Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Middle School or High School Story Starters (Guest Blog)

Middle School or High School Story Starters
by Sandra Durham 

     The following are the beginnings of three different stories.  (These story starters are appropriate for older middle or high school students.)

     One could be based in real time.
     One could be supernatural.
     One could be set in ancient times or in a sci-fi future. 

     Choose one of these story starters and finish the chapter of the story.

     Suggestion:  Start with an outline of the questions that come to mind as you read the starter, making a list of the known facts you are given, and base your story around these questions and facts.

     There is no wrong way to write these stories.

     Follow the grammar and punctuation guidelines set by your teacher.  Get creative and have fun!

Story Starter #1
     It was a dark and stormy night.  Too dark to finish the supper dishes without the generator working. (And, as usual, I had forgotten to replenish the fuel.)  The old dog refused to go out in the rain to do his business which meant he'd be begging to go out at about 4 a.m.  And I still hadn't finished my homework.  Yessir, I said to myself, here I am six months from retirement and 80 miles from the nearest school and I had homework.  But, then, that's what made it interesting.  Now, if I could just make it appear like that on paper.
     I'd always loved stories, or at least listening to other people's stories.  Putting them down on paper for someone else to read, that's another thing altogether.  What if they don't read it exactly right, or emphasize the wrong words, or just flat misunderstand.  There's a lot of difference between reading and listening.  So, I was taking this writing course and I had homework.
     Just listen to that wind, now. Whistlin' up a storm.  The shutters I hadn't gotten around to fixin' would be keepin' me up all night.  That was okay.  I had no place to be tomorrow.  Little did I know it would be a long time before I went anywhere at all.

Story Starter #2
     It was a rank smell.  But I didn't find out until months later that a body had been found in the house.  Found because of the smell.  You really didn't notice it until the searing, humid days of later summer brought it boiling up out of the floor boards and carried it out to wander up and down the narrow street.
     The people walked quickly by the house, quickly but quietly.  They seemed to be holding their breath.  Not so much because of the smell but rather to keep from inhaling a restless spirit.

Story Starter #3
     Through the swirls of color and pain, she sensed a presence but was unable to determine if it was good or evil.  Coming back to the light was almost more painful that it was profitable.
     "Who are you?" she whispered, needing to feel safe though she still could not see, much less defend herself.
     "I am here to protect you, child," said a voice strong but gentle, deeply masculine but not threatening.
     "Why do I need protecting?" asked the girl, stopping her struggle toward full consciousness, still not opening her eyes.  It was tempting to slide back into oblivion if there was someone else here to remain awake for her.
     "Come, child.  You are not yourself or you wouldn't ask such, nor linger so in rising."


*Guest Blog--This is a from a series written by our guest blogger Sandra Durham.  Feel free to use this selection with your students.

Blanket and Black (guest blog)

Blanket and Black
by Sandra Durham
     The light yellow-tan hair of the chihuahua easily blended into the surrounding dry grass.  All that was visible were the tips of two large triangular ears.  Dark brown eyes darted from side to side taking in every movement in the overgrown yard.   Suddenly exploding from the high grass, she landed on all four pencil-thin legs that bounced like mini-jackhammers on the sidewalk and began barking at the neighbor's black cat.  Her teeth showing in a small doggy grin, Blanket swaggered back to the yard and disappeared into the tall dry grass.  The cat was gone for now.
     Blanket found a grey twig to chew on while holding it between her paws.  Snap!  Crunch!  She gripped the smallest piece in her teeth and trotted around the side of the house.  Walking through a clump of bright green weeds, she stuck her nose down a damp, musty hole, lifted her head, snorted loudly dropping the stick and continued on into the back yard.
    Mellie, a black bulldog/terrier mix, was sitting in front of the small blue pet carrier they used for a dog house.  It was placed in one corner of a much larger kennel where they were supposed to stay when they were outside.  Kristen, their owner, had forgotten to latch the gate.  When Mellie saw Blanket, she ran out to play.  Mellie was much younger than Blanket but was almost three times her size.  This did not stop Blanket from chasing Mellie back into the dog house.  Blanket jumped on top of the carrier and barked whenever Mellie tried to come out.  Leaning down as far as she could, Blanket whined, growled and yipped, showing her sharp, tiny teeth.  Each time, Mellie would tuck her tail and go back inside the carrier. 
     Ignoring the two dogs, three black birds flew into the far end of the kennel and began eating the dry brown dog food, and even some of the big red ants they found crawling on the food bowl.  Blanket froze for a moment from her harassing of Mellie, but before she could attack the birds, an ear-splitting scream caused her to jump straight up in the air.  When her paws hit the ground she skittered to one side, looking back over her shoulder while the black birds flew in all directions.
     Kristen had been picking up limbs and sticks in the yard so she could mow the grass, but now she was throwing them down.  She rushed to the kennel to retrieve her dogs.  Mellie ran to Kristen, when she called her to be picked up.  But not Blanket.
     "Come on, Blanket.  We're going inside!" Kristen shouted.
     Kristen made a swipe in Blanket's direction but just missed the fast moving dog.  Blanket ran in circles before turning to follow Kristen to the front yard.  Just as she reached the corner of the house, in the clump of bright green weeds, two tiny black snakes slithered down the damp, musty hold and disappeared.  Blanket huffed a half-way bark and trotted into the house.  It had been a good day for a busy dog.


Purpose and Function:
1. How many colors are in the story?
2. What color is Blanket?
3. What color is Mellie?
4. What kind of dog is Blanket?
5. What kind of dog is Mellie?
6. Why are they outside; why do they go inside?
7. Which dog is bigger?
8. What dog is older?
9. How many creatures are mentioned?
10. How many are black?
11.  How many action words can you find?
12. What are describing words?
13. How many words with double letters are in the story?
14. Can you write a story describing things that happen around you?

*Guest Blog--This is a series of poetry and stories for young children written by our guest blogger Sandra Durham.  Feel free to use these stories and poems with your students.

The Saga of We and They (guest blog)

The Saga of We and They 
by Sandra Durham

Me and we make a group of three
As It strolls the garden path,
And the misty shade in the sunlit glade
Lies covered in snow at last.

Yes, you and they in a sunset of grey
Will watch as the sun comes up,
While five from four head out the door
To drink from an empty cup.

And all the while, with a frown and smile,
To unsleep the whole minute through,
Him dances a jig with a fishing rig,
And her thinks of they and you.

But, here we art at the end of start
Wile the light turns as dark as day,
And a tunnel dug with a bear-like hug
Will always turn June into May.


Purpose and Function
1. What constitutes poetry?
2. Where does it rhyme?
3. Does it have to rhyme or have rhythm?
4. Does it tell a story?
5. Does it convey a feeling?
6. Does it paint a picture?
7. Can it be understood?
8. If it is nonsense, is it still poetry?
9. How many contradictions can you find in this piece?
10. How many impossible scenarios can you find?
11. How many examples of bad grammar/misuse of words can you find? 

*Guest Blog--This is a series of poetry and stories for young children written by our guest blogger Sandra Durham.  Feel free to use these stories and poems with your students.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Fantastic World of Fuzzy McPherson--Guest Blog

The Fantastic World of Fuzzy McPherson 
by Sandra Durham

     Fuzzy McPherson was resting on a plant stalk.  He had been eating furiously for days and had almost foundered himself.  Surely he could not still be hungry--but--the flowers and leaves were so exciting and so enticing.  He took another bite, leaving a neat round hole in the center of a leaf.  Fuzzy stretched and flexed his many legs before finally climbing higher on the stalk.
     The garden was filled with fanciful things like fennel, fox grape, phlox, and philodendron.  With firs and ferns and fairy rings, it was almost more than he could fathom--all this glorious fodder.  Fuzzy moved slower and slower until he could not crawl any further.  As he gathered himself to ponder his fate, he remembered.......
     "Of all the fellows in his class, the future of Fuzzy McPherson is the brightest!" All the teachers said so.  "Just wait until you fly!!"
     But Fuzzy thought there was something comforting about being so close to the ground.  Still, his teachers kept saying he would see a phantasmagoric sight as soon as he could fly.
     So silly they were!  He was much too full and too sleepy to even think about flying.  He decided to build a nice roomy cocoon and doze awhile.  Besides, everyone knows that caterpillars can't fly.



 Purpose and Function:
1. How many "F" and "Ph" words can you find in this story?
2. Define any new words.
3. What does Fuzzy become?
4. Do you let other people help you see your potential?
5. What things would you like to accomplish?

*Guest Blog--This is a series of poetry and stories for young children written by our guest blogger Sandra Durham.  Feel free to use these stories and poems with your students.
     

Theodosia Mellificent Bear (Guest Blog)

Theodosia Mellificent Bear
by Sandra Durham
Theodosia Mellificent Bear
Tried to sleep in her rocking chair.
Just as her eyelids began to flutter,
When all of her bones felt like melted butter,
Slowly the chair began to rock--
Then, faster and faster, it just wouldn't stop!
She fiddled and faddled, she flipped and she flopped,
She wiggled and squiggled, it couldn't be stopped!
She finally flew from her chair with a HOP!

Then Theodosia Mellificent Bear
Trudged her way up the attic stair,
"I know there is someplace a tired bear can nap."
And she open the attic door with a snap.
She searched four boxes, three chests, and a trunk
Looking for something to use as a bunk.
Just when she spied the old summer hammock,
A horrible noise came out of her stomach!

With her hands on her hips and her chin in the air,
Theodosia Mellificent Bear
Shouted these words aloud to the ceiling,
"I must get rid of this grow-w-wly feeling."
Tromping downstairs as her apron fluttered,
She grumbled and mumbled  and finally muttered,
"There must be something here good to eat.
Ah, yes, bread and honey, it makes such a treat!"

So, off to the kitchen while humming a song,
She found bread and honey and took it along
She went down the hall, through the bedroom and then,
While munching her snack, she began to grin.
She knew just the place to finish her food,
A special chair to brighten her mood.
 Then Theodosia Mellificent Bear
Went to sleep in her rocking chair.


*The-o-doze-ya (loves to nap) Mell-if-i-cent (fluid, melodious voice)

Purpose and Function:
Introducing new words
Sounding out words
Recognizing a "made-up" word
Words used in context
Recognizing action words
Rhyming and rhythm
Alliteration
Understanding satire and comedy
Understanding story line
Punctuation in poetry
Why does the rocker rock and why can't she sleep in her bed? 

*Guest Blog--This is a series of poetry and stories for young children written by our guest blogger Sandra Durham.  Feel free to use these stories and poems with your students.

Once Upon a Monster--Guest Blog by Sandra Durham

Once Upon a Monster
by Sandra Durham
     Once upon a monster--no, no, that isn't right!
     Once upon a time there was a very small monster.  Everyone said he was mean-tempered because he growled all the time.  They called him misshapen because he was smaller than they were.  They said he was mischievous because he played tricks on them.  But, when they said he was marble-mouthed because he mumbled his words, it made him miserable.  So, the small, mean-tempered, misshapen, mischievous, marble-mouthed, miserable monster did the only thing he could think of--he opened his mouth and yelled, "MA-MA!!!"
     Then, to everyone's surprise, a massive multi-colored monster rose above them all and said, "Marvelous?" (which was his name.)
     She lowered her mammoth head and said, "Such a sweet monster. But you must learn to get along with others.  Try to be even-tempered and not growl all the time. You must work and play hard, and eat well to grow strong.  Playing tricks can be fun only if no one gets hurt and you don't hurt anyone's feelings.  When all your teeth come in, you won't mumble so much.  So, be nice and invite all your friends over to play."
     Soon the small, mean-tempered, misshapen, mischievous, marble-mouthed monster had friends who laughed with him instead of growling, helped him grow strong, thought his tricks were funny, and began to understand his mumbled words.  
     And when he grew to be Marvelous the multi-colored monster that everyone wanted to play with, his mama said, "Magnificent!"
Purpose and Function
1. Find and define all "M" words.
2. What other "M" words can you think of?
3. What were Mama's instructions?
4. Why should you try to get along with others?
5. What is the difference between playing tricks on people and bullying? 

*Guest Blog--This is a series of poetry and stories for young children written by our guest blogger Sandra Durham.  Feel free to use these stories and poems with your students.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Helium and Neon




     Check out our two new YouTube videos on two of the Noble Gases--Helium and Neon.  Do you need to know the properties of each, who discovered them and the uses of each gas?  It's all included in these short videos.  If you need more information, just do a keyword search on www.infotopia.info and you'll find out much more!


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

October 2015 Infotopia Newsletter

Our October 2015 Infotopia/Kidtopia Newsletter in PDF is now online. 

This month features new resources on folk tales and fairy tales, a new YouTube video about Hydrogen, Infotrek, October events (including International Dinosaur Month, Fire Prevention Week, Teen Read Week, Red Ribbon Week and more), resources for Veterans/Remembrance Day, and more.
You can download the PDF at:
http://www.infotopia.info/newsletters/Oct_2015_Infotopia.pdf
or
access all our newsletters at:
http://www.infotopia.info/newsletter.html

As always, our search engines/web sites are free and only access resources recommended by teachers and librarians.  Have a great October!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

September 2015 Newsletter

    
Our September 2015 Infotopia/Kidtopia newsletter is now online. You can download it as a PDF from:
  
http://www.infotopia.info/newslette…/Sept_2015_Infotopia.pdf

or find it and all our newsletters at:
http://www.infotopia.info/newsletter.html


     This month's issue includes resources on Constitution Day, September 11th, our new Kidtopia resources on each of the 50 U.S. states, September events, links about how to cite your resources, and a brand new free puzzle creator.
      We have received a request to research and compile resources on folktales and fairy tales for middle school students. That is our next project. (Send us your requests!)
      Please share our resources with your colleagues. Have a great week!

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Elements: Hydrogen

    

      Check out our new YouTube video on the element Hydrogen.

      At Infotopia, we are working on a YouTube series on the elements. You can also have your students watch Oxygen and Carbon. Which element should we research next? Send us your ideas.

Friday, July 31, 2015

August 2015 Infotopia and Kidtopia Newsletter

The August 2015 Infotopia Newsletter is now online in PDF format.  This month's issue is all about how to put an Infotopia or Kidtopia search code on your web site or blog, getting ready for science fair projects and the scientific method, our new YouTube videos about oxygen and carbon, links to August events,  countries and flags of the world for grades K-3, and ideas about having your students create comics for learning in at least 21 different ways.
This month's newsletter can be downloaded at:
http://www.infotopia.info/newsletters/August_2015_Infotopia.pdf
 
or all the newsletters can be accessed at:
http://www.infotopia.info/newsletter.html
Have a great August!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Infotopia Presents:  The Elements

 We are now working on a new YouTube series on The Elements.  Check our our first two videos on Oxygen and Carbon.  Learn about the properties of the elements, the history of the element, the forms and uses, and more. We will keep you posted as new videos are produced by our team.
Oxygen

Carbon




July 2015 Kidtopia and Infotopia Newsletter


Our July Infotopia Newsletter is now online.  This month's issue includes summer reading ideas, ideas for new teachers, July events, Roman mythology, and our new resources page on Texas history.

We hope you are enjoy your July!  

Sunday, May 31, 2015

June 2015 Infotopia and Kidtopia Newsletter

The June 2015 Infotopia and Kidtopia Newsletter is now online at http://infotopia.info/newsletters/June_2015_Infotopia.pdf


In this month's issue, you'll find our favorite reference tools, including calculators, citation creators, dictionaries and thesauri, maps, primary sources, quotations, and style and writing guides.  


We have a new resource page on the American Civil war as well.  Recommended web sites can be found at: http://www.infotopia.info/am_civil_war.html

As always, special events for the month are included in this month's newsletter.  

Kidtopia, which is designed for grades K-3, includes a link to resources about the weather.  
Children can find weather games, weather songs, and weather videos, plus other great age-appropriate information about the weather.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

May 2015 Newsletter

 
This month's newsletter from Infotopia and Kidtopia includes links to the best online international newspapers, information about how to find online videos for using with classes, May events, recommendations for a K-3 web site from Kidtopia, and our YouTube video on how to use Infotopia.
You can find our newsletters in PDF at:
or download this month's newsletter at:
As always, our custom search engines are free, and access only resources recommended by teachers and librarians.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

April 2015 Newsletter

 
Our April 2015 Infotopia Newsletter in PDF is now online.  This month's issue includes online drawing and painting programs, resources for National Poetry Month and Earth Day, April events, our new technology page for Kidtopia, and all about the photos on Infotopia.
All Newsletters can be found here:
http://www.infotopia.info/newsletter.html

The April Newsletter (PDF) can be downloaded here:
http://www.infotopia.info/April_2015_Infotopia.pdf

Please share our web sites and newsletters with your colleagues.  We love to hear from you!  Send us your comments!