in school.  At the same time, my son was writing academic papers in History and English class, yet no one had taught him the basics of how to write a good thesis or the fundamentals of a superb hook. So in an effort to supplement their traditional education, I began formatting my daughter's tidbits of stories into mini books for her, and I saw her pride soar. I began teaching my son the "ins and outs" of academic writing and watched his confidence skyrocket along with his grades as teachers began to hold up his work as the class standard.

Then I began to implement writing techniques with my middle school Girl Scouts. We created a troop newspaper in which each girl was responsible to cover one of our activities and write a catchy headline and article to document the happenings in our troop. Now, three editions later, I still smile as I distribute their newspapers and watch them search for their articles and bylines inside the pages.

That's when it hit me: It isn't that children today are not good writers and communicators; it's that children are not given the proper instruction and opportunity to do so. Thus, San Diego Scribblers was born with the motto: "Every Child Can Be A Great Writer!" Our first session of summer classes was a hit and I think it was hard to tell who was having more fun - the teacher or the students. Now, I'm eagerly looking forward to the next series of classes and the ones after that.

Nevertheless, I may have been busy the last few weeks getting the word out about San Diego Scribblers, but now I'm back and full of topics to blog about. So there's just one more thing...  Is there any way to squeeze just a few more hours into each day?  

In the past three years, our courses have gone online rather than face to face, and we have adopted a new name and logo, but our mission of teaching all children to write well and with confidence has remained steadfast. 

Here's to a great three years and many more to come!