Linda B. Gambrell, President of the International Reading Association, has a great column in the April/May 2008 Issue entitled “Closing the summer reading gap: You can make a difference!” It’s a great column on ways teachers can help their present classes stave-off summer reading loss. (Something I fear every September when a new class comes to me.)
Her article got me thinking… what about summer writing loss? No one ever talks about summer writing loss, because, quite frankly, it’s not as crucial to academic success (as reading is). However, I think summer writing loss is a genuine phenomena, which needs to be addressed in classrooms across the country. Kids spend the entire year studying with great teachers of writing only to go off into summer and often not write. How do we get kids to lift up their pen or pencil (or turn to their computer) and write daily over the summer?
A lot of the work I’ve done for the past two years has been to get kids to see themselves as writers. In fact, that’s why I mandate that they read AND write every day, even on vacations. However, when no one is mandating to them, how can we make sure they write so that they don’t come back to school in September being a level or two below where they were when they departed from school in June?
#1: IF YOU GIVE THEM THE TOOLS, THEY WILL WRITE: Perhaps we need to send each child off into the summer with a summer writer’s notebook and pens. Include strategies for generating entries in the inner front or back cover of their notebook in case they need a push.
#2: IF YOU GIVE THEM YOUR E-MAIL ADDRESS THEY WILL WRITE TO YOU: Providing a way for children to correspond with their teacher can never hurt. My first grade teacher did this with me and we kept in touch ’til she passed away in 2002.
#3: IF YOU GIVE THEM A BLOG, THEY WILL USE IT: It’s my hope that students who have access to technology over the summer will grow to see the internet as an online writer’s notebook.
#4: IF YOU GIVE THEM AN INDEPENDENT WRITING PROJECT IN JUNE, THEY WILL WRITE IN THE SUMMERTIME: A boy from my class last year unexpectedly sent me his independent writing project, via e-mail, in late July. He proposed to work on a memoir before he left school in June, and he did what he said he’d do over the summer. By assigning “Get a Writing Life” Independent Writing Projects in June, we will provide our students with something, a project, to work on during the dog days of summer.
#5: IF YOU HAVE IDEAS, THEN LEAVE A COMMENT: I really don’t have all the answers. I’m still learning and growing constantly. So, if you have an idea about the ways in which we can stave-off summer writing loss, then please post a comment. I’ll round-up all of the comments you leave on this post after Passover (This is the last real-time post I’ll be doing until Tuesday due to the Passover holiday. I have a few things scheduled to pop-up during the Passover Holiday, but I won’t actually be at my computer.) so that we can all have some strategies to get our kids excited to write daily over the summer.
Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.