By Steve Reifman
It is incredibly important to keep your child’s mind productively occupied during the summer months.
One way to accomplish this task is to encourage kids to participate in a variety of engaging writing projects.
Children who write over summer vacation not only avoid summer learning loss, but also develop greater enthusiasm for writing and improve their skills as they head into the next school year.
Share the following options with your child to see which ones resonate.
1. Make a book about a topic of strong interest. Whether we’re trying to encourage students to read or write, I recommended that you start with your child’s passions. When kids own the choice of what they will write, motivation increases significantly. Children who love animals may want to research one and create a book - complete with text, illustrations, labeled diagrams, and more.
2. Collaborate with a friend. Children who don’t enjoy writing alone often enjoy writing with somebody else because the social component provides a sense of belonging, increases success, and makes the activity more enjoyable. Because “school writing” tends to be an individual endeavor, kids will likely relish the opportunity to spend time over the summer working on a cooperative writing project. The type of project kids create is not that important. What matters most is that they are having an enjoyable experience exercising their “writing muscles.”
3. Document Family Trips. If your family will be traveling over the summer, your child can write about where you go, what you do, and the funny moments that inevitably happen along the way. Taking photographs throughout the trip will provide your child with all the material necessary to create either a physical or electronic scrapbook to share with friends and relatives.
4. Keep a journal or diary. Both boys and girls will enjoy and benefit from keeping a daily or periodic journal. They can write about their experiences, commemorate their successes, and express their frustrations, secure in the knowledge that their personal thoughts and feelings are completely secret.
5. Seek out kid-friendly online writing opportunities. Every time kids finish reading a book, for example, they can write a review on amazon.com or other sites. Children love expressing their opinions, and creating a review offers valuable persuasive writing practice. Taking a stand and supporting it with evidence is an important academic skill.
6. Send letters to family and friends. Though it may seem antiquated and out-of-date in these times of e-mailing and texting, writing letters is a terrific way to develop skills and communicate with others. In addition to corresponding with distant friends and relatives, kids can exchange letters with nearby friends, decreasing the turnaround time and, thus, creating the opportunity to communicate more frequently.
7. Extend favorite school projects. Every spring in my classroom my students create “Edge-of-Your-Seat” fiction stories that contain suspense and tension. Many kids are so excited about these projects that they choose to create sequels over the summer. Kids love reading different book series, and they take great delight in the thought of making a series of their own after the school year ends.
8. Write poetry. In the final Writing Workshop unit of each school year, my students write a series of free-form, non-rhyming poems about any topics they wish, and they love it. Children who tend to become intimidated by the thought of writing longer stories and research projects often feel more at ease crafting their poems, which are usually on the shorter side. Similarly, kids who experience difficulty with capitalization, punctuation, and spelling enjoy this genre, where conventions rules are more relaxed.
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Steve Reifman is a National Board Certified elementary school teacher in Santa Monica, CA. He is also the acclaimed author of several books, including Changing Kids’ Lives One Quote at a Time and Eight Essentials for Empowered Teaching and Learning, K-8, and the creator of the Chase Manning Mystery Series for kids 8-12.