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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.

Down the Drain This Week's COW Writing Challenge



Here is the visual prompt for this week’s COW Writing Challenge, “Down the Drain.”

Our character is about to lower himself through a drain.  Or is it a drain?  Maybe it’s actually a portal to some strange land.

Portals are a common literary device to take characters from one time and place to another.  Authors have used wardrobes, tree houses, and rabbit holes to name just a few.  This writing challenge is an opportunity for your students to explore other portal possibilities.  What potential portals could exist in their classroom?  The school?  The school yard?  Their homes?

After completing this writing challenge, your students may wish to do other free writing sessions in which they use their own invented portals which lead their characters to adventure.

Superpower! This Week's COW Writing Challenge

At one time or another, many of us have wished to have some sort of superpower.  Whether it’s the ability to fly, read minds, bend large steel pipes with our bare hands, or find a word that actually rhymes with orange, the superpower we desire is a telling reflection upon something within ourselves.

In this week’s COW Writing Challenge, we are asking students to imagine what life would be like if they could have any superpower they wished.  Before the writing session, have your students think about the following questions:

1.  What superpower would you like to have?

2.  Why would you want such a superpower?

3.  What good would you do for the world with your superpower?

4.  In what ways, good or bad, might your life change by having this superpower?

5.  Is there a story behind how you gained your superpower?

Choosing a superpower could be the first step to developing a superhero persona.  Students may wish to develop a whole series of stories based upon their own superhero persona, saving the world from a series of dastardly villains.

We wonder . . . will any of your students wish for the superpower of wildly imaginative writing?

Peekaboo! This Week's COW Writing Challenge



This week’s COW Writing Challenge is a visual prompt with the sentence prompt, “Was this a plant or a human?  That’s when I noticed it began to grow and . . .”

This writing challenge offers an example of how engaging the students’ imaginations can cross over into concepts studied in other subject areas.  For example, with this writing challenge, if this human-looking figure emerging from the soil was actually a plant, what would it require to grow and remain alive?

If plants require air, water, correct temperature, and carbon dioxide, what specific conditions would this strange human-like plant need for survival?  Further research into the needs of a variety of plants, such as the Venus flytrap, could provide material for the students as they prepare to write.

After writing their story of the human-like plant, a follow-up activity would be to draw an illustration of what this plant looks like fully grown.  Think of what its leaves and flowers may look like.  Also, it’s important to give this new plant a name.

We hope this writing challenge will help your students to grow as writers as they write about the growth of this unusual plant.

Predictions for a New Year This Week's COW Writing Challenge

Every January, predictions are made for what we might expect in the year ahead.  Many of these predictions amount to rampant speculation.  In this week’s COW Writing Challenge, students are given free reign to look at the year ahead and make their own bold predictions for 2016.

Some may wish to play it safe, predicting that June will be followed by July.  While others may wish to peer deeply into their crystal ball and make predictions that verge on the outrageous.  If your students are wondering about what sort of predictions to make, they may want to think about making predictions on:

1.  something unexpected that happens during the Super Bowl.

2.  a surprise winner at the Academy Awards.

3.  a person who becomes famous in an unexpected way.

4.  strange weather patterns.

5.  something that visits Earth from outer space.

6.  a new musical sensation.

7.  a great scientific discovery.

8.  a new invention that will change the world.

We also predict that your students should have a thought-provoking and entertaining time making their outlandish predictions for the year 2016!

Stormy Weather The Week's COW Writing Challenge

Winter has officially arrived in Northern Hemisphere.  With winter comes big weather– snowstorms, windstorms, rainstorms, ice storms, frog storms . . . Frog storms?

This weeks’ COW Writing Challenge is all about strange storms.  If you’re not familiar with really strange storms, take a look at Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and you’ll know what we’re talking about.

Students are challenged to write about the strangest storm ever.  What fell from the sky?  What were the clouds made of?  Was their weird lightning?  Strange sounding thunder?  What did this once-in-a-lifetime storm do to the place where you live?  How did people in your town or city react to the storm?

Was the storm a bad thing, or did some good come out of it?  How was your city or town changed after the storm?

Time to get down to writing, and create a storm of words writing with COW!

The Best/Worst Holiday Ever This Week's COW Writing Challenge

‘Tis the holiday season!  This weeks COW Writing Challenge has our young writers (and some old ones, too) writing a story about the holiday’s best of times or the worst of times.  They are challenged to write about the very best holiday season imaginable OR the very worst holiday season in history.  The prompt for this writing challenge is, “It was a holiday season I’ll never forget . . .

What would happen to make a holiday season the best one ever?  What amazing events would occur?  What spectacular surprises would be in store?  Think big!  Think epic!  The only limit is the imagination.

Conversely, what would happen to make a holiday season the worst one ever?  What really unfortunate events would occur?  What big disappointments would be in store?  Think terrible!  Think catastrophic!  The only limit is the imagination.

Of course, we hope everyone has a holiday season that falls into the “Best Ever” category!

A Letter to Me From . . . ? This Week's COW Writing Challenge

In this week’s COW Writing Challenge, students are asked to write a letter with a difference.  It’s a letter to themselves from someone else.

The letter can be from a character in a book, movie or game.  Maybe the letter will be from one of their pets.  Or how about their avatar, or even an object?

What would Cinderella write in a letter to them?  Or a penguin?  Or the table in their kitchen?  The sky’s the limit!

After completing the writing challenge, the class can play the “Letter to Me Guessing Game.”  Students can read their “Letter to Me,” then, the rest of the class can try to guess who the letter is from.

Here’s an example of the beginning of a letter.  Can you guess who it is from?

Dear Alieo,

I’m sorry I haven’t been at school lately because I’ve been very busy.  We were out of money, so Mom asked me to sell the cow.  You wouldn’t believe what happened, though.  I met this amazingly weird guy on the road who offered to trade me our cow for some magic beans.  Sounded like a fair deal to me!

Remember that science experiment we did last year when we were trying to grow those bean plants in your basement?  Well, you wouldn’t believe these beans.  We should have used these beans for our science experiment!  About twelve hours after I planted these beans (Actually, I didn’t plant them, but I won’t get into details.  It’s a long story) the bean plant shot up like you wouldn’t believe.

You know how we went to the climbing gym last week?  I put those skills to good use by climbing this giant beanstalk.  Yes, it was THAT big!  I should have brought an oxygen mask . . .


An Original Holiday Adventure This Week's COW Writing Challenge

With the holiday season approaching, this week’s writing challenge is all about writing a Holiday Adventure. 

Students will be given the prompt:  “It was the first day of holidays and . . .”  

Holiday stories often fall into the realm of predictable storylines.  For example, there are numerous stories about Santa dealing with some obstacle to delivering the presents on Christmas Eve due to illness, a broken sleigh, a foggy night.  This writing challenge presents students with a challenge to write a truly original holiday story.  Which twists and turns could an original holiday story take?

Many story plots revolve around a main character facing a problem.  It may be helpful to hold a brainstorming session before the writing challenge, asking students to come up with a list of potential problems around the theme of the holidays.  The problems could centre around preparations for the holidays at home, or maybe about the trials and tribulations faced by characters associated with the holiday season.

Having a list of potential plots before writing will give students the confidence to forge ahead with this writing challenge.  Some may choose to go their own way, and come up with their own original holiday story plot.  At least, we ho-ho-hope so!

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