During the summer, many school-age children are so excited to be out of the classroom that they stop reading and writing altogether. This contributes to what is known as “summer setback,” a time when some of the information gained by the kids during the previous school year is simply lost.
Since reading and writing are key success factors in school, many teachers assign summer reading to their students so they don’t get rusty. Writing, on the other hand, is a skill often left behind in the summer months.
One way to bring writing back to your kids’ summer routines is to encourage them to handcraft a journal. Elementary-aged kids and teenagers alike love the idea of a “secret book.” It becomes a place where they can store their thoughts, stories, ideas, and treasures.
There are endless writing prompts that you can use to help your child get started. Here are some our favorites:
Talk about your summer vacation: Vacation-themed writing has been around for a long time. It’s a tried-and-true method used by elementary teachers everywhere. But there’s no need to make writing about your summer vacation a boring exercise; you can branch out from this simple prompt in many ways. Ask your budding writers to focus on specific parts of their vacation. What did they like best? Worst? What was that funny thing that happened in the car on the way? Pick something that the kids want to remember and you are sure to get them writing about it. It quickly becomes an exercise in memory and recall. You can even make a fun quiz about the memories. What did they forget? What did you forget?
Draw a picture: Inventing a story based on a picture can work very well as a writing prompt. The theory is simple. Ask your child to draw a picture. Then ask them to write about that picture. They can invent any fairy tale they wish, as long as they write it down. This sort of writing is creative and imaginative, exercising the abilities of the right brain. Younger children often take to it more quickly than the older ones.
Remember that our kids spend a great deal of their time memorizing facts for standardized testing. It might take a few minutes for their creative sides to wake up. Once they do, however, you’ll be surprised at what they can invent. This prompt, tailored to fit specific tastes, has many possibilities. Ask older kids to write about pictures of their favorite artists, or videos from their favorite music. Request that they write a few paragraphs on the imagery in the video, or envision where their favorite artists might spend their free time.
Incorporate a poem: Whether it’s the simplicity of Roses Are Red, the humor of Silverstein-esque poetry, or the sophistication of Robert Frost, poetry appeals to children of all ages. There are limitless options if you want to incorporate poetry into the writing exercises you’re asking your children to complete during the summer. Write a couple of lines about flowers. Write a stanza on the secret life of the ant. Or ask your young poets to write a poem describing their favorite summer day. It’s best if you keep the lessons concerning specific poetry mechanics to a minimum. Sure, it’s ok to explain what a metaphor is, but straying into villanelle vs. sonnet territory can quickly bore your young writers. A simple explanation that defines poetry from prose is all that is required. Let your kids take the reins after that.
Summer is a great time for writing – for both you and your children. If you want to keep their skills sharp, ask them to keep a journal and help them to write in this journal continuously by prompting them with topics they find interesting.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll find some time to write a few lines yourself.