Monthly Archives: November 2014

Today’s Inkling: Mandala Word Art



Happy Monday, Inksters!

Welcome to this week’s Inkling — an idea worth writing about! This week we invite you, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, to create your own Gratitude Mandala.

What is a Mandala? 

“Mandala” is the Sanskrit word for “circle.” It is a form of art that comes from Buddhist and Hindu traditions. Mandalas are often made out of sand, but can also be drawn or made out of other materials. I taught at one school where the food donations during the Thanksgiving Food Drive were all displayed in the shape of a bountiful mandala in the school’s entryway. It was such a wonderful display of the community’s generosity. And my son’s class this year drew and colored in beautiful Mandalas with chalk on the sidewalks at school when celebrating Diwali.

For this Inkling, we’ll make our Gratitude Mandala out of words.

Grab a piece of paper and any pencils, pens, markers, or crayons you want to use. Start your Mandala by writing “I Am Grateful for” or “I am Thankful for” at the center of the paper. This is the hub of your Mandala. Then think about everyone and everything you are grateful for:

  • Who do you enjoy having in your life?
  • What experiences are you glad you are able to have?
  • What activities do you enjoy doing?
  • What are you glad or relieved that you don’t need to live without?
  • Who or what do you treasure?

Write your words around the hub of your Mandala. Fill the page. Share it with your family during your time together this holiday.

If you are a pre-writer or early writer (which means your grown-up is reading this!), share what you are grateful for with your grown-ups. They will write your words down for you. Or, pre-writers can also draw or use stickers to show their gratitude and then talk about what they created with their family and friends.

If you love creating graphics on your computer, try creating a Gratitude Mandala in the form of a Wordle. See this Wordle Mandala here and visit the site for instructions:


If you want to fill in an already shaped Mandala, try this colorful one:


Or this one. You can color it and fill it in!:


Enjoy creating your Mandalas. Use them to remember all that you are grateful for. We look forward to seeing your creations!

Happy Thanksgiving! Happy Writing!

thINK thursday: Thanksgiving Stories


Welcome back to thINK thursday! This week: Thanksgiving stories. Click on a cover to learn more about each book.

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And a craft: Make felt food to play with while reading There was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie or click on the image to find printables of similar images.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Ink This!


Dear Inksters,

Welcome to this week’s Inkling — an idea worth writing about. Each week we will post Inklings that you can write about throughout the week. Have fun as you write, exercise those imaginations, and let those wonderful words grow into fantastic pieces on the page.

This week’s Inkling is this photograph from Eva Ho:


Open your writing journal and see where this picture, your pencil, and your imagination all lead.

Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas:

  • What do you see in the photograph? Describe it. Remember to use all of your senses (seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and, yes, tasting!)
  • What is happening in this photograph? Tell us.
  • Imagine yourself walking through the space between these rocks. What would you see during your journey? What temperature would you feel? What awaits you on the other side?
  • Every mountain has a “face” or “faces” — sides that have identifiable features like ridges, ravines, and cliffs. In this photograph, though, this formation looks like it does have a face. Who is the face in the mountain? Tell the face’s story.
  • A line to work with: “The face stretched underneath ribbons of rock.”

Want to share your imaginings with the rest of the Inktopia Kids community? Then remember to comment to this post. Or write us at

Inksters and Parents: For more of Eva Ho’s amazing global photography, visit her website:

thINK thursday: Write through Laughter



On this thINK thursday, take some time to laugh.

Yes, laugh! According to this graphic, there are so many benefits to laughing. Two aspects of laughter that we’ll tune into today: (1) Laughter is a mind-opening activity, and (2) it can also improve memory.

So today, write through laughter. Here are two ideas to help you start:

  • Try this: Laugh. Really laugh. Don’t just sit and think about laughing. Laugh in all the different ways you can laugh. Then label each kind of laugh. I, for one, love a good deep down, can’t hold back belly-laugh! Explore the language you can use to describe these laughs. Think about how particular laughter feels as it makes its way through you. How does it sound? Take time to listen to yourself laugh and then record the experience of doing so in your journals. Creating an audio recording would be great, too. Then you could play back your laughter and really listen even more closely to it.
  • And this: Close your eyes and think back to a moment that made you laugh — from glee, from discomfort, from a joke. Write down all that you remember about that moment. Recreate the moment on the page for yourself — or for others to enjoy the moment as well. Allow that laughter and that moment to ring from the page.

Here’s to lots of laughter and writing! And remember to share some of your laughter on this site.

thINK thursday: Putting Pencil to Paper



What do poet Nikky Finney, novelist Michael Ondaatje, and hip hop artist Homeboy Sandman have in common?

They all write by putting pencil to paper.

Nikky Finney writes her poetry with her favorite kind of pencil: Blackfeet Indian Pencils.

Michael Ondaatje shares on NPR his writing process, which involves writing his novels by hand.

And, as Homeboy Sandman shared with my English class, he writes his lyrics on paper and has discovered that “writing is my state of rest.”

We live in a world of screens. We communicate via email. We post photographs on Facebook and Instagram. We tweet. We write essays on laptops. Schools have 1:1 iPad and laptop programs. But this does not mean we need to be — or should be completely — screened in.

According to a New York Times article, handwriting is important to learning. As Maria Konnikova writes, “Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.” And, as this Wall Street Journal article notes, some doctors suggest that writing by hand can help adults learn better and even help maintain brain function as we age. These articles and many others on this subject also point to another important idea: We have a lot to learn and discover about the impact of new technologies on brain development, attention, and overall learning.

All this is not to say we should ban writing by keyboard in service of the pencil. Some of my students say and have demonstrated that they are more creative and think more deeply when using their iPads, while many tell me they are more creative and think more deeply when they write by hand on paper. It is important, I think, for students to discover how they work and create best. In my high school classes, though, I am working constantly to balance the “thinking through writing” students do on their iPads with the “thinking through writing” they do through handwriting. And now that there are apps — like Notability — that allow students to write by hand on their iPads, we no longer necessarily have to think of handwriting as a screen-less activity, although I do require students to write specifically on paper when I ask them to handwrite (By the way, Notability is great, too, because it allows users to create audio recordings and to draw). We know that students benefit greatly from having opportunities to use their brains in a variety of ways, from learning to communicate their learning through a variety of media, and from developing their skills as users of multiple technologies — including iPads and pencils.

For younger children, though, this issue is different. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests creating screen-free zones at home for children to decrease their amount of screen use overall, and strongly asserts that children under age 2 should avoid entertainment involving screens — including television, phones, iPads, and computers. While Inktopia Kids is an on-line resource for younger writers, we are designed to encourage Inksters — and their grown-ups — to use our prompts as inspiration to write in those journals they have at home and school — and then upload their creations and imaginings to our site to share with others. An easy way to upload handwritten work is to take a snapshot and then upload that to the site — archive it, as we call it in my classes.

So, go ahead, pick up that pencil, make a mark, and see where it takes you — and your brain.

And share with us: How are you handling your child’s media use at home?