Archive for the ‘Classroom activities’ Category

Hi everyone,

Due to increasing writing commitments, I’m unfortunately unable to maintain so many blogs.

So Teachers Writing Helper has moved to my DeeScribeWriting blog http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com where I will be having writing tips, classroom and literacy activities, author interviews and reviews.

I’m also the new kid’s book blogger at Boomerang Books and you’ll also find author interviews, reviews and activities there at my Kids’ Book Capers blog http://content.boomerangbooks.com.au/kids-book-capers-blog/

Hope to catch up with you there.



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Meet Rebecca

Meet Rebecca

It’s great to have Rebecca here today. Rebecca is the editor of a Alphabet Soupt, a great magazine for kids who love reading and writing.

The Spring Issue of Alphabet Soup is out now, and Rebecca has some great tips on how it can help teachers in the classroom.

Wonderful to have you here, Rebecca.



What are the benefits to teachers of using your magazine in the classroom?

 Alphabet Soup is an Australian magazine, so content includes the voice, language, idioms, and settings familiar to Australian students.

A magazine with a variety of genres can be a useful tool for encouraging children to read – some children find a long book daunting, but they can dip into different sections of the magazine to read a short story, poem or article.

Students can use Alphabet Soup for silent reading, or ‘take home’ reading.

Can you suggest a literacy or writing activity for students in prep to grade 2 using Alphabet Soup?

For students at the younger end of this age range

Read ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ to the class and ask the children about how the characters behave. ‘How do you think Jack felt when he heard the giant roaring?’

To gain an understanding of the giant’s scary character, the children stomp about and chant his rhyme in a scary voice:

Fee, Fie, Foe, Fum,

I smell the blood of an Englishman;

Be he alive or be he dead,

I’ll grind his bones to make my bread!


Older children

Read ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ and ask the children questions as a prompt for writing:

What if the magic beans didn’t grow after Jack’s mother threw them away?

What happened after the story, during the ‘happily ever after’ time?

Can you think of an alternative ending for the story?

Can you suggest a literacy or writing activity for grade 3 to 4 students using Alphabet Soup?

1. Ask students to bring in a vegetable.

2. Read the poem ‘Brussels Sprouts’ by Brian Langley as an example.

3. Ask students to write a poem about the vegetable they’ve brought in.


Ways to use the vegetable poems: 

  • Display a copy of each poem (and a drawing or photograph to match) in the classroom or the school library or exhibit at a nearby public library.
  • Use them to make a book of vegetable poems (perhaps called Vegetable Soup!), written and illustrated by class members. Display the book in the school library for a couple of weeks, and/or a selection of the poems could be read at a school assembly.
  • Glue each poem (with illustration) to a card for Father’s Day/ Mother’s Day/birthday/Christmas.
  • If the students have used their poems to make cards, talk about the correct way to address an envelope, and then post the cards. (Australia Post has online instructions for hand-addressing envelopes at http://www.auspost.com.au/BCP/0,1467,CH2092%257EMO19,00.html.)
  • Send the finished poems in to our spring writing competition (if they meet the entry requirements – see the ‘competitions’ page of our website: http://www.alphabetsoup.net.au).

Can you suggest a literacy or writing activity for students in upper primary school using Alphabet Soup?

Read ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, or ‘Garden of Guesses’ and retell the story from another point of view. For ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ students might choose to tell the story from the point of the view of the giant, or the cow, or the beanstalk. For the garden story, they might choose the point of view of the teacher in the story, the potatoes being planted, or a worm in the garden.


issue 4 cover low resUse Alphabet Soup as the starting point for creating a class magazine.

Groups of students take on different pages (or roles) in the magazine (i.e. illustration, creating crosswords, writing book reviews, writing poems, stories etc)  

Display the magazine in the school library (or lend it to another classroom and ask them to review it!).

How do you think that author interviews benefit young readers and writers?

The obvious benefit is that authors offer encouragement to young writers and usually have some useful tips! In addition to writing tips, children discover that an author was just like them once – a child who dreamed of becoming a writer.

If a child finds an interview interesting, they will be more likely to seek out books by that author that they haven’t yet read.

Thanks for visiting Rebecca. There are so many great things for both teachers and students in your magazine.

You can subscribe to Alphabet Soup online at www.alphabetsoup.net.au

Also, visit these other great blogs to find out more about Alphabet Soup, and where Rebecca will be/has been to on her tour:

September 1 – http://www.livejournal.com/users/orangedale – the background of the mag.

September 2 – http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com – the editorial process.

September 3 – http://ww.letshavewords.blogspot.com – some printing questions.

September 4 – http://belka37.blogspot.com – the submission process.

September 5 – https://teacherswritinghelper.wordpress.com (that’s here!)

September 6 – http://robynopie.blogspot.com

September 7 – http://www.sandyfussell.blogspot.com


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Melissa from Walker Books has prepared some fabulous comprehensive teaching notes that you can download from http://www.walkerbooks.com.au – they cover all sorts of things to do with how Letters to Leonardo was written – and they mention some of the themes in the book:

  • mental illness
  • art
  • family relationships
  • emotional control


Themes summarise a common experience that make it possible for the reader to identify with the characters. Themes are the dominant ideas that carry your story forward.  In Letters to Leonardo, I also see friendship and loyalty as major themes.

Matt is loyal to his mum. Dave and Troy are loyal to Matt.

Themes are important because they adds layers – and provide deeper meaning to your story. In Letters to Leonardo for example, the themes make it more than just a book about a boy who gets a letter from his dead mother. This is the basic plot outline, but the themes are what tell us about the characters and also make us care about what happens to them.


This activity can be an individual or group activity. It could be written down or discussed.


  • Write down/discuss an event that happened to you this year.
  • Who was involved?
  • What happened?
  • When did it happen?
  • How did you react to what happened?
  • How did others react to what happened?
  • What was the outcome?
  • How did it make you feel?
  • How did it make other people feel?


From the information you gathered in step 1, see if you can identify themes.


Take one or more of these themes and the event itself and see if you can come up with an idea for a story.

Thanks for having us in your classroom. We hope you will join us tomorrow at http://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com to learn all about turning fact into fiction.

Hope to see you there.

Happy reading and writing.

Dee and Matt:-)


And just in case you’ve missed any other parts of the tour, here’s where we’ve been already.

Feel free go back and visit these great sites and find out more about Letters to Leonardo and the writing process.

24th June 2009             http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com        

Dee and Matt talk about promoting Letters to Leonardo online.


25th June 2009             http://spinningpearls.blogspot.com     

Author interview


26th June 2009             http://thebookchook.blogspot.com    

How art has been used in Letters to Leonardo


27th June 2009             http://belka37.blogspot.com

The research process involved in writing Letters to Leonardo           


28th June 2009             http://weloveya.wordpress.com

Guest blogger – talking with Vanessa Barneveld – interactive discussion with bloggers


29th June 2009             http://www.livejournal.com/users/orangedale            

An author interview covering things like inspiration and perspective


30th June                      http://www.letshavewords.blogspot.com

Mentors in YA fiction, and Leonardo da Vinci’s involvement in the book


1st July                         Cyber launch http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com including cross to Robyn Opie’s blog http://robynopie.blogspot.com – hurdles overcome on the way to publication.


2nd July                        http://persnicketysnark.blogspot.com

How the author’s life paralleled Matt’s – her growing obsession with Leonardo da Vinci


3rd July                         http://bjcullen.blogspot.com

Working with a publisher and the editing process


4th July                         http://sandyfussell.blogspot.com

Interview with the elusive Matt Hudson


5th July                         https://teacherswritinghelper.wordpress.com

Class writing activities based on Letters to Leonardo


6th July                         http://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com

Tips 4 young writers on how Letters to Leonardo was written


7th July                         http://www.JenniferBrownYA.com

An overseas stop before heading home

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dee's featherHere’s a writing activity that’s fun for the whole class. It’s based on the first chapter “Sneak Peek” of Letters to Leonardo.


  • What devices/techniques/things did I use to interest readers right from the start?
  • What does the start of the book tell us about the main character, Matt?
  • Do you think a letter is a good way to start a story?


  1. Write a letter to someone you don’t know – it must be a person that you admire or dislike because of something you believe they have done. It could be a politician, an actor – anybody.
  2. Try to use this letter to start your own story.

Have fun and happy writing – and for more activities and writing tips, make sure you check out http://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com

Hope you’re enjoying the Cyber Launch.

Dee and Matt:-)

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A picture can be a great story starter.  And you can use it as a writing exercise for any age group, and to help create stories of any length. The exercise can be done singly or in pairs or groups.

Here’s what you do:

Get each student to cut a picture out of a magazine or newspaper, but it can’t be of someone that they know. It can be a man, woman, or child.

Allow the student a minute or two to look at the picture then get them to answer the following questions from their imagination.

  1. Who is the person in the picture? (name, age, job, etc)
  2. What were they doing when the picture was taken/
  3. Why was the picture being taken?
  4. When was the picture taken? (year, time of day etc)
  5. Where was the picture taken?
  6. How did they feel about the picture being taken? (happy, sad, angry etc.)

Now the student knows all these things about the person in the picture, they can use the information to develop it into a character in their story. You could even get them to do a physical description of the person. Some of the  info  gathered from this exercise might even be used as part of the plot.

Hope you and your students enjoy this activity.

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Help your students venture into more interesting waters with a fun vocab activity, ‘Word Splash’.

Students will learn lots of new words to help them with their stories – and this activity is so easy.

All you do is divide your class into groups of about five students. For each group, write down a ‘secret’ word and put it in a paper bag.

Each group gets a different word, and they are not allowed to show the other groups what their word is.

On the paper bag, every member of the group writes a word that means the same thing as the ‘secret’ word inside the bag. A member of the group reads the word on the outside of the bag to the class.

All students who are not in that group (the rest of the class) must use these similes as clues to guess the ‘secret’ word that is inside the bag.

Have fun!

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I’m Dee and I’m a childrens’ and young adult author.

Welcome to my teachers writing helper blog. I’ve set this up to try and give you tips and new ideas to help inspire young writers in the classroom.

With the new school year about to start, you might be looking for something different to try. Rotating stories are always fun, and they’re great for teaching students about having  a beginning, middle and end in their stories. They’re also good for students who might find the idea of writing an entire story daunting.

Rotating stories work like this:

  1. Divide your class into groups of about three.
  2. Get each student in the group to write the beginning of a story – it could be a page. It could be more or less, depending on the student and their abilities. It doesn’t matter. The main thing is to get the story started.
  3. Each student then passes their story beginning to another person in the group.
  4. That student then writes the middle of the story. (If you have more or less than three students in a group, it doesn’t matter. It just means that the story might vary in length.)
  5. Each student then passes the beginning and middle part of the story to someone in the group who hasn’t had any involvement in writing it until now. It is up to that student to fnish off the story.
  6. The complete stories are then shared amongst the students – and can be read aloud.

The students love finding out how others have finished their stories off. Rotating stories are a great way to have fun in a group, and encourage students to consider that there is more than one direction to take a plot. It also helps them to think about how a story is made up.

Hope you have fun with these stories. I’d love to hear how they go.

Also, if you’re looking for some specific tips or ideas for your students, let me know, and I can cover these topics in my blog.

Until next time, happy writing!


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