Shaking the Back-to-School Slump

Our brains react to new sensory stimuli in our surroundings, forcing us to be more attentive. So, after the holidays or even after the weekend, when students are least likely to be motivated to learn, you can encourage engagement by doing some brain stimulating activities in class. Here are some ideas for the first week of school after the holidays:

Let students have their way

After a holiday, there are lots of stories students want to share. Allow them to tell their holiday stories but add an extra requirement: for every story involving a gift they received or a trip they took, have students share something meaningful they did for someone else. Or you can have them create a holiday memory book. Tell students to draw or bring in a picture of their favorite event, outfit, or gift from the holiday, then ask them to write a few words about the image.

Do a physical activity

Physical activity stimulates the brain but to really get those neurons shooting, do exercise that involves brain. A common way of doing this is to hold up cue cards with words requiring a physical activity, like “jump” or “skip” or “wiggle down,” and asking your students to do what is written on the cards while reading the words out loud.

Go outdoors

Taking your students outdoors for the beginning of class (or for the whole lesson) can create a memorable experience for students because of the change in learning environment. As a bonus, most people will agree that doing a creative activity outdoors will be an unforgettable class. A simple creative activity could be doing a quick grammar game (get some ideas for a grammar game from our previous post).

Go on a field trip

Why not start the new school term with a field trip? Okay, so budgets may be tight and that can impede the likelihood of one, but it does not have to be a costly trip. Is there a monument close to the school grounds or on the school grounds that would help the lesson? Are you discussing flowers? Why not go out to look at some? And if nothing is available close by, why not go on a visual field trip? Watch a video or go through an interactive tour of a place, allowing students to guide you while you discuss.

Be weird, be creative, have fun

As the teacher, why not get involved in the back-to-school fun by dressing in an unexpected way–maybe in a period piece or costume if you are doing a historical study—that is sure to get your students’ attention. Or, you can play games with your students to review work they were doing before the break, perhaps in a gameshow format. And don’t forget to let students be creative–can they explain the lesson in story form? Or act it out?

Don’t forget, the Kids Write 4 Kids creative challenge is still open! The deadline is closer than ever now: March 31st. Remind your students to send in their stories!

As always, we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Which of these do you plan to try out? Do you have suggestions for some games?

Resources used to create this post that might be useful to you too:
http://www.teachhub.com/post-holiday-classroom-activities
https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/jan/03/how-engage-students-lessons-after-holidays
http://minds-in-bloom.com/10-ways-to-make-learning-fun-and-engaging
http://minds-in-bloom.com/20-three-minute-brain-breaks
http://www.stressrelief4teachers.net/getting-students-revved-back/

Holiday Reads

Give your students the gift of reading this holiday season by suggesting a good book! Here are some filled with holiday spirit that are sure to make your students want to write stories of their own:

  1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
    This is a Christmas classic that can be read every year as a tradition. As kids read the original tale of the the ghosts of Christmas Past, of Christmas Present and of Christmas Yet to Come, they too can create their own version of Christmas ghosts.
  2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss
    This is an all-time favourite! Most kids might have heard the story but not everyone has read the book. This book is a great reminder to be nice to people and also a good way to encourage kids to write, not as a school project, but just for themselves. For example, they can write their own continuation of the story on behalf of Grinch.
  3. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe C.S. Lewis.
    The  first in The Chronicles of Narnia series, it is a tale of four siblings who discover the land of Narnia through the passageway in their uncle’s wardrobe. This is a great book to read over the winter break to immerse yourself into the icy, cold, mysterious kingdom that might leave you wanting to create your own fantastic world as well. How many possible adventures can we go on if we change the direction of the plot? Maybe your students can find out. An added bonus? There are six more books in the series for your students to discover!
  4. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
    After presents, food is the next major component of the holidays. This book, full of candy adventures and the spectacularly sweet world of Willy Wonka’s factory, will set any kid’s imagination free. A big bonus is the tight-knit Bucket family portrayed in this novel, reminding students to appreciate the family time that this season brings even more.
  5. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
    This book has no words, just breathtaking illustrations. But the lack of text should not be a deterrent to suggest it to your students. It helps them to think outside the box and gives them an alternative perspective on what a story can look like. Why not encourage them to create new storytelling forms of their own?

What other books are great for this time of year? Share with us in the comments.
Remember the Kids Write 4 Kids creative challenge is still open! One or more of your students could write the next Christmas classic. Don’t forget to remind your students to send in their stories.

Becoming an Author Today

A lot of kids want to be authors when they grow up. What if they could be authors now? Sometimes the whole idea of “what you want to be when you grow up” can establish the notion that kids need to sit back and wait for the growing up to happen before they can become authors or artists or app developers – whatever they want to be.

At Ripple Foundation, we believe that kids can become authors right now! Ripple encourages creativity, fosters confidence and reminds kids that they can influence the world they live in today. That’s why the Kids Write 4 Kids creative challenge runs each year. It is wonderful to see so much confidence in our winning authors as they offer some wisdom in the Meet the Author videos. Take a look at the videos and get your students inspired to be creative right now!

Here are some main points we took from the videos:

Just Write!

Since winning the contest at age nine, Safaa Ali, author of Why Peacocks Have Colorful Feathers, has started doing public speaking events and reciting her poetry. She reminds students that their voices matter: “Don’t be afraid or intimidated. Just write. It doesn’t really matter if it’s good or bad. Just write whatever you think is meaningful to you.” Remind your students that it doesn’t matter whether they think it’s good or bad as writers tend to be their own worst critics. Author of The Wish, Hannah Rennie, says it best: if we “write all the time, with all [our] hearts,” we can’t go wrong. “As long as [we] try, we can achieve anything,” says the young writer who won the contest in Grade 6.

What’s happening right now?

Finding the inspiration to write can be the biggest challenge for many students. Why not encourage them to start with describing whatever is happening at that particular moment, like Christopher Smolej did when he wrote his winning story, Escape from The Taco Shop at age twelve. “It was near lunch time and we were doing this for a school assignment and I was getting hungry so I started thinking of food and that led to a story about tacos,” explains Chris. He likes “writing adventure the most and sometimes a bit of fantasy because it can be spur of the moment writing, which is very fun and can result in some funny moments.” When we let go, our creativity sparkles. As with many other things, it is when we forget people are watching or void our thoughts of people’s expectations that the most authentic and beautiful journeys begin.

Share Your writing!

To end, some hearty advice from Leah Oster, who wrote Half Asleep in Grade 6: We must remember to “make sure that people read [our] work. If nobody reads it, [we] definitely won’t have it published.” So encourage your students to share their work. A great and simple way to do so is through the Kids Write 4 Kids creative challenge. Who knows, one of your students might be our next winning author!

The 2016/2017 challenge opened on October 1st, 2016 and will close on March 31, 2017. Click here to learn more.

6 Engaging Activities For Creative Writing Class

Making writing fun for a 4th to 8th graders is a combination of engaging their senses as much as possible and breaking down the semantics of writing into its smaller chunks. After scouring the inter-webs for ideas of fun writing exercises, I cherry picked my favorites to share with you. Without further ado, here they are!

  1. A great way to appeal to students’ creative side is to encourage them to write together.Already enthusiastic writers will encourage others and those who did not realise they cared will have a chance to shine. Give this game a shot to inspire teamwork in creativity: start with a prepared beginning sentence for a story, then divide students into small groups and ask them to complete the story together, with each person contributing a sentence. This will fuel their creativity as they have to build off of others’ ideas and get peer support.
  2. To focus on writing basics, you can try this grammar exercise with your students: write a sentence on a piece of paper, then circulate it around, asking each person to change only one word in it. Once everyone is done, read the sentence out loud. That’s right, it’s totally different! This exercise will improve students understanding of the parts of speech and their use in a sentence.
  3. Use technology to make writing more “cool”: ask the students to download a free app Next Sentence Lite on their smart phones, then divide the class into groups of four and have them create a short story together one sentence at a time. Have them share their creations with the rest of the class and together you can correct the grammar and sentence structure of their stories.
  4. Most of these are group exercises but of course students also benefit from thinking through ideas on their own, whether they discuss it with others before, after, or during the process.This activity works to encourage individual thinking: have students write a letter to a character and then reply on behalf of that character. It fully engages the students with the writing process and allows space for individual personalities to stand out.
  5. Trisha Fogarty’s Friendly Letters helps cultivate creativity through peer and teacher feedback. It is a more commonly used method of engagement that prompts students to give their classmates feedback on creative writing assignments. To assess a classmate’s assignment, students will have to fully understand the requirements–is it to learn verb tenses or avoid the passive voice? Students will also need to give at least two positive comments for every criticism they provide. All students will receive feedback from the teacher(s) as well. With this activity, you get the students actively participating in the editing aspect of writing; being a critic will help them pay more attention to similar problems in their own work.
  6. Another very useful motivator for creative writing is competitions. What can encourage a student to write more than knowing their story can get published for the whole world to read? The Kid’s Write 4 Kids creative challenge gives your 4th to 8th graders this chance! The added bonus? The winning story gets published both online and in print.

How do you get your students to engage in creative writing work? We’d love to know, so please share them with us in the comments below. Happy creative writing!