Most children consider anything associated with school – especially writing- off limits this time of year. When I was young, you couldn’t even find a sheet of notebook paper in our home from Memorial Day to Labor Day. You may be satisfied because your child is participating in the summer reading program, and you may be tempted to leave well enough alone. However, you realize how important writing is for communication. Plus, you know that the more your child practices, the less anxious he/she will be when the time comes to produce five or more page papers in high school and college. As one of my professors liked to say, “If you can write a good sentence, you can write a good paragraph. If you can write a good paragraph, you can write a good chapter.” You see where this is going? I’ve borrowed heavily from the Bob Jones University ELA curriculum which I found to be logical and easy to use when I taught elementary level students. Use these ideas to get started and to make the process more palatable for your child.
- Keep a journal – Your child can simply use it for keeping a daily record, or you can give him writing prompts. Be sure and check for complete sentences. When I taught history, I was appalled at the number of fragments in college level essays.
- Send thank you notes – After an outing to a museum, park, historic home, etc. have your children write their own thank you notes to the staff. Be sure to give them some direction, such as describe three items or activities which interested you most. I used this activity many times with my fifth and sixth graders. After one field trip, my students were writing their notes, and one girl piped up, “This is fun and educational,” which was music to this teacher’s ear.
- Draw pictures and caption them. In fact, have them draw pictures to add to thank yous and journals. If your child is at the preschool level, she can simply label the image for handwriting practice. For those just beginning to read and write, have them write a one or two sentence description.
- Summarize books. As your child finishes each book, have them write a paragraph summary (increase paragraphs for advanced students). If they need help organizing their thoughts, use this graphic organizer created by This Reading Mama. In fact, their journal can consist entirely of book summaries. The process I use for my students is write a draft, skipping lines. Next day, revise the draft. By skipping lines, one can easily add in more details without cramping his/her writing. On the third day, proof for spelling and punctuation errors. Using a colored pencil for revisions and corrections will make them easier to see. Finally use neat handwriting to produce a final draft.
- Get a pen pal. You may have to give your child a history lesson in pre- Facetime days. If they’re resistant to writing letters, suggest a correspondent, maybe a relative or someone they met on vacation. In fact, they may have to make more than one attempt to find someone to reciprocate. But the reward will be worth it. They will get their writing practice, expand their horizons, and look forward to mail call.
- Collaborate on a project. This can be a fun way to include yourself and all your children, no matter their writing level. Here are some of the projects, my fifth and sixth graders enjoyed when I taught in a classroom. Compose a sense poem, a limerick, or even riddles. After visiting a historic site, work together on a fictional narrative, using the historic site as the setting. Create the characters together. Have each person add at least one historical detail. After discussing, each child can write the story in his/her own style.
Whichever suggestion you use, my final advice is to participate with them. If you want them to journal, then journal with them. While they write their thank you notes or letters, you write one also. You will be engaging your children and improving your own communication skills.
Which suggestions would you like to add?