Month: February 2016

What’s in Those Dog Biscuits? This Week's COW Writing Challenge

We missed it again!  That’s because we’re humans.  In the canine world, Feb. 23rd, never goes by unnoticed.

Why?  It’s International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day, of course!

This week’s COW Writing Challenge is our attempt to bring human attention to this big day in the canine world.

Students are asked to imagine a dog eating a magical dog biscuit.  They then are asked to write about what happens next.  Think about the following questions before writing:

1.  What does the magical dog biscuit enable the dog to do?

2.  Where did this magical dog biscuit come from?  Who made it?

3.  How did it get fed to the dog?

4.  What was the secret magical ingredient?

5.  What are the consequences of this dog’s new ability?  How does life change for those around the dog?

6.  Is there an antidote to this magical dog biscuit?

Students may choose to complete this writing challenge in a narrative, story-telling form, or maybe they’ll write it up as a newspaper article.

Whichever way they choose to complete this writing challenge, just make sure you keep the doors locked in case any talking dogs wander into the class and disrupt your students’ chain of thoughts!

How Did It Get Here? This Week's COW Writing Challenge



For this week’s COW Writing Challenge, students are presented with this image, plus the prompt, “There’s a long story behind how this car ended up in the middle of a forest.  It all began . . .”

For this writing challenge, students are asked to imagine the events leading up to an ending.  This forces the writer to think very differently about their story as they write toward a fixed ending.  Aspects of the final outcome are woven into the plot of the story.  In preparation for this writing challenge, have students think about the following aspects of the final outcome to this story:

How did the car end up in the middle of a forest?  Was this the result of a car chase?  A failed invention?  A horribly wrong turn?

Why is it upside down?

How long has it been here?

Who was the owner of the car?  Was this person also the driver?

Is there a secret behind this car that you can reveal to your reader?

A follow-up activity is to have students share their versions of “How Did It Get Here?”  Everyone will be amazed at the many different stories behind this mysterious car.

Invent an Alien World This Week's COW Writing Challenge

In this week’s COW Writing Challenge, we are asking students to stretch their imaginations, and invent an alien.  It sounds simple enough.

But wait!  There’s more to inventing an alien than taking a humanoid shape and adding a couple of antennae here or an extra eye there.  It requires a great number of considerations.  These considerations include:

•  Creatures are adapted to live in specific types of environments.  

•  Each characteristic of a creature (or alien) should be an adaptation to some aspect of its environment.

•  So, when inventing an alien, students must also be inventing a planet upon which their alien can live.

Before inventing their alien, they may want to think about the planet where their alien lives.  They should think about a number of aspects, including:

a.  the atmosphere

b.  the temperature

c.  the terrain

d.  any other life forms

Inventing an alien is really about inventing an planet, then creating an alien that can survive upon that planet.  One alternate activity to this is to have students choose a planet from our solar system, do some research on the conditions of that planet, then invent an alien that can survive those conditions.

We hope the writing your students do with this challenge will be out of this world!

Jabberwocking! This Week's COW Writing Challenge

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.’

So begins Lewis Carroll’s classic poem, Jabberwocky.

But, what does it mean to gyre or gimble.  And where is a wabe, anyway?

Lewis Carroll is not alone in using invented language.  Other authors such as Richard Adams, Dr. Seuss, George Orwell, Roald Dahl, A.A. Milne, Chaucer and, of course, William Shakespeare all invented words, many of which worked their way into common English usage.

In this COW Writing Challenge, students are given a bonus word list of nonsense words.  It’s completely up to each student what the nonsense word means.

Here is the challenging part. As they use each nonsense bonus word in their writing, they should try to create enough context so that the reader understands the intended meaning of the word. 

Here’s an example: “I guzzonoided off the top of the cliff and landed with a blangerhoot in the river below.” In this example, the reader can infer the possible meaning of the nonsense words from the context of the sentence.

After students complete this writing challenge, have a sharing session of the stories.  In each use of a nonsense word, have the students try to define the word based upon its use in the context of the writing.

We hope your class has a blazzorkle time working on this thlingmahoof writing challenge!

Where is My Car? This Week's COW Writing Challenge

parking_monster (1)


This week’s COW Writing Challenge is a visual prompt coupled with the written prompt: “Your family returns  to the parking lot to discover your car has been . . .”

At the centre of this writing challenge is the “monster” pictured at the foot of the parking spot where your car was parked.  This writing challenge offers a great opportunity for your students to explore “the unexpected” in terms of character and plot development.

When examining this picture, the first thought is that this “monster” ate your car.  If it did, consider this:

Maybe it had a good reason.  If so, what would that reason be?

Maybe it actually helped you and your family by swallowing your car.  If so, how could this be?

Maybe the monster didn’t actually eat your car.  Was he a witness to something else that may have happened?

Based on the answers to these questions, how will the story unfold?  Will you get the car back?  Will there be some other surprising outcome? 

Great writers surprise their readers.  Challenge your students to come up with twists and turns for this writing challenge that will be give their readers an unexpected fictional journey.

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