Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lists, lists, and more lists!

My life is full of lists. I don't write grocery lists or "to do" lists...I should! Instead I make word lists. I have lists of words that show. A thesaurus just isn't enough for me. I take a word like fun and write at the top of a page in my notebook. Each time I think of another word that shows fun, I add it to my list. For example, on my fun word page, I paint pictures with words like: hilarious, jolly, playful, escapades, a riot, chortle, just for kicks, make merry, get the idea. Every time I think of a word that would fall into that category, I add it to my fun word page. Actually, come to think of it, I should write a thesaurus for writers!

Lists are important for writers, teachers, parents and students. If you are a classroom teacher or parent, there's nothing more useful and fun than having your kids create lists for a reason. Since we're in the midst of winter, just think of the lists your kids could develop.

Here's an idea for you that I use all the time. First of all, have another hearty conversation with your kids about winter (or whatever topic you plan to write about). Lively conversations make for colorful writing.

Ask your kids to start a list of winter words. Ask them to start another list of cold words. Let them keep their lists in their desks. That way, new words can be added as they come to mind.

After a week or so has passed, ask your students to write a sentence or paragraph about winter using words from both lists. No matter how old they are, they will begin to write in similes without even thinking.

Let them share their sentences out loud. You should be hearing things like: Today was as cold as the ice cube is my freezer. Playing with lists and words works. It makes writing fun. It makes writing carefree (I got that from my own FUN list!)

A teacher (from one of the classrooms I visited last year) told me that lists had made a difference in her student's writing. One of her students had to write a letter to another student as a form of apology. Her teacher said that her letter read: "I was as mad as a tornado blowing my house down when you...." How's that for colorful writing?


Suzanne said...

I love lists too.

A couple of years back, my daughter's teacher tried soemthing similar with 'said' words (in place of 'he said/she said'. She came up with a list of well over a hundred and it certainly improved her writing.

Suzanne said...

Sorry, have missed a bracket - )

SuzyScribbles said...

It looks like you've really taken off with your new blog. Kudos to you! OK, how did you get that cool Shelf of Books on your sidebar?

Glue Girl said...

I love this idea! This is something I will definitely do with my students! As a matter of fact, we're reading Roald Dahl books in my class right now, and Roald Dahl did the same thing. He kept lists of words that were synonyms/antonyms. I found that out on the R.D. website, and it was interesting, but I guess I didn't connect how valuable that would be for kids. Teachers know how "generic" some words are that kids use frequently in their writing, and we all have activities to get rid of the boring words, but I can envision this as a great vocabulary buiding tool in the writing journals we keep. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

SuzyScribbles said...

Hey, that's very cool about the parents' magazine picking it up as a link yesterday. You do have some swell stuff here for the kids to try. We've e-mailed this month, if you remember. You sent me Tilly and Tango, one of your sweet books. I didn't realize there were 12 of them. What a bummer about your illustrator. You never did explain what happened there. Aren't you GLAD Sandy got you going on this?
Yes, I write the Circle C Adventures series: "Horses, Adventures, and the Old West." A middle-grade series popular especially with the homeschool community. Now my publisher wants a NEW series (a spin-off from CCA) as well as the first 3 books of my Early Chapter book proposal. I just can't decide if I should write the early chapter books (7,000 words) in first person (like Junie B. Jones) or in third person (like Magic Tree House). I even have a little blog that will keep up with this particular series as it progresses. Right now I've been posting stories other readers have written, using my characters.

Come over to my Blogspot blog and see that I got my Shelfari Shelf up! It was of the easier widgets I've used.
Thanks for visiting.
(Did you read the hilarious post about proofreading?)

SuzyScribbles said...

That is really interesting about your illustrator/author combo. If you can believe this, my editor (when I pitched the idea last summer at Oregon Christian Writers), suggested I try "so and so" for an illustrator and see if he would like to give it a try. Yikes! He even lives in my town. I took a bunch of pictures, since my first one will be "Pony Trouble." Went to a new friend's horse boarding ranch and took tons of pics of my grandaughter riding, etc. This ranch has a new foal coming, and their little girl (age 8) will be imprinting this time. In the past, at age 4 or 5, she just hung around the newborn foals by herself all the time! They got along perfectly, which will help me in my story, as my character gets her own horse in the first book (the horse that later becomes her best friend for the middle-grade readers).
Anyway, Kregel Publications has never done early chapter books. In fact, they do very little middle-grade fiction. Mostly they are non-fiction. But they took a chance on me, and I guess it has worked out pretty well. They are venturing into the "unknown" with this early chapter book idea I pitched. Man, I hope it doesn't fall flat. I'd feel terrible. :-(
So to answer your question about if they would be interested . . . perhaps. Probably not for quite a while, however, because they would want to see how mine did, as well as the other gal (another established author who writes about the Underground Railroad for middle-grade and they want her to do a couple early chapter books based on her characters). If we do well for them, then who knows? It may really open up that area. I think they would be open to the author-illustrator combo, since that's what I'm doing right now.

Sandy said...

Great idea...this sounds like a wonderful way to help boast self imagine of kids who think they can't write anything interesting.

I can't say I remember teachers doing fun stuff like that when I was that age.

Keep up the good work,

Kathleen Jones said...

I should have made a list of words today to describe my winter wonderland...the descriptive words just kept dancing in my head as I walked...left my notebook in the car, though.

Rachael Johns said...

What a great site full of good ideas! If I was still teaching... I'd definitely try out the LISTS! Love lists myself :)

Sandy said...

So far no answer back regarding the profile snafu. Will keep you posted. I'm blog walking, and while pages load and I read, am working on a scarf. Multi-tasking.

See you tomorrow

Jackie said...

Hi Jan, thanks for visiting my blog! You've got a great one yourself. I should try this with my daughter - she's a real bookworm and is just getting into writing her own stories. A great way to get their vocab going too!

Sandy said...

testing the profile situation

janet bell said...


Thanks for visiting my BLOG.
I really like your work..and would be interested in carrying out some of your suggestions> I am working on a photo book for kids that would incorporate my pics and tell a story at the same time.
It seems like your exercises will really help get the creative juices flowing!
Perhaps you would enjoy visiting my new website: Check out
Since children are a passion for you, this is a visual delight!
Good success and much inspiration for you for 2009- Thanks for sharing who and what you love with all of us.. keep writing. It is wonderful.
Janet Bell/ Bell Photography Studio/ Rhode Island

Sandy said...

I've posted my list of 5 bloggers to pass along the award're one of them. Hope over and read the note. Directions are there for posting your award too (call if you need help).


Polly and Meek said...

Hi and thanks for stopping by our blog. I will be sure to keep coming back and checking to see what you have brewing.

Many Blessings ~ Meek