Need Help Teaching Topic Sentences, Create a Family Newspaper

Middle schoolers can have a tough time identifying a topic sentence in nonfiction writing. Sometimes, they even ask why they need to learn how to do this.

Learning to analyze writing is a skill critical to literacy as well as self-expression. Developing a family newspaper is a fun activity that will give your child some real-life practice with topic sentences! It will also help to understand the “whys” of education.

If this sounds like something you are willing to try, read this helpful article. Get the Scoop! Create a Family Newspaper

See other Middle School activities


Get Metaphor and Simile Savvy Through Writing

It started with “see Spot run,” and quickly progressed to “see Spot run, the brown dog, run after the stick.” But in the development of your child’s writing, what about “see Spot, the brown dog, run like the wind after the stick”? This last sentence uses a literary device called simile, and if your middle schooler hasn’t run into it yet, she’s about to.

But how do literary devices work? And how to help your middle schooler go from literal meaning to abstract expression in writing? Here’s a review of some common literary devices, and a fun creative writing activity to make things like metaphor a piece of cake!

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Writing: 6 + 1 Writing Traits

I love 6+ 1 Writing Traits!

Not only do I use the 6+ to teaching writing, I also use it to help students set writing goals. I ask students to choose one of the traits they want to perfect. Or I may recommend a trait if a student has some real difficulty in a particular area. I give them goal sheets and help them track their progress. While I can’t help them perfect every trait in one school year, I at least get them to think about goal-setting in their writing.
Goal Setting
Before getting into 6+ Trait writing, it’s important for teachers to get students to think about setting some educational goals. Here is a link to a series of articles on goal-setting for students: Goal Setting 101 — goal setting forms are included.

History of 6+ Trait Writing
For those who are not familiar with 6+ 1 Trait Writing, it was developed by a group of teachers in the mid-80s. It categorizes the common characteristics of good writing. You can read about 6+ Trait Writing history here.

6+ Trait Writing Lesson Plans
If you are looking for 6+ 1 Trait Writing lesson plans, the NW Regional Educational Lab site is one of the best places to get them. Plans are organized by grade. And, writing prompts are also available on the site.

Additional Resources
eMints, which offers professional development for teachers, has a long list of resources about 6+ 1 Trait Writing and writing in general. Click here to get to eMints writing resources page.

Writing Instruction Videos

Watch best practices by model teachers and listen to experts in the field of teaching writing. The videos tackle many facets of the writing process, whether it is encouraging students to seeing themselves as “authors” or viewing conventions and revision with positive attitudes.

Access videos here Writing Instruction Videos |

Book Review: Pinkalicious

Teach your student to write his/her own book review. Time for Kids has ideas that makes the process easy for the students. It also gives teachers an easy guide to follow for teaching how to write a book review. Download the model book review, the idea organizer and checklist to help students go through the book review writing process step-by-step.  Click here to go to TimeForKids Book Review Process.

Once your student has written the book review, have him/her to submit it to or to

Below is a review of the book “Pinkalicious” by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann. This book review serves as an excellent example for students.

I can’t wait to read the following book to my students and ask them to write their own review!


by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann
Ages 5-8

Pinkalicious tells a tale about a little girl who loves pink…especially pink cupcakes! But what happens when she eats one too many? She turns pink, of course! So, how can she turn back to a normal color? By eating only green food! Full of bright, vibrant pictures, this book takes you into the world of an adorable girl who shows everyone that being yourself is the most important thing of all.  All of us here at Family Education Network love this book!

Top Children’s Books –

Comma in a Series

Nice activities for teaching a fun way to teach commas in a series. Can use worksheet for more/guided practice. Worksheets are for grade 4 but the site also has the same activities for grades 1 thru 5.

Capitalization Rules

Here is a list of rules for capitalization. Use it to make miniposters and other cute stuff for your students. There is also a worksheet to print out. Remember to laminate/sheet protect for durability and re-usability!

Quotation Marks Rules/Worksheet

Use the quotation rules as a mini poster or as a reference sheet. Laminate or put in a sheet protector. Use with the Quotation Worksheet to give student’s practice. Laminate/sheet protect the worksheet so that it can be used again.