Here is a sample Sparks lesson and accompanying image. Mouse over parts of the lesson and the image to read more about these unique features.

The event. These are actual quirky holidays, historical events and birthdays of interesting people. The holidays run throughout the school year, September to late May. You can use these lessons in conjunction with the holiday, or use it just as a stand-alone creative writing lesson.

The hint. Each lesson has some question or statement designed to catch your students' interests early in the day, in advance of your writing session. If you post this somewhere in your classroom first thing in the morning, your kids will enjoy puzzling out what the holiday might be. It's a great way to build interest long before they write.

The goal. This gives a summary statement of the purpose of the lesson.

The activity description. To start each lesson, I give a brief introduction. It's to give background, an overview, or personal observations related to this week's topic.

Explain today's Spark. Each lesson starts off with your explaining what the hint meant that you wrote on the board. As you describe the event on which the lesson is based, you can add as much background as you like. The lesson will work with the barest of facts, since we're essentially spinning off a creative writing idea from the holiday. I don't want you or your students to get bogged down in background details before getting to the writing.

There are occasional lessons that require you to do something in advance. These are denoted by the word: Beforehand. Don't worry, though: I keep prep to a minimum!

Brainstorming. Each lesson requires time to generate ideas as a group. Though this can take as a little as 15 minutes, it is a key element to creating interest and ownership in the writing to come. After group brainstorming, kids should have time to work on their indivicual ideas.

Writing instruction. Since Sparks are designed to be pre-writing activities -- to generate excitement as students approach writing -- many lessons have only the briefest reminders of the nuts-and-bolts of writing. In this lesson, for instance, there is a reminder of the importance of observation.

In some of the lessons, there will be a word or two of instruction in a genre. There may also be links right in the pdf to websites that can give some extra resources.

Individual creativity. Since children learn in different ways, I've tried to vary the stimuli for getting started. In this lesson, you'll use a very tactile apple. In addition I give visuals. And sometimes I'll make suggestions for music.

The summary. This will quickly tell you the kind of writing on which the lesson focuses.

Optional. To end some of the lessons, I give ideas for ways to further develop or enhance this week's writing concept. There might be a suggestions for how to display the writing when finished or for music you could play in the background. These can add to the lesson, but are left to your discretion.

The month. These are little tabs to help you navigate through the lessons. Again, each Spark could be done at any time, disconnected from the holiday or event.

You know what they say about one bad apple!

The sparkpic. Each lesson comes with either an image I've created, a webpage I've posted for the lesson, or a suggestion for something tangible to give to your child writer.

Feel free to print off these images to display. The sparkpics are one more way to engage your child's imagination, as well as his or her sense of humor!

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