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by Laurie Block Spigel

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Page Index: Classes for Children K-12 / Workshops for Adults / Public Speaking

Laurie with her students
Laurie's Fairytale Writing class, Spring 2010.
"In four years of homeschooling, I have never met such a great teacher for homeschoolers."
Jennifer Dees, homeschooling parent, on chialist. Read the complete posting

Read some more testimonials from homeschooling parents and homeschooled students. If you would like more information, please send your request in an email.

Read some poems from one of Laurie's poetry classes and some of Laurie's own poems. See some art from her art classes. Laurie is also available for educational consultations.

"Laurie Block Spigel drew enthusiastic reviews ... for her ability to make ideas come alive for teaching various subjects."
Unschooler's Network, New Jersey

Classes for Children K-12

Laurie's classes can be configured for any age range. Details and costs on request.

Workshops for Adults

Laurie will tailor a talk for any time length and any group.

Other Topics
Teaching Fees
See also Educational Consultations with Laurie Block Spigel



Classes for Children:

Young Playwrights

Twenty two-hour classes
Visit the Photo Gallery: Playwriting Classes and Playwriting class in Australia

Each student will write a one-act, two character play, learning brainstorming, improvisation and theater games, character and plot development, rewriting and peer feedback. Techniques to access the imagination will be employed, and the students will find the playwriting process unfolds almost by itself. Each student will become director of his or her own play and an actor in their classmates' plays, as the plays culminate in performances after twenty weeks of work. Additional time will be scheduled in the final weeks for rehearsals and performances. Please email for rates, available dates, and times Additional fees and parent responsibilities include finding and renting rehearsal and performance space. Parents and students will be responsible for making multiple photocopies of each student's play.

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Playwriting for Teens

Twenty 2-hour classes
Visit the Photo Gallery: Playwriting Classes and Playwriting class in Australia

Laurie and the Playwriting Class of 2010
Laurie and Playwrights, 2010
Laurie's background in playwriting includes studying closely with Daniel Judah Sklar (Playmaking for All) who created the 52nd St. Project playwriting for children workshops, and with Young Playwrights, an organization founded by Stephen Sondheim to create the next generation of playwrights.

Students each write a two-character one-act play. This course includes advanced brainstorming techniques, improvisation, plot and character development, monologue study, revision and peer feedback, and a whole lot of fun, including readings of the plays by professional actors and culminating in staged performances.

Read testimonials from Bryce and Daisy.

Additional hours are scheduled for readings, rehearsals and performances, as the students become directors and actors in their own plays.

Please email for rates, available dates, and times. Additional fees and parent responsibilities include finding and renting rehearsal and performance space. Parents and students are responsible for making multiple photocopies of each student's play.


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Playwriting one-week Intensive

Visit the Photo Gallery: Playwriting Classes and Playwriting class in Australia

25 hours, five hours each day for five days, with a one-hour lunch break. The final Friday evening or Saturday afternoon will be the readings or performance.For 8 to 12 students, (selected in a narrow age range).

Course description:

Each student will write a one-act, two character play, learning brainstorming, improvisation and theater games, character and plot development, rewriting and peer feedback. Techniques to access the imagination will be employed, and guidance will be given to develop structure. Students will find the playwriting process a lot of fun as it unfolds almost by itself. While much writing will be done in class, students may need to continue working on their plays each evening at home. This course ends with readings of the original student plays by volunteer professional actors (if available) or the students themselves. Volunteer parent assistance is needed to type and copy the finished scripts by Thursday evening. An optional second intensive week allows students to become directors and actors, giving them an opportunity to further revise and refine their work, culminating in an exciting performance of their original plays.


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IMPROV! Improvisational Theater Games

Based on the work of Viola Spolin (author of Improvisation for the Theater) and Paul Sills (creator of Second City), these theater games build an impressive set of skills: teamwork and partnership (deepening the connection between players), giving and receiving feedback, thinking on your feet, accessing and developing your intuition, language skills, public speaking, creativity, storytelling (including plot development, conflict resolution, and character development), awareness of space, physical and mental flexibility, and more. Invaluable life skills are learned through play! The final class is an open class for observation and performance.

Pictures from Improv Theater Games class

Improv Theater Games

Improv Theater Games

Improv Theater Games

Improv Theater Games
Improv Theater Games

Improv Theater Games

Improv Theater Games

Improv Theater Games

Improv Theater Games

Improv Theater Games

Improv Theater Games

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Story Theater and Games

For ages 5 and up

Time for play and stories! Students will play improvisational games and experience storytelling with folktales, myths and fairytales. We will read stories from a different country or culture each week. Theater games will prepare the children for a dramatic retelling of the stories. This course will end with a class observation for parents and a spontaneous (unrehearsed) performance by the children.

Pictures from a Story Improv class for Teens new


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Research + Writing = Board Game!

(Eight – ten one-hour classes (recommended for ages 8 – 18). Additional materials fee.
Visit the Photo Gallery: Board Games and Board Games in Australia. Read Laurie's article Make Your Own Board Game

Laurie with parents and students on Game Day
Laurie with parents and students on Game Day
Imagine if, at the end of a course of study, instead of facing the dreaded research report or lengthy exam, the test of your skill was whether or not your fellow classmates could play your game? This is actually a course in research, note-taking and writing, but the motivation that fuels the students has to do with the joys of game playing. Each student selects a subject he or she wants to learn more about. Then they are encouraged to do hours of research outside of class (books, periodicals, libraries, internet, interviews, and other locations), as well as research in class, with the aim of making games from what they learn. All materials are provided including blank board game, dice, blank cards, pawns, markers and decorating materials. In the end, each child becomes an expert in their chosen subject and teaches it to the rest of the class. Final class is Game Day, and endless fun!

Laurie's board games class One parent's comment: "[My daughter] was lucky enough to participate in a great homeschool class this April through June. Called "Create Your Own Board Game," the class was geared for ages 9-13. It was really a research class in disguise. A very special teacher, Laurie Spigel, organized the class. Laurie is a longtime homeschool mom (with sons ages 15 and 21) who takes a Renaissance approach to all her classes. She designed this class based on the experience of her youngest son, who, over the years, created three increasingly sophisticated versions of a game on marine biology."


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Homes for Poems

Eight – ten one-hour classes

Poems will be inspired by the children's words and ideas. Parts of speech and vocabulary are taught through warm-up games. Blank verse, free association, sensory awareness, comparisons, alliteration, sound words (onomatopoeia), and more, will all be introduced. Every class includes a simple bookmaking activity designed for the poems they wrote that day. See Making a Stick-&-String Book. The last day is presentation day, when all poems will be shared in a collaborative book, and all of the handmade books will be displayed. Parents may volunteer to take dictation from students who have difficulty writing.


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Poetry for Children

Eight – ten one-hour classes

Students are introduced to the work of great poets, one new poet in each class. Selections are inspired by the seasons, by the students' interests and ideas, and by the area where we live (poets from NY, NJ, and New England will be included). Parts of speech and vocabulary are taught through warm-up games, and a variety of poetry forms, including rhyme and blank verse, are introduced. A bookmaking activity and a collaborative book are included in this course. See Making a Stick-&-String Book.


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Living Author Series with Poetry

90-minute or two-hour classes for three months or longer

This class combines the literature comprehension development of an exciting book club along with my favorite poetry lessons. Authors and titles are selected based on the interests and abilities of the group. Books are read at home and discussed in class. Poetry games are used to learn English, develop warm-up techniques, and find the creative voice. Characters in the books we read inspire our writing. Copies of the finished poems are mailed to the authors, who usually honor us with a reply.


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Poems for the Year

Ten-12 one-hour classes

Students will be introduced to poetic forms through poetry games and the work of great poets. Our inspiration will be the seasons and holidays throughout the year. Students will each be given a blank calendar that can be filled out to match any year. Where calendars usually display a picture, on the back side of each month, the students will have a blank page on which to put their illustrated poems. The final day of this class is presentation day, when students show off their finished calendars.


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The Geography of Poetry

Eight – ten one-hour classes

The poetry of place will be explored by reading the work of great poets and by exploring our own memories and imaginations. A map-covered bookmaking activity, as well as a collaborative book including all of our place poems, will cap off this course. See Making a Stick-&-String Book.

See the finished results made by students of The Geography of Poetry


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Poetry for Teens

Eight – ten one-hour classes

The work of great poets will be read and discussed and a variety of advanced poetic forms will be introduced, including pantoums and sonnets. Revision and peer feedback will be part of the writing process. A collaborative book will be made at the end of this course. See Making a Stick-&-String Book.

Read some Poems by Kids

Pictures from Laurie's poetry classes:

poetry student Laurie's Poetry Class for grades 1-4 poetry student

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Poetry Workshops

With over thirty years of experience teaching poetry to children, Laurie will gladly create a poetry workshop just for your group, or adapt any of the following workshops for your group's age range. All workshops have an additional materials fee.


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Children's Historical Fiction

Eight – ten two-hour classes

Students will select an event or figure in history to research. Then they will write about their subject from a fictional point of view. This class includes hours of research and writing at home and in class. Completing the project also requires additional hours for illustrations to be made. This course is best followed by a class taught by an art teacher, devoted to making the illustrations that will turn these stories into a children's picture book. Blank hardcover books are supplied.

See pictures from the Historical Fiction Class of 2011.


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Creative Mythology

Eight – ten two-hour classes

A selection of myths from around the world, all sharing the theme of creation (the origin of man or the world), will be read and discussed. Common elements to these myths will be examined, as well as the cultural differences between them. The students will be encouraged to write their own creation myths, share them, and revise them. A simple bookmaking process is included for each student's myth, as well as a collaborative book giving the students copies of all the creation myths made by the class. This course may end with a performance.


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Fairytale Writing

Eight – ten two-hour classes

Fairy Tale Writing ClassFairy Tale Writing ClassMany well-known books and films are based on classic fairy tales. After examining the common elements in fairy tales, students will each create their own "updated" version of a classic tale of their choice (such as Beauty and the Beast or The Ugly Duckling).

Read about the 2009 – 2010 class

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Folktales from Around the World

Two hours per week for ten weeks or longer

Joralyssa Working Folktales, fairytales and myths are often overlooked in the discussion of great literature. Folktales are stories passed down in the oral tradition. Retold again and again, they often change in tone or meaning as they travel from place to place and storyteller to storyteller. Laurie will guide students on a trip around the world through many cultures, including: Africa, Native America, Colonial America, Black America, Europe, Russia, India, China and Japan, and island cultures. Storytelling games, writing, bookmaking, and performances, may be included in this course. Joralyssa Reading

Folktales Class with the books they made

Folktales Class with their books Jill with her book Folktales Class with their books


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Memoir Writing

Eight – ten one-hour classes
Photo Gallery: Memoir Writing Class

Memoir Writing ClassBeginning with memories that don't even belong to the student, such as "How did your parents meet?", each student will write a series of short chapters, forming their own memoirs. Selected memoirs by great authors will be read and discussed. Memory, fiction and nonfiction will be defined. Writing will be done in class and at home.

Memoir BooksThis course culminates in a bookmaking activity,
with each student encouraged to decorate their cover
with a childhood photo of the author.



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Short Story Writing for Teens

Eight – ten two-hour classes.

Short stories by great authors will be read and discussed. Students will be guided through character and plot development in the short story form. Revision and peer feedback will be a part of this class.


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Writing the Essay

One-hour classes for six weeks to a full year

This is a free-writing course, with responsive essays being the focus. In class students write short pieces in response to images and music, and then share their work, getting class feedback in order to inspire good revisions. Writing is done in class and at home. This is not the standardized formulaic five-paragraph approach to essay writing, and a variety of interesting essays will result.

Read more about the Spring 2010 class

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The Interview: Living the Process of History, Research, and Writing

Eight – ten one-hour classes

Interview Book cover
Students interviewing each other
As the interviewer, we are the chronicler, the historian, the one who records other people's truths. We get to ask the questions and pursue the answers. It is a process that has us learning beforehand (as we research our subject in order to ask better questions), during (as we ask questions, receive responses and spontaneously follow up with new questions), and afterward (as we write it down, reflect and come to a conclusion). The outcome of this course is not just the building of self-confidence among the student interviewers, and not just the stories about a vast array of people, and not just the feeling of recording history that is happening now — it is also the awareness that everyone, from the poor to the famous, has a story worth telling. Often it is from the humble worker, parent, or neighbor that we discover information and history we never knew existed.

Every student will conduct at least two interviews, one with a relative (perhaps a grandparent), taking a personal oral history, and another biographical or professional interview with a non-relative (perhaps a local businessman, veterinarian, doctor, dentist, artist, baker, the student may target their profession of choice or simply choose someone in their neighborhood). Students will plan their interview, conduct it (in person, over the phone, online), and write up the finished interview. All completed interviews will be compiled into a collaborative book, creating a record of living history in our own community.
Students interviewing each other
Interview class with book

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Art History Classes with Hands-On Activities

Two-hour classes

Art is a primary resource that leads directly to the understanding of culture and history. Each class aims to increase awareness of time and space, as well as teach the history of the particular culture and era. Maps are used, timelines are created, and examples of art are examined and discussed by the students. Hands-on activities are selected in order to enhance the understanding of the art form and of the time period.

Laurie Spigel teaching an art class Activities might include:
  • reading and writing hieroglyphics for ancient Egypt
  • brush & ink painting for Early China
  • drawing perspective for the Italian Renaissance
  • symbolic collage for European surrealism
Art class students at work

Choose from three ten-week courses, (or design a course with me to suit your topics, budget and schedule): Art History of the Ancient World (ten different ancient cultures); European Art from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, Impressionism to Modernism. Materials fees apply.

See some pictures by young artists

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Museum Tours for Children (Art History)

90-minute tours in the Metropolitan Museum or other museum. Please email for rates, available dates, and times (no charge for parents and younger siblings).

Limited to groups of six children with accompanying adults, Laurie will design an intimate tour of a museum collection just for them.


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Literature Discussion Groups

One to two-hour class discussions, recommended for any age group

No one is too young or too old to learn to love literature! Every student, from beginner to advanced, can learn to delve more deeply into what they are reading. Laurie guides the students through a democratic nomination and voting process, in which students and teacher partner together in order to select their reading material for the term. This process gives the students true ownership of their lit club. Discussions are fueled by the students. Each person's thoughts and opinions are respected even when they differ from those of the group. Laurie openly shares her contagious enthusiasm for great writing and her love of literature.

See a hands-on activity in a literature class for grades 3–4


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Film & Drama Discussion Groups

Two-hour classes

Laurie will design a course for your group in which plays are read aloud and/or films are viewed and discussed. Examples include: "Plays by Shakespeare", "20th Century American Playwrights", "American Film Directors", "Early European Cinema" and more. Students are encouraged to join in the selection of plays and films. A democratic nomination and voting process is encouraged, as students select the plays to be read aloud by the group, and/or the films to be viewed. In a course in Drama, each student is encouraged to read the parts they like, and everyone gets a turn as each scene or act is recast. As the plays are discussed, each student is invited to make his or her own interpretation. Plays may take more than one class period to be read. Students may choose to watch a film version of the play in a later class. Laurie helps the students to examine each play and film, sharing her enthusiasm for great playwriting and her love of theater and film.


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Animals! Animals!

90 minute or 2-hour hour classes for 10 - 30 weeks, for ages 6 - 10

Animals become the theme for this course, with math, science, geography, literature, writing, storytelling, games, art and music. Animal stories from around the world are read (and possibly performed), including Aesop's fables, trickster tales and "pourquoi" tales, inspiring the writing of similar stories. Animals are made from clay and found objects and paper (origami). Children play games as animals and about animals. Migratory paths are explored as well as the origins of animals, noting these facts on a world map. Concepts about animals and animal facts are researched and shared. Charts and graphs about animals are made. (Range of activities depends on the time allowed.)


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Workshops for Adults:

Laurie will tailor a talk for any time length and any group.

Techniques for Teaching Oral and Written Communication

Benefit from Laurie's many years of experience teaching poetry, playwriting and theater games, and sample of few of the many games her students love to play. A game might teach parts of speech while sparking one's imagination, or use a whole-body approach to sounds and words. Examine a creative approach to student projects in nonfiction and creative writing, as a way of establishing a unique personal voice. You will be invited to use your voice in new ways, and think of writing in new ways. There is something here for every type of learner. Examples of student work in a variety of genres will be shown.


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How to Create a Child-inspired Curriculum

What is child-led learning? Is it possible to base an educational curriculum on a child's questions and interests? When learning is individualized, children find their direction much earlier in life, resulting in a more exciting life with greater potential for success. Laurie will explain how teachers and parents can work with their students and children as a team, aiming for personal excellence for each child.Laurie will include tips for assessments and how to write up these experiences in the mandatory homeschooling paperwork required in New York. Laurie will also take questions from the audience and apply these ideas to personal situations.


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The Importance of Play

Is play the opposite of work? Is play only for the very young? Should play be banned from the classroom? Does play get in the way of learning? Is play a waste of time, a frivolous pursuit, a distraction from the more meaningful things? Brain scientists have discovered connections between play and alert brain activity. Laurie will guide workshop participants on an exploration of the relationship between work and play in their own lives.


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Beyond Your Four Walls

Parents: Learn how to create teachable moments in your daily routine, using the supermarket, the post office, the pet store, your own neighborhood and daily commute, using your world as a living educational environment. Teachers: Learn how to make greater use of your community and bring the outside world into your classroom. The truth is the world is our school!


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Teaching Writing K-12

From poetry to the college essay – an interactive workshop

Learn how to approach every form of writing, from early expressions of just a few words to research reports and creative writing. Understand why a target audience is such an important focus for every writer. Learn how to create project-based writing. Applications will relate to classroom teaching and homeschooling. A book-making activity will be part of this class. Come with a paper and pencil and be prepared to have some fun!

Also available:

Descriptions available on request.


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Leading a Literature Discussion Group

The study of literature should be an exciting adventure that includes everyone. Learn my secrets and tips, gained from many years of lit club leadership, including how to make the reading selection process painless and pleasing for everyone. Learn how to ask your students questions that will spark lively conversation and encourage them to become deeper readers. Laurie will also suggest writing activities that are a natural outgrowth of the book club experience.


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Turn Your Student into an Historian, and Make History Come Alive!

Standardized textbooks have deadened the study of history, and we seem to have forgotten how real historians work. History doesn't just exist in dusty books -- it's something that is happening now! Learn how to make history come to life and make this study an ongoing adventure. Laurie will share specific techniques that real historians use, and turn them into lesson ideas for teaching history that can be applie d to every age level.


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Homeschooling for College

Does homeschooling make applying to college more difficult? Will it be an obstacle to seeking attendance at the most selective schools? How does a homeschooler deal with college transcripts, GPAs and class ranking? Laurie homeschooled two sons who both went on to excellent schools. Laurie will share her knowledge of the college application process, and the college search process. No one can be a better college counselor than a child's parent, because no one else could be more motivated. Learn how to find out about colleges and scholarships, what it takes for a homeschooler to qualify for state financial aid, and how to find out what a good fit is for your child (finding the right school). Laurie will also discuss other options for higher education besides college. (Laurie Spigel's eldest son was accepted into NYU Film School in 2003, and her youngest son was accepted to the College of the Atlantic in fall 2008. Both received scholarships.)


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Public Speaking

As an educator with a unique perspective and a creative point of view, Laurie is available to lecture on any topic concerning education, homeschooling, or parenting. She is an outspoken and thought-provoking advocate for homeschooling and is frequently interviewed by publications and other media covering the topic. Her past speaking experiences include:


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Teaching Fees

Please email for rates, available dates, and times. Additional costs for travel and materials may apply.


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If you would like more information, please send your request in an email.