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.

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. For instance, in this lesson about writing a letter, I mention the parts of the letter but leave the explanations of those parts to you.

In some of the lessons, I do go into more instruction (for instance, in writing a limerick), but in general I'm assuming you have resources for the basics; what you need from Sparks are motivated students!

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.

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

Brainstorming. Each lesson requires time to generate ideas as a group. This may be just you and your child, but if you homeschool mulitple ages, they can all be involved in this stage. 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.

Explain today's Spark. Each lesson starts off with your explaining what the hint meant that you posted earlier. 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. But feel free to research the holiday more if you and your child are interested -- pursuing ideas is one of the great pleasures of homeschooling.

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!

Individual creativity. After brainstorming, your child or children can work on his or her own story.

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

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.

These are just acorns.

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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