Production of the videos and other resources shared on the Wordsmith’s Guild web page were made possible by a grant from the Texas Christian School Association, with the goal of improving writing instruction at Christian schools across the state by encouraging collaboration amongst sister institutions.

Go ‘Behind the Scenes’ with a Westbury Christian Teacher of the Year

Videos Worth a Thousand Words, and More!


Would you like to be a fly-on-the-wall watching a successful writing teacher in action? The following video clips feature Holly Smith, a former Lower School Teacher of the Year at Westbury Christian — preparing fourth graders to write original adventure stories after they read Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.

The Writing Process OverviewWriting Instruction with Holly Smith (Screen Shot): Mrs. Smith explains for her 4th graders the writing process in eight steps — Observation, Choosing an Idea, Lesson Learned, Structure, Drafting, Peer Conferences, Teacher Conferences and Publishing — as they prepare to write original adventure stories after reading “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen. (9:28)

Techniques to include in Your Writing Toolkit

  • Writing to a Prompt: Mrs. Smith shows students how to use a “circle map” to organize their ideas in preparation for writing to a prompt. (3:52)
  • Four Types of Leads: Mrs. Smith shows students how to start their stories using “Snapshot,” “Set Up,” “Talking,” or “Question” leads and gives examples from familiar literature. (8:12)
  • Strong Verbs: WCS 4th grade students perform the “Strong Verb Reader’s Theater,” by Melissa Forney, to demonstrate the dramatic impact strong verbs can make, as Mrs. Smith discusses afterward. (6:52)
  • Adding Sensory Details: Mrs. Smith shows students how to add sensory details by using writing strategies she calls “Ba-Da-Bing” and “Ba-Da-Boom.” (3:36)
  • Five Types of Endings: Mrs. Smith shows students how to use “Loop,” “Surprise,” “Summary,” “Happy,” or “Sad but True” endings in their stories and gives examples from familiar literature. (7:09)
  • Writing Toolkit Review: Mrs. Smith wraps up the discussion of the eight-step writing process. (2:17)

Finishing Touches

  • Peer Conference: Two WCS 4th graders discuss their work in a peer-to-peer conference. (2:21)
  • Teacher Conference: Mrs. Smith discusses a student’s work during a one-on-one teacher conference. (3:15)

Special thanks to Holly Smith, former WCS 4th grade teacher, and Chuck Dodson, videographer.

Westbury Christian’s Annual ‘Wordsmith’s Guild’ Writing Contest
The Wordsmith’s Guild at WCS is the place where young storytellers unite to turn their ideas into books they can share with their friends. Through an annual competition — which combines after-school workshops led by WCS faculty with incentives, including an end-of-project celebration where participants are treated to a reader’s theater adaptation of the winning books, presented by very special guests — the Wordsmith’s Guild helps a cross-section of Lower School students in 1st through 5th grades develop a genuine interest in writing while improving their relevant skills.


Authors attending the Wordsmith's Guild party were greeted by paparazzi.

Authors attending the Wordsmith’s Guild party were greeted by paparazzi.

When Wordsmith's Guild authors get together, they read to each other (of course).

When Wordsmith’s Guild authors get together, they read to each other (of course).

It isn't a party without yummy treats!

It isn’t a party without yummy treats!

Some very special guests entertained party-goers with a reader's theater-style presentation of the winning books.

Some very special guests entertained party-goers with a reader’s theater-style presentation of the winning books.


Wordsmith's Guild 2016 - Winners_Younger

First & Second Grade Winners


Wordsmith's Guild 2016 - Winners_Older

Third, Fourth & Fifth Grade Winners


List of 2015-2016 Wordsmith’s Guild Winners

List of 2014-2015 Wordsmith’s Guild Winners

Tips for Conducting a Wordsmith’s Guild-style Young Authors Contest
Preparing – Set a nominal fee to cover supplies. At WCS, each child receives a large Ziploc bag that contains pencils, a loose-leaf folder for rough drafts, and a hardback blank book from Bare Books ( for the finished product. Other costs include snacks for students attending after-school workshops, party goods and food/drinks for the celebration, and awards. At WCS, every student who submitted a completed manuscript received a certificate on heavy cardstock, and the winners received a Barnes & Noble gift card and nice journal.


Scheduling – At WCS, the Wordsmith’s Guild begins in mid-September — when a series of e-mails are sent to parents with information, rules and deadlines. The after-school workshops take place in October, and the manuscripts are due during the first week of December. Judging takes place prior to Christmas break, and the celebration and announcement of winners is held soon after students return to campus for the spring semester. Click to view a proposed timeline.

Generating Excitement – At WCS, announcements about the Wordsmith’s Guild contest are made at chapel and other school gatherings for a couple of weeks before the deadline to sign up. For the first time in 2014-2015, WCS also created a promotional video to explain the contest and get students excited about it.

Click to View Wordsmith’s Guild Promotional Video

Planning & Presenting Workshops – At WCS, the after-school workshops focus on a step-by-step approach to prepare students for and give them the tools to follow through on the creative telling of their unique stories. The workshops include WCS faculty-led presentations on Brainstorming Ideas, Developing Characters, Sentence Fluency, Editing and Illustrations.

Wordsmith's Guild Video Screen Shot - Brainstorming Ideas

Click to View Brainstorming Ideas Workshop

Wordsmith's Guild Video Screen Shot - Developing Characters 1

Click to View Developing Characters Workshop (Part 1)

Wordsmith's Guild Video Screen Shot - Developing Characters 2

Click to View Developing Characters Workshop (Part 2)

Wordsmith's Guild Video Screen Shot - Word Choice and Sentence Fluency

Click to View Word Choice and Sentence Fluency Workshop

Wordsmith's Guild Video Screen Shot - Editing and Revising

Click to View Editing and Revising Workshop

Wordsmith's Guild Video Screen Shot - Illustrations

Click to View Illustrations Workshop

Judging – At WCS, language arts teachers who don’t know the participating students personally judge the entries against a standardized rubric, to avoid favoritism. Click to view a proposed rubric.

Celebrating – At WCS, all students who turn in a finished book are honored at a special chapel and given participation certificates. Winners are then announced and prizes are awarded. All finished books are displayed in the library, and the authors celebrate at a party where middle and upper school theater students perform a reader’s theater of the winning books. Click to view a sample reader’s theater script.

Click to View Tips for Creating an “All About Grammar” Board

Other Tips and Best Practices for Writing Teachers
Librarian-recommended Links: – Education Northwest, an educational organization promoting research-based solutions to learning challenges, pioneered the 6+ Traits of Writing 30 years ago and continues to offer a wealth of information to help writing teachers. – This free video community for teachers, parents and students offers a variety of useful resources on multiple subjects, including writing.

Watch this space for more great ideas…


Houston Public Library

Houston Public Library

The Houston Public Library is a place to learn and have fun. You can do both by taking part in the thousands of events and programs that we provide throughout the year. Use our site to find fun events or to browse for books and research materials.

Click to visit The Houston Public Library


The Houston Area Independent Schools Library Network (HAISLN)

Finding the right book for your child to read can be a challenging task. Independent school librarians from the city of Houston have compiled this grade level reading list to make the selection process easier for both parent and child.

Click to visit the HAISLN Website

Fact Monster

Fact Monster

Fact Monster is an ideal reference site for kids ages 8-14 that provides entertainment and educational resources. It combines the contents of an encyclopedia, a dictionary, an atlas, and several almanacs loaded with statistics, facts, and historical records.

Click to visit Fact Monster



KidsClick! is an annotated searchable directory of websites created for kids by librarians. It provides links to great sites for kids on all topics (current events, science & math, fine arts, sports & recreation and more). Searches can be limited by reading level (up to grade 2, grades 3 – 6, grades 7 and up).

Click to visit KidsClick!

NatGeo Kids

National Geographic Kids

National Geographic Kids is an exciting site where curious kids can explore their world with videos full of amazing animals, surprising adventures and fascinating facts. The site features different people, animals, and places each month with facts, games, activities, and related links.

Click to visit National Geographic

KidzSearch Logo

KidzSearch provides an easy, free solution for safe internet usage. When a search is done on, it can only return Google “strict” search results and is not dependent on any computer, cookie or browser settings. The same trusted high-quality search results you expect from Google are returned, but without adult content mixed in.

Click to visit

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