Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday Writing Workout(S): THINKING WITH INK!

Welcome to the third Wednesday Writing Workout created by Sheboygan, Wisconsin author, educational consultant and veteran elementary and middle school classroom teacher Michael Leannah. It’s one of four from his recently-released book WE THINK WITH INK (Brightside Publications, 2016) that makes our TeachingAuthors month of May even merrier.

As I shared in my introduction to the first WWW that offered Get Acquainted exercises and the second WWW that shared Daily Practices, Michael writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. Tilbury House releases his picture book MOST PEOPLE in August.  Two other picture books are soon to follow: GOODNIGHT WHISPERS (Familius) and FARMER HUCKINSHUCK’S WILD RIDE (Splashing Cow Book)  His stories have appeared in U.S. and Australian magazines. He authored the award-winning SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE: MEMORIES OF LAUERMAN BROTHERS DEPARTMENT STORE and is the editor and contributing author of WELL! REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE AND CAREER OF JACK BENNY.

WE THINK WITH INK is a trove of lessons, projects and activities designed to increase reading and writing skills in the classroom…and beyond.  It’s an ideas book for elementary and middle school teachers seeking to merge writing instruction into science, social studies and math classes.  It’s a guide for teachers looking to help students increase self-confidence and self-esteem.  It’s also a book for students working independently on creative writing skills as well as a manual for learners young and old – i.e. me and you, our TeachingAuthors readers - who aspire to be good – even published – writers.

“The WE THINK WITH INK approach relies heavily on the sharing and
critiquing of stories,” Michael shared.  “Our goal is publication, which means that people other than those in the classroom or group will read what we write.  Booklets are put together and made available on the shelves of the school library.  Story collections are sent home for families to read.  Our writing is distributed to local coffee shops and doctors’ waiting rooms.  Our booklets/anthologies are given as gifts to friends and family.  And yes, we write with the goal of someday sending our very best work to magazine and book publishers.”

Check out today’s WWW and try your hand, then be sure to return next Wednesday to do the same.

Thank you, Michael, for sharing your smarts, your passion for writing and WE THINK WITH INK writing workouts with our TeachingAuthors readers!  Oh, and for making yourself available at, should our readers wish to share their appreciation.

Enjoy thinking with ink!

Esther Hershenhorn

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In We Think With Ink, the teacher’s most important task is to engender in her students a love for words and writing. From Day One, the teacher demonstrates and encourages playfulness with words and sentences. That means occasionally using outrageous puns and repeating such refrains as “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” The teacher’s enthusiasm for word play is essential.

To motivate our students, to make them eager to be creative with their writing, we point out the interesting aspects of our language at every opportunity. We demonstrate how the building blocks — the letters, words, and sentences — go together to create all the stories and poems we love so much to read…and to write.

Take every opportunity to generate interest by pointing out the quirks of our language:

  • Why does the letter “c” even exist? If we want its hard sound (“car,” “corn,” “cut”) we could use a “k.” 
  • If we want its soft sound (“celery,” “city,” “century”) we could use an “s.” Why do we need “c”?
  • Why don’t “singer,” “finger,” and “ginger” rhyme?
  • Why must some words — “mint,” for instance — be shared? A mint is a building where coins are made. A mint is also a candy flavored with wintergreen. One of them must have come first, so when the second one came along, somebody should have said, “Wait a minute. The word ‘mint’ is already being used.”
  • Some words — like “bamboozle,” “sassafras,” and “ramshackle” — are just plain fun to say. 

The way some sentences are put together makes them confusing. “The batter hit the ball off the pitcher’s leg and it rolled to the shortstop.” “The fish are biting off the coast of Maine.” “Lisa’s grandmother died when she was only six years old.”
Single words are easy to understand, but you’d better watch out when you put them into sentences. Said quickly, “some ice” and “some mice” sound exactly alike, so if you say to someone, “Please bring me some ice,” you might not like what happens next.

Some of the letter, word, and sentence games in We Think With Ink can be played five minutes here, ten minutes there, during the “cracks” in the day while the class is waiting for stragglers to come in in the morning, or while waiting for the lunch bell to ring. With the time that we have, we can model the fun of using letters, words, sentences.

Fill in the Blanks

The teacher (or leader) makes a deck of cards with a key word on each. Only she will see the words on the cards. She begins by saying, “I have a four-letter word that starts with ‘s’ and ends with ‘p.’ What is the word?”
Each student writes a guess. The teacher reveals her word. “The answer I have is ‘soap.’ What is yours?” Any student who has written “soap” gets three points. Players who have written a different word (snap, stop, soup, etc.) get one point. If a student cannot think of a word with the given letters, he gets no points and will wait for the next example.
Four-, five-, or six-letter words work best for this game. (Try “melt,” “past,” “again,” “first,” “soccer,” and “packed.”)

Change a Letter and Mix ’em Up

Start with a five-letter word (example: SPEAR). Player #1 changes one letter and now uses the letters to make a new word (SUPER). Player #2 now changes one of the letters in “SUPER” to make a new word (PAUSE). The players “win” if they can each make five different words in this manner. (To make this a competitive game, play continues until one player cannot produce a new word.)
This game could be played with longer or shorter words. It could be played with groups of three, alternating in a triangle pattern. Many individual games of “Change a Letter” can be played in the classroom at once.

Hide and Seek

On a piece of paper, each player writes a passage from a book, “hiding” parts by leaving blanks where key words belong. Partners are challenged to “seek” words to fill in the blanks so that the story or poem makes sense. In the end, the real stories and poems are revealed and the players compare the guesses to the words of the real authors.

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