Writing Lessons from Literature, Book 2: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Here’s the second in our series of FREE Writing Lessons from Literature, and it’s based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s heartwarming tale of friendship and generosity: A Little Princess. Like Book 1 in our Writing Lessons from Literature series, this is a nine week course suitable for children in grades four to six. If not used as a writing course, it can be used for reading comprehension or for a book club.

The main goal of this series is to teach children how to write by studying and analyzing passages from novels and by imitating writing techniques used by the authors. The secondary goal is to help children develop an appreciation for the novel by looking at the underlying themes and character development.

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Writing Lessons from Literature Book 1: Heidi, by Johanna Spyri

Do you have a daughter who loves to read and write stories? If you do, here is something I think you’ll both appreciate. It’s a resource you can use for reading comprehension, for a book club, or for writing lessons.

For years I have thought that a wonderful way to teach writing would be to help students study and analyze the actual writings of accomplished authors. It’s how musicians learn to compose music (at least back in the day when I was studying music theory and composition.) We’d study the music of the great composers by analyzing the chord progressions and melodies, taking note of the structures of the compositions, investigating the composers’ use of instrumentation, and so on. And then we’d try to imitate their style in our own compositions.

I have looked and looked for a similar approach to teaching writing. However, I have not been able to find exactly what I was searching for. So last year my college-age daughter and I wrote Writing Lessons from Literature for my youngest daughter. They include the following:

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The “Our Father” in Art

Last month, I made Junior art masterpiece cards to help him learn the “Hail Mary”. He really enjoyed looking at and talking about the pictures. And he did memorize the prayer, line by line. He would read the words, then I’d cover up them up and he would say them by memory. So, I decided to go ahead and make a similar set to help him learn the “Our Father.”

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The “Hail Mary” in Art

Here’s a little Mother’s Day gift for you! For the month of May, I’m teaching Junior to pray the “Hail Mary”. Since he’s such a visual learner, I made these cards for him: an art masterpiece for each line of the “Hail Mary”. I hope they’ll help him to understand the meaning of each line in the prayer as he memorizes it. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: Looking at beautiful sacred art is truly a path to prayer. If you have little ones who are just learning to pray, I hope this will help:

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Renaissance Art Masterpieces for Elementary Students

A Happy New School Year to you!!!

Here’s a little gift for those of you who like to do picture study with your kids: a collection of eighteen Renaissance Art Masterpieces with a bit of background information and questions that encourage close observation.

Because exposing our kids to lovely art is so important.

Renaissance artists believed in the beauty and nobility of mankind – a belief so sorely lost in today’s society. All the more reason, then, to help our children study and enjoy the masterpieces of the Renaissance artists, which radiate with goodness and beauty.

So without further ado, here are some sample cards and what we’re doing with them:

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Story of Civilization Vol. 2 Medieval World: FREE Workbook Supplement

Here’s a free resource for those of you using Tan’s Story of Civilization Vol. 2 this fall. It’s a BIG one…. 180+ pages! My friend Sue Clement and I collaborated on this project. We love Story of Civilization, but we wanted our kids to think critically about what they have learned and to have cumulative reviews.

This resource includes:

  • vocabulary lists
  • dates for a timeline
  • book suggestions for each chapter
  • map work suitable for older students (Gr. 5-8)
  • critical thinking questions that encourage students to think beyond the page and to make connections with previously learned material
  • cumulative reviews after every other chapter.
  • And, of course, a complete answer key.

It’s a HUGE project, which took a lot of time. (I think we burned some Purgatory time working on it). So I hope your kids will benefit from it.

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Free Advent and Christmas Art Cards for Little Ones

Preparing for Advent, I’ve been thinking about how to make this time meaningful for my little guy, Junior. Since he loves pictures, I made him a collection of art cards that depict the Christmas Story. And since he loves nursery rhymes, I added short little poems to go with each picture. The verses are very simple and repetitive, so he can understand and repeat the words. My hope is that by looking at the pictures and saying the verses, Junior will see the beauty of the Christmas story. Sacred art really has the power to draw us into contemplation.

Come take a peek:

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Free Nature-Themed Alphabet Cards

You’re going to love these — you moms with preschoolers and kindergarteners. In the spring, Junior surprised us by learning all the upper case letters by playing with a foam letter puzzle and singing the alphabet. So, I gave him a puzzle with the lower case letters. But he insisted that lower case “a” was not “a”. I realized I need to present the letters in pairs, differentiating between “big letter A” and “little letter a”.

So I went searching online for alphabet wall cards, but I could not find anything to my taste. (I was looking for cards with real photos of things found in nature.) I asked my teenage son to make alphabet wall cards for Junior — beautiful ones with photographs of real things from nature. I could not have been more pleased. And now I’m happy to share them with you.

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Free Virtue of the Month Cards!

In my pediatrician’s office, there is a poster that says:

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.

Watch you words, for they become actions.

Watch your actions, for they become habits.

Watch your habits, for they become character.

Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny

It’s so true that our actions become habits which build up or break down our character. And the time for developing good habits — virtues — is while children are young. Children’s characters are like freshly made play-doh – malleable and relatively easy to form. As children grow into teens and then into adulthood, their characters become harder to form, like old playdoh that dries up and gets crusty.

Most kids don’t think of the effect their actions have on their character. But once children reach the age of ten, I think it’s worth pointing out to them that the way they treat their family members now and the virtues they exercise now will have an impact on the type of person they will grow up to be. You don’t become an accomplished pianist just by waiting to become one. You practice daily and faithfully, drilling in those musical passages until they become a part of you. The same goes for developing one’s character. Want to be a great husband and father? Start by being considerate and generous now. Want to be successful in your career? Start by being industrious and persevering now. As I told my son, if you wait until you’re grown to be the wonderful person you want to be, it might be too late, because old habits die hard.

To be a little more proactive about growing in virtue this year, I made Virtue of the Month cards for my kids… and yours!

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Sea to Shining Sea Book List and Lesson Plans

Are any of you using Sea to Shining Sea by Catholic Textbook Project this year? If you have a middle schooler studying American history this year, you should really consider it. It’s been one of our favorite history texts. Sea to Shining Sea is written in an engaging story-like style and has wonderful color pictures and maps.

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