Reposted from http://www.atxenglish.com…
Why is it that we hear so much about summer reading, but next to nothing about summer writing? Research consistently shows that the act of writing is a complex and critical process, and just like reading, children need to practice this process regularly even when school isn’t in session. Don’t panic, though – no one needs to write a five-paragraph essay before heading to the pool! Check out my six tips for helping your kids engage with writing this summer.
#1: Let the criticism flow. Going on vacation this summer? Planning to see a box office hit? Take advantage of your teen’s naturally critical perspective and encourage him/her to write a review on TripAdvisor, Yelp, Amazon, or Rotten Tomatoes. This type of writing feels particularly distant from homework because of its authenticity – people actually read reviews on these sights (and often comment on or rank them), so it feels less like busy work and more like real life.
#2: Old-fashioned pen pals. If your kids are separated from their friends this summer (or maybe if they made a new friend while at camp), encourage them to send their pals more than text messages. Let them pick out some interesting paper or buy a handful of tacky postcards and scribble a few thoughts to send via snail mail. Most people love the surprise of getting a personal and tactile note, and you might even be lucky enough to get a response. Alternative ideas: while you’re traveling, everyone can capture a memory (good or bad!) on a postcard and send it to your home address to read and remember once you return, or show kindness to an elderly relative by writing short, regular letters over the course of the summer.
#3: Journals. I’ve kept a journal sporadically since I was about 8 years old – it’s great way to encourage self-reflection, manage emotions, and (of course) practice writing. By all means, buy a blank book and have at it! (Pinterest is full of creative journal prompts if the blank page feels intimidating.) If you think your child needs more structure, though, there are all kinds of exciting journals out there for every age. Here are a few titles to explore:
- Finish This Book (Keri Smith): This journal is perfect for your spy-in-training. It creates a mysterious scenario in which children have to complete an abandoned manuscript and go on local mini-adventures to gather the details they need. Keri Smith’s journals are popular with kids from upper elementary school through adulthood.
- Sark’s Journal and Play Book: Sark is known for her creative way with words and images, and this journal will encourage others to blend writing and drawing (painting, coloring, etc.) as they engage in personal reflection. Better for teens and up, I’d say.
- Q&A a Day for Kids: This journal offers short, daily prompts for kids. Each day has three small blank spaces so children can revisit the prompt annually and add to it (while also reflecting on past responses). Examples: “I wish I had more _____.” and “How do you feel about babysitters?”. Great for ages 8-12/13. (There are a bunch of versions of this journal, including one for mothers that’s a super-sweet alternative to a traditional memory book.)
- 642 Things to Write About, Young Writer’s Edition: From the wacky to the mundane, this journal has it all. This is a versatile choice, with topics ranging from “Write about a human who has turned into a dolphin” to “Invent a new handshake and write instructions for how to do it, who can use it, and when it is used.”
#4: Get political. Even if your children are too young to vote, they can still share their opinions! If there’s a topic that’s near and dear to your child’s heart, he can compose an email to the appropriate official (city councilor, state representative, president). Letters to the editor (even via email) are also a great way to encourage your children to be active citizens. And how cool will it be if she gets a response or sees her words in print?
#5: Write your own (picture) book. This task is great for older siblings or children who might spend time with younger cousins on family vacations this summer. Encourage your child to read a few picture books (or check out a few at the library) and notice common features, such as rhyme or alliteration. Then let them create and illustrate their own story to share with little ones at a special storytime. If it’s a real hit, you can even scan the artwork and make a bound copy using Shutterfly or another photo book service.
#6: Writing to win. Bigger allowance, later curfew, fewer chores: turn your teen’s nagging into a writing opportunity by asking him to write a persuasive letter outlining his reasons. If it’s compelling enough, they might actually get what they want! As an added bonus, this tactic can reduce some of the emotional drama that often accompanies negotiating with older children.