Tag: writing fluency (page 1 of 8)

Let’s Go Camping! This Week's COW Writing Challenge

Camping Gear (1)

This week’s COW Writing Challenge is based upon this visual prompt and the written prompt, “I knew this camping trip would be a disaster when…”

Ah, yes. It’s that time of year when civilized people abandon their civilized ways and head out into the Great Outdoors to battle the elements. 

Camping adventures are a great source of material for writing. Think of the potential for disaster– sudden storms, bugs, wild animal encounters, bugs, cooking disasters, bugs, forgotten supplies, bugs and the list goes on.

This writing challenge can be fact or fiction– students can write a camping story in which everything goes horribly wrong. If they’ve done some camping, draw upon some of their own experiences, then use their imaginations to stretch and reshape them. Of course, they may want to find a silver lining in amongst those dark clouds of misfortune!

What a Catch! This Week's COW Writing Challenge

gone_fishing (1)

All fishing stories are true, right?

Okay, so fishing stories do have a reputation for being prone to exaggeration. With this visual prompt, here is your students’ chance to let their imaginations run wild, creating the most outrageous fishing story ever told. Before they start writing, here are a few things they can think about to get their imaginations going:

  1. What might be lurking under the water?
  2. What kind of special bait are these men using?
  3. What happens when they cast their lines?
  4. What do they hook?
  5. What happened when they fought the fish (or whatever it was) on the end of their line?
  6. What happened when they landed their catch in the boat?

Have fun writing a fishy tale!

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!

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!


The Six Word Writing Challenge This Week's COW Writing Challenge

This week’s COW Writing Challenge is a variation on one of more popular writing challenges.  

In October, hundreds of students wrote the “Five Word Writing Challenge.”  This writing challenge is even better.  It’s called the “Six Word Writing Challenge.” 

The bonus word list the students will use is only six words long. These words are:  throw, castle, slide, glove, glass, and question. (If they use up all of the bonus words on this list, they’ll be fed more bonus words from the COW Bonus Word List.)

An important aspect of this writing challenge is the sharing of stories after the writing session. When the students share their stories either orally or on the class bookshelf, the other students in the class can see the various ways these same five words have been used.  The individuality of each writer’s creative direction is brought to light. 

Tell your students to have fun making these six words a part of an amazing story!  

Forest Mystery This Week's COW Writing Challenge

Cloaked Figure


Here is the visual prompt for this week’s COW Writing Challenge, along with the written prompt:  “I took a shortcut through the woods on my way home, and there I saw . . .”

Great writers surprise their readers.  With some writers, you expect the unexpected.  Assumptions are never a safe bet!

For this visual prompt, challenge your students to come up with wildly original ideas for what this red thing is in the woods.  Before the writing session, do some brainstorming and generate as many possibilities for this red thing as the class can muster.  Once they have a long list of possibilities, students can either take an idea from the list, or spin out their own original idea.

Look! Up in the Sky! This Week's COW Writing Challenge



April 14th, 2016 is Look Up in the Sky Day.  We thought everyone should join in the celebration!

This week’s COW Writing Challenge is all about imagining what incredible things could emerge out of the clouds and appear in the sky.  The possibilities are, of course, endless.

1.  Could it be something extraterrestrial?

2.  Could it be something that doesn’t normally get airborne?

3.  Could it be something dangerous?  Something good?  A dream come true?

4.  Maybe, as you look up in the sky, you see a whole series of things, one after the other?

The sky’s the limit for possibilities with this writing challenge!

Don’t Sit There! This Week's COW Writing Challenge

Statue (1)


This week’s COW Writing Challenge features this visual prompt, plus the written prompt, “As soon as I sat down on the bench, I knew I’d made a mistake.  The statue . . .”

You may want to leave the identity of the statue in this visual prompt up to the students’ imaginations.  However, you could also let them know that this statue is of Glenn Gould, the famous pianist.

Before the writing challenge, you may want to give your students some background on Glenn Gould.  Explore his amazing talent, as well as his widely publicized eccentricities.  You may even wish to play one of his most famous recordings, Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” while the students write.  Challenge your students to incorporate as many facts about Glenn Gould as they can into their story.

By learning about Glenn Gould and combining facts with a good dose of creativity, your students can make this statue come alive in more ways than one!

What’s Behind the Door? This Week's COW Writing Challenge

One day, you hear a knock at your door.  Before opening the door, you look through the peep hole in the door.  This is what you see . . .

Pig at Door


For this week’s COW Writing Challenge, the students are asked to tell us what will happen next.  There are all kinds of possibilities.  Before writing, students can explore the possibilities by thinking over the following questions:

1.  What happens if you open the door?

2.  If you decide not to open the door, you know this pig will not go away easily.  (A role reversal of the Three Little Pigs?)

3.  Is it you that is answering the door, or is it another creature or character?  Maybe a wolf?

4.  Does the creature you see through the peep hole turn out to be something unexpected?  Could it actually be a door-knocking puppeteer?

Challenge the students to write a story which has all sorts of unexpected twists and turns in the plot.  Even looking through the peep hole in a front door, things are never what they appear at first glance!

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