Month: May 2016

Me in Twenty Years This Week's COW Writing Challenge

In this week’s COW Writing Challenge, we are asking students to look ahead into their future.  What will your life be like in twenty years?

One way of approaching this is to have a question-answer format in which the student of today is asking questions of themselves in twenty years.

For example:

Me Today:  Do you have a car?

Me in Twenty years:  Yes.  I have a solar-powered self-flying car.

Me Today:  Where do you live?

Me in Twenty years:  I live on a space station on Mars.  I’ve lived there for three years, but in six months, I get beamed back down to Earth for a holiday.

Me Today:  What job do you do?

Me in Twenty Years:  I am an Alien Ambassador, making sure Earthlings and alien life forms get along with each other.

Before you do this writing challenge with your students, have a brainstorming session in which students come up with a list of questions they’d like to ask themselves in the future.  What details of their lives would they like to know?

This is a good opportunity to explore the different kinds of questions they can ask– Close Ended questions (answered with a ‘Yes,’ ‘No,’ or one word answer.) versus Open Ended questions (in which the person gives more of a lengthy, thoughtful answer).



Clean Out Your Locker This Week's COW Writing Challenge

As the end of the school year approaches, one of the most unenviable tasks is the annual locker clean-out.  Cleaning out a locker can lead to all kinds of surprises.  Throughout the course of the year, all manner of things can grow, rot, multiply, and mutate.

In this writing challenge, students are to imagine the worst locker of all time.  It is their job to clean it out.  Unfortunately, the locker clean-out leads to all kinds of surprises.  Before the writing session, you may want to have a brainstorming session of the kinds of strange, exotic, and downright bizarre life-forms that may be found in this locker.

Rather than having this writing challenge turn into a list of items found in the locker, students should use the discoveries as a lead-in to a story relating to those items.  Does something escape into the school?  Does something pull you into the locker?  The other possibility is to have the locker as a portal . . . a portal to where?

After completing this writing challenge, hopefully, your students will never look at their locker in the same way!  That’s how writing transforms writers.

Disaster in the Kitchen This Week's COW Writing Challenge

Messy Kitchen


Here is this week’s COW Writing Challenge visual prompt.

Before the writing session, have your students think about these questions:

1.  Who made this mess?  Was it you, someone you know, or a fictional character?  Did the mess go beyond the kitchen sink area?

2.  What wild recipe was being made?  What were the ingredients?  Were there any strange techniques used to make this recipe?

3.  How did the recipe turn out?  How did it taste?  Was it for a special occasion?  Were there any strange results when people ate it?

4.  What happened in the next few minutes after this picture was taken?

If the students want to share their literary culinary creations, we wouldn’t recommend doing it just before lunch!

A New World Record This Week's COW Writing Challenge

The Guinness Book of World Records is one of the most popular books in school libraries.  There are a variety of reasons for its wide appeal among young readers.  One of them is the dream of someday setting a world record of their own and ending up in the pages of the one of the world’s best-selling books.

This week’s COW Writing Challenge will have the students imagining themselves setting a new world record.  Would it be breaking an existing record, or would they set a new record that has never previously been set?

Before completing this writing challenge, hold a brainstorming session in which students generate a long list of possible world records.  Have them leaf through the pages of the Guinness Book of World Records  to give themselves ideas.  Can they come up with a world record attempt that is not found in the Guinness Book of World Records?

Have fun with this writing challenge, and we hope your students set a new record for the number of words written!

Advice to Your Avatar This Week's COW Writing Challenge

Writer Robert Kroetsch, an Officer of the Order of Canada, was known for using unreliable narrators in his novels.  Just when you thought you could put your confidence in the third person narrator, he’d throw in a comment, an opinion, or a contradiction to let you know the reliability of the narrator should be brought into question.

As kids, we received advice all the time from adults and older kids.  Of course, we’ve learned that, just like the narrator in a Robert Kroetsch novel, not everything we hear is terribly reliable.  This is especially  true when an older kid gives advice to a younger one about a new school, a teacher, or a new grade.

In this COW Writing Challenge, students have an opportunity to use their imaginations and give outrageously unreliable advice to their avatar.  The writing prompt is: “The most important thing you have to know about . . .”  Students can give advice on:

–what school is like.

–what their grade is like.

–the best way to do household chores.

–how to earn extra spending money.

–or any other advice they can think of!

The bonus words that pop up periodically should spark the writers’ imaginations in creating outrageously unreliable advice for their avatar and general audience.

Here’s an example of really bad advice:

The most important thing you have to know about . . . getting household chores done quickly is to find stray animals.  For example, if you have dishes to wash, find a stray dog that’s really hungry and take him into the kitchen.  Lay the dirty plates out on the floor and let the dog lick the plates clean.  Just put them in the cupboards, and you’re done the dishes before you know it!  

As for laundry, if you can find a goat, your job is pretty much taken care of.  All you have to do is turn the goat loose in the laundry room and the dirty laundry will be gone in no time!  Just be sure to check back and make sure the goat doesn’t start eating the rest of the laundry room!

When it comes to mowing the lawn . . .

Take our advice . . . This will be a really fun writing challenge for your students!  Honestly!


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