Tag: junior high (page 1 of 2)

The Old Piano A Visual Prompt

oldpianoBefore you start writing with this visual prompt, here are a few questions you might want to think about to get those creative juices flowing:

1.  Whose piano was this?

2.  What was special about this piano?

3.  Where did the piano come from?

4.  What is the history of this piano before it came to this scene?

5.  How did it come to be in this field?

6.  What is important about this field?

7.  What will happen next?  What is the future of this piano?

Now, get writing and create music with your words!

Bring Your Own Device Can this really work?

One of the major hurdles facing many teachers wishing to integrate technology into curriculum is, quite simply, student access to technology.  In visits to many schools and conversations with a multitude of teachers, so often, teachers voiced their frustrations in dealing with limited student access to technology– not enough computers or tablets, slow networks, and the list goes on.

One solution that’s been batted about is the idea of “Bring Your Own Device.”  This entails students using their own laptops, tablets or smart phones at school to improve access to technology during school time.

Is this really a practical solution for giving students greater access to technology for meaningful educational pursuits?  Are there too many potential problems accompanying this approach to make it workable?

Sherry Langland, a junior high school teacher in Edmonton, Alberta, spearheaded a B.Y.O.D. at her school.  Her blog post, “Our ‘Bring Your Own Device’ is a Success!” describes the steps her school took to make B.Y.O.D. a practical, workable solution to the challenges of giving students more access to technology.

The Mystery Doorway Another Visual Prompt


Here’s another visual prompt to get you writing with COW.  Before you begin writing, mull over these questions to get your creativity flowing:

1.  If you go through this door, where do you end up?

2.  If you knocked on this door, who would answer?

3.  Why is there a ’17’ on the door?

4.  Who put this door here, and why?

5.  If the door was locked, how could you open it?

Happy writing!

Photo Credit:  Chris McMahen

Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Using Visual Prompts with COW


One of the most effective ways to light the fire of imagination is with an intriguing writing prompt.  In COW, we provide a bank of over 150 prompts (with even more on the way).  You’ll notice that our prompts always leave off in mid-sentence.  Experience has shown us that by asking the writer to complete the sentence, this often gets the flow of writing and ideas going more effectively.

Another form of prompt is the visual prompt.  (Otherwise know as a picture!)  Although visual prompts are currently not featured in COW, we’d like to periodically feature a visual prompt on our blog that writers can use for inspiration. 

For teachers, just project or display the image for the entire class.  As a pre-writing activity, have a discussion about the picture to get some ideas circulating.

What events or circumstances lead up to this picture?

What do you think might happen following this picture?

What characters are not shown in this picture but are important to the story?

What sort of problem could exist in this picture?

When did this occur?  Distant past?  Present day?  Distant future?

How does your perception of this picture change if you know the story behind it is a fairy tale?  Science fiction?  A mystery?

It’s really helpful to leave the image up during the writing session so that students can look back and re-examine the picture for further ideas.

Maybe the old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but a really good visual prompt can be the spark for so much more.

Alieo Games

The Onomatopoeia Writing Challenge Start the year off with a BANG, a SQUELCH, and a FLIP-FLOP!

Onomatopoeia are words that can be associated with sound effects.  Their meaning is tied to the sound of the word. 

For this writing challenge, select the Onomatopoeia Bonus Word list.  (Teachers can copy it from the Shared Bonus Word Tab, then assign it to their class.)  Try to incorporate all of the sound effect bonus words into your story.

Here’s the really fun part!  Get creative when you share your Onomatapoeia story.  Print out your story, then go through and highlight the onomatopoeia bonus words.  Then, you can share it in one of these ways:

1.  Get Dramatic

In reading your story, when you read a sound effects word, get dramatic!  Instead of just reading “bump,” read it like, “BUMP!” This is a great way to combine drama with reading your story aloud.

2.  Encourage Audience Participation

Another way to present your story is to make up signs for each of your sound effect words.  So, for example, when you get to the word woof in your story, you hold up the sign and everyone listening to your story joins in by making the sound effect.

3.  Become a Foley Artist

Look around for objects that make sounds similar to the sound effect words in your story.  For example, for boom, find a large bucket and bang it with your fist.  For pop, you could find a plastic bag or even a balloon.  As you read your story to a friend or your classmates, instead of reading the word, make the sound effect with the objects.

A December Writing Challenge Write a Letter to Santa . . . With a Difference

It’s that time of the year to write a letter to Santa.  But with this writing challenge, how about writing a letter to Santa with a difference?


Write a letter to Santa as if it was composed by someone other than yourself. (If you’re a teacher, we recommend using the Christmas Bonus Word List found in the shared lists tab. Any word list will work, however.)  Choose a character from a book, movie, video game, an animal, an object, or any other character imaginable.  The sky’s the limit!  What would Cinderella write in a letter to Santa?  What sorts of presents would a penguin request?  What would a pet fish have to say to Santa?  Have fun with this, and let the imagination run wild!

When you’ve written your letter to Santa, read the letter to a friend or classmate, but don’t let them know who the imaginary letter is from.  After you’ve read your “Letter to Santa,” see if they can guess which character the letter is from.

Here’s an example.  Can you guess who this letter to Santa is from?

Dear Santa,

I have three requests for things you can send me.  But first, let me tell you, it’s been a very tough year. 

There was this kid named Jack.  Somehow, he got ahold of these magic beans and grew a beanstalk right up into my neighbourhood.  Then, the little rotter sneaked into my castle not once, not twice, but three times!  And each time, as I digested my meal of boiled, roasted or baked boy, I dozed off, and the little rotter stole my most valuable possessions (except for my My Little Pony collection when never gets out of the locked cupboard.)  And the last time, I tried chasing him down the beanstalk, but he chopped it down when I was only half way down!  (Lucky I was wearing my parachute.)

So, for this Christmas, please bring me a replacement hen that lays golden eggs, a magical harp and a bag of gold.  Also, please bring me a very tall ladder so I can climb back up into the clouds and return home. 


Your pal,


Looking for ways to improve your students’ reading comprehension? Try writing. Three Simple Ways Writing Can Improve Reading Comprehension


Let’s start with a horse and cart. In literacy terms, reading is generally regarded as the horse, and writing the cart. Teach someone to read, and writing will follow.

But wait a minute. Recent studies, including one undertaken by the Carnegie Corporation in 2010, give cause to re-examine this ‘Horse and Cart’ analogy. It turns out, increasing the amount students write and improve their skills in writing has a dramatic effect upon reading comprehension. So, which is the horse, and which is the cart?

Three Simple Ways to Use Writing to Improve Reading Comprehension

  1. Spend More Time Writing

    The National Commission on Writing in 2003 recommended that schools double the amount of time students spend writing. The 2010 Carney Corporation study found that increasing how much students wrote improved their reading comprehension of other texts. Effective ways of increasing the amount students write include cross-curriculum writing in a variety of subject areas and writing more at home.

  2. Students Write About What They Read

    When students respond in writing to a text they have just read, a marked improvement in reading comprehension is the result. The writing can be personal responses, interpretations, or analyses of texts in a variety of subject areas such as language arts, science and social studies.

  3. Develop Writing Skills that Transfer to Reading

    Skills and processes required to create text, such as sentence and paragraph formation and text structures, are directly applicable when a student reads a text for comprehension. In other words, the skills of writing are transferable to reading.

Yes. That’s it. Three simple ways. Nothing earth-shattering or revolutionary. All a teacher really has to do is recognize that the proverbial horse is now being pushed by a motorized cart.

Seven Ways in Which COW Supports the Development of Creativity

Historically, creativity has been given a bad rap in schools. There are some pretty good reasons for this. One compelling reason is that divergent thinking is difficult to measure. How can one ‘objectively’ measure an original idea which has no basis for comparison? Narrowly defined criteria which serve as the basis for evaluation have difficulty accommodating wild and crazy ideas that challenge conventional thinking. As a result, this critical area of intellectual development has often been marginalized.

But things are changing.

Like many jurisdictions across North America, British Columbia’s Ministry of Education is placing a greater emphasis upon the importance of creativity. But just how do you teach creativity?

At Alieo Games, with COW (Creative Online Writing) we engage students by throwing down the creativity gauntlet and challenging students to get original with words.

Seven Ways in Which COW Supports the Development of Creativity

  1. Students write in a gamified learning environment which continually keeps the young writer off balance, forcing them to invent, change direction, reverse course, and nimbly maneuver through the creative challenges thrown their way.
  2. Writers can choose their own topics, writing about things that interest them. Pursuing personal interests is a key in the development of creativity.
  3. As students write with COW, Bonus Words appear on their screen. The challenge is to incorporate these words into their story. Conversely, sometimes, the Bonus Words will help them veer off in a whole new direction. Think of Bonus Words as tiny fire crackers for the imagination.
  4. By writing multi-part stories, students can get as ambitious as they choose, whether they want to write a short micro-fiction story or a full blown novel.
  5. By using the editing function of COW, students can further develop their ideas, creatively reshaping them into more refined forms.
  6. By writing under the pen name of their avatar, students are liberated from self-consciousness they may initially feel about expressing their novel ideas and sharing them.
  7. By sharing their stories in a positive, supportive environment, students gain confidence in their creative abilities. Their novel ideas are validated and valued by others. And we think that’s pretty neat!

Mission Improbable Ridding the world of Writer’s Block one Bonus Word at a time with COW

You’ve probably been visited by Writer’s Block. Most of us have. Writer’s Block causes us to act in one of two ways:

  1. You stare at a blank page, frozen with inaction.
  2. You actually write a few sentences or a even paragraph, then you stop and scrunch up your paper and toss it at the garbage can, or you lean on the delete key for a prolonged period of time.

At Alieo Games, we have made it our mission to rid the world of the tyranny of that nefarious, dastardly villain known to one and all as Writer’s Block. This Force of Frustration occasionally goes by other names: Creative Paralysis, Perfectionist Petrification, or I-Can’t-Think-of-Anything-To-Write-itis.

And how do we aim to give freedom to fluency? Let us first assure you, our plan does not require:

  1. super-powers,
  2. Nerf weaponry,
  3. or the periodic changing of wardrobe in phone booths.

Instead, we are employing our newest secret weapon known as COW (Creative Online Writing).

COW, a gamified writing app, will rid the world of writer’s block by transforming the act of writing in the following ways:

  1. Provide intriguing writing prompts that ignite the dormant powers of creativity.
  2. Bombastic Bonus Words that appear during the writing process to create cognitive dissonance and give a jolt to the imagination.
  3. Direct (in a diplomatic way) the writer to come up with a title for their piece after they’ve finished writing.
  4. Provide a waiting room for creativity’s wet blanket– perfectionism. Following the first draft of a story, the perfectionist (and non-perfectionist) can use COW’s editing function to correct and alter to their heart’s content.

At Alieo Games, we appreciate the challenges of this monumental task facing us. Writer’s Block has run rampant through school classrooms and across kitchen tables and homeworks desks of the world for generations. Yet, imaging a world where students see themselves as fluent writers withvaluable ideas to share makes our mission all the worthwhile.

Check out COW at www.alieogames.com.

21st Century Writing Five Ways that COW meets the goals of Differentiated Instruction.

Critics of education have claimed that schools are preparing students for life in the 21st Century by clinging to 19th Century methods. The response by educators has been to take a long, contemplative look at the ways schools prepare students for a post-industrial, knowledge-based economy. Emerging from this re-evaluation of the educational practices is the move towards Differentiated Instruction.

Simply put, Differentiated Instruction is the tailoring of instruction to meet the needs of individual learners. The primary goals of Differentiated Instruction include:

  1. inspiring a love of learning
  2. increasing self-awareness
  3. increasing engagement
  4. improving learning outcomes
  5. having students learn more efficiently and with deeper understanding

In the design of COW (Creative Online Writing), students and teachers immerse themselves in an online learning environment that facilitates the accomplishment of these five goals.

  1. Moving from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation.

    COW’s gamification of writing engages students, motivating them to write initially for the game’s extrinsic rewards. Through engagement with the creative process of writing their own stories, students can develop an intrinsic appreciation for the power of the written word.

  2. Self-awareness and self-evaluation of writing.

    The text analysis tools provided by COW enable students to examine their own writing, reflecting upon areas where they, themselves can find improvement.

  3. Engagement through gamification and authentic audiences.

    In addition to engagement through the gamification of writing, COW also inspires young writers though opportunities to share their writing with classmates. Writing for an authentic audience is vital for the development of a writer.

  4. Practice makes perfect.

    By writing more words more often, students will apply and further build the skills and knowledge learned from instruction, thus improving learning outcomes.

  5. Flexibility and efficiency in targeting specific curriculum goals.

    Teachers can target specific elements of writing and provide their own vocabulary words for students to incorporate when writing with COW. Students can write with COW at school, at home, and at any time of any day. COW provides students, teachers and parents with an incredibly flexible tool to enable young writers to develop their potential in this fundamental literacy skill.

With the demands placed upon teachers in the contemporary school setting, the thought of implementing Differentiated Instruction may seem overwhelming. To achieve this new direction in education, teachers must adopt new tools, enabling them to succeed in this daunting task. COW provides such a tool, meeting the needs of students and teachers in the pursuit of excellence in written communication.

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