Archive for the ‘History’ Category

DAR Contest for Students, Grades 5 – 8

July 6, 2009

This year the Daughters of the American Revolution are sponsoring their annual writing contest with the theme of “The Completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad”. Writers are to pretend they are a settler planning to use the train to travel to their new home in the West, an Irish or Chinese worker who helped build the railroad or a Native American whose way of life was greatly affected.

According to Leslie A. Pfeifer, of Moraga, the contest is open to all 5, 6, 7 and 8th grade students in public, private or parochial schools or home schooled. They give a Bronze American History medal to the winner and honor them at their February meeting. Their story goes to the state level for judging. All writers receive Certificates of Participation.

What’s exciting is that this is another opportunity for students to be awarded for writing! By participating or winning in a contest, students can use these stories to build on their portfolios, writing resumes, AND get experience! PLUS, you’ll have the story itself to publish or use in some other way to build on for a future project. Go for it!

Check back here later for more information. Deadline will be December 1, 2009. I’ll have copies of the guidelines with me at the free Clayton Library writing workshop Susie Wilson and I are leading on July 29. (3-5 pm)

My Great-Grandmother Sophia

June 3, 2009

In the 1860’s in Baden-Baden Germany, when Sophia was in her twenties, her family was very sick with a disease called diptheria. Although now we have vaccines for this illness, none were available at that time. With an epidemic raging everywhere, it was nearly impossible to find a doctor to come to the home.

But their neighbor knew one. As as special favor to their family, he arranged for the doctor to pay the family a visit. After Sophia’s family got well, Sophia asked the neighbor what she could do to repay him.

“My brother lives in America. His wife just died leaving him six children. He needs a wife! Would you go to America and become his new bride?”

Leaving her homeland and her family forever, Sophia packed a large trunk and took a sister with her for America in 1866. She was twenty-five-years old. For six weeks, they traveled over the Atlantic Ocean and then on to Jefferson, Wisconsin to meet the man named Ludwig, who was to be her husband.

They married on April 24, 1866. He was eighteen years older than Sophia. Throughout their marriage they had three other children.

Writing Exercise: Do you have any stories within your family history you can discover and share? Interview a family relative. Find out information about your family tree. Which relatives were born where? Who was the first generation in America? Which countries did your ancestors come from? How did they come to America? Ask as many questions about what life was like. 1. Take good notes. 2. Tape record their answers. 3. Better yet . . . video tape their responses! This is VERY valuable for sentimental reasons, historical record, and for all of your creative projects now and in the future!

Questions you may want to ask: 1. What was life like back when you were a child? 2. What did you do for fun? 3. What was a typical summer day like? 4. What was a typical school day like? 5. Who was your favorite teacher and why? 6. What was the most memorable holiday or family outing? 7. What was the most sad day in your childhood? What happened? Recount that day, moment by moment if you can. 8. What was the happiest day? Recount that time, moment by moment. 9. Do you remember anything funny that ever happened to you or to a family member? 10. Did you have any pets? What did they look like? Act like? 11. What was a proud moment for you? 12. What did you used to play/pretend? 13. What did you want to be when you grew up? 14. What was your first job? Tell me about what that was like. 15. Did you ever go to the hospital? Share any experiences when you did or when you were sick.
******* You can also write about YOURSELF by answering these questions!******

When was the last time you received a real hand-written letter . . .

May 4, 2009

Ever hear of the old-fashioned tradition of pen pals?  My mother had one as a girl  in Minnesota in the early 1930s.  She wrote to her England friend through the depression, during World War II as she worked a job as a book-keeper that later requried SIX men to replace her (she received one-third of ONE man’s salary) and up until her 82nd year  . . . when she passed away.  Seventy years of friendship through hand-written letters, Christmas gifts, and even one tape recording of our family’s voices.

Today I treasure a hand-written letter in the mail from a friend or relative.  When was the last time you received one?  Wrote one?   It takes more thought and time than a dashed off e-mail and a push of the send button. 

Writing prompts:  1.  Write a note to a friend telling her/him of an experience you remember you’ve done together.  What was enjoyable about it?  Fun, funny, sad, memorable? 

2.  Write a letter to someone who hurt you recently. You don’t need to send it.  Say what’s in your heart.  Don’t speak of revenge and hate, but of the hurt in your soul.   Let it “sit” for several days and then revisit it.  Perhaps it can be used to mend your feelings or the relationship. 

3.  Write a letter from that person to YOU.  What would they say to you?

4.  Write a dialogue in the perfect world between the two of you.

5.  Write a letter to a character in a novel you have read.  What would you like to say to this person?

6.  Write a letter from one character in a novel of one book to another character in another book.  (Thanks to the College High School teacher’s student’s great idea!)

Earth Day Reading and Writing

April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day! Pick up a piece of writing by or about John Muir, founder of The Sierra Club and protector of our National Park System. I loved his biography by Ginger Wadsworth, John Muir: Wilderness Protector, and Muir’s very own words in The Wild Muir: Twenty-two of John Muir’s Greatest Adventures by the naturalist himself. Then there is always my own picture book about what Muir calls his most exciting experience. John Muir and Stickeen: And Alaskan Adventure is available in many libraries.

Writing exercises: 1. Go outside in nature. Sit beside a tree, walk in a park or in a forest, or skip rocks in a pond. Write a poem about something you see, feel, hear and appreciate. Use your senses. Remember that a poem isn’t just prose in poetry form. Get rid of unnecessary words and keep only the most important ones! 2. Who or what inspires you to treat your environment with respect? Why? How? 3. Write an anecdote about when you’ve seen someone DISrespect the environment. What happened?

Time Capsule

March 18, 2009

50 Years Ago . . . 1959, Kids and parents rushed to buy the hottest thing on the market. Barbie dolls! People tuned their black and white televisions to Bonanza.
Gas rose to a whopping 25 cents per gallon . . .

Exercise: 1. Take your time capsule. Set the dial. What will happen in the future? Write a story set in the future. 50 years from now? 100? You decide when. 2. If you were alive 50 years ago, write about memories from that time period. Where were you living? What were you doing? How old were you? Describe your house, your room, your lifestyle. A typical day? What were some differences between then and now? Share with some younger family members.

Art and Writing

March 5, 2009

Happy Birthday Howard Pyle! Born in 1853, he’s often called the Father of Illustration and well-known for his Merry Adventures of Robin Hood.

Exercise: 1. Choose an illustration you like and admire. Write a story or poem to go with it. 2. Google Howard Pyle and choose one of HIS illustrations. Write a work of fiction of your own to accompany his art. 3. Read Robin Hood and let it inspire your own illustrations.