summer vacation

Success Tips for Summer

Those of us living in Illinois are beginning to wrap up our school year. As a matter of fact, at the time of this post, my school district has only 7 1/2 school days left.  We are simultaneously reflecting on this school year while planning for the next.  I am also thinking about our long summer break.  I was inspired by Anna’s post about Summer Writing Projects, and I began thinking, “How will I nourish myself as a writer this summer?”  

I will be going into some classrooms next week to talk to kids about their summer writing plans.   I hope to set them up for success as they look towards summer vacation.  I hope to inspire them to keep writing… even in the midst of all their summer activities and fun.

Last December, I wrote a similar post about making plans for writing over winter break.  I revisited that post  to revise some of my thinking due to the fact that our summer break is much longer than our winter break.  Here a few tips I plan to share.

1.  Dedicate time to write daily.
Summer writing is not going to happen by accident. I know I need to make time for writing, so I thought about when that might happen each day.  I know once my kids are awake, I probably will not get any length of quiet time throughout the day to write.  So, I am going to plan on writing in the morning before the kids wake up.  After I wake up and get dressed, I will make myself a cup of coffee and write for at least 20 minutes.  My goal is to do this every single day this summer.  As a back-up plan, I know that I can also do some writing after I put the girls to bed in the evening.

In order to meet my goal of writing daily, I will turn to one of my favorite motivation techniques: Don’t Break the Chain.  The technique is simple.  Get yourself a calendar, and after you write the first day, put an “x” on your calendar for that day.  Do the same the second day.  And the third.  You have a streak going now!  Your goal is to not break your chain.  If you skip a day of writing, your chain is broken and your calendar is done.  You’ll have to start a new one.  Any simple calendar will do, but you can also click here for some printable “Don’t Break the Chain” calendars.  If you prefer digital methods, download an iPhone app here.

2.  Be prepared.
I do believe in planning ahead, and I will do most of my writing in the quiet sanctuary of my office in the early morning light.  However, as a writer, I also know that inspiration can strike at any time.  I need to be prepared to jot down any ideas or phrases as they come to me.  For this purpose, I will use Evernote.  I always have my phone with me, so I can just click on my Evernote app and jot down anything at any time.  Perhaps I’ll get an idea for a Slice of Life Story or maybe the perfect idea for my next blog post.  If one of my daughters says something adorable or witty (which is bound to happen frequently!), I will want to capture it for use in any future writing.  My Evernote app is the perfect catch-all for my writing ideas.  For students without a smart phone, I recommend a pocket-size notebook or a pack of Post-It notes.

I also want to be prepared to “write on the edge.”  This idea comes from Donalyn’s Miller wonderful book, Reading in the Wild.  Donalyn writes about avid readers who look for small pockets of time to read in their lives,  such as while waiting at the orthodontist’s office, before falling asleep at night, or during TV commercials.  I love this idea, and I think, “Why not write, too?”  I will be prepared to write on the edge using my Evernote app and my WordPress app.  I might be able to sneak in a few sentences or paragraphs in a waiting room or in the car (in the passenger seat, of course!)  Students should carry their writer’s notebook with them whenever possible so they can also write on the edge.

3.  Have a game plan.
Here in Illinois, our summer break is long – almost 3 months.  I do not want to approach a three-month long writing stretch without a game plan.  To this end, first I need to think about the writing projects I will work on.  Right now, my list of projects is:
  • Slice of Life Stories
  • TWT blog posts
  • coaching blog posts
  • picture book idea/manuscript
  • professional book writing
  • mentor texts for writing units
I know my list will grow and become even more specific as I start my summer writing.

Part of having a game plan is also having a schedule.  My tentative writing schedule looks like this for the first week of summer break:

Summer Writing Calendar
Students should take some time in the beginning of each week to make a writing calendar.  This will help them focus and increase their productivity during their daily writing time.

4.  Write with your family.
As always, I will also recommend that students carve out some time each week to write with their families.  For me, this means making books with my daughters at least once a week.  So far, we have made an “All About Clifford” book and an “All About Katie” book.  We also wrote a story about their cousin, Emily.  Writing together is fun.  Students and their families can write a graphic novel together or a book of summer memories or a poem about their vacation!

I hope these easy tips will inspire kids to keep writing this summer!  I know that I am feeling eager and prepared for my summer writing.

7 thoughts on “Success Tips for Summer

  1. Thanks for all the detail in your post. I need to create this kind of system for myself. As I am moving into a new position next year as a coach, I am already thinking of different types of writing I might do to help prepare. The calendar idea is wonderful and one I’m going to use. Enjoy your summer writing time.


  2. Thank you so much for this post. It’s packed with things I can use myself and with students. I am really excited to begin talking with my Fourth Graders today about summer writing.


  3. This is so helpful Dana! I am going to get started recruiting my family to write with me right now. We’re going to work on our game plan so we have a clear sense of our goals and what we will write. Thanks for the boost.


  4. Dana,
    I love your specifics. I now need Evernote and Word Press on my phone. (Thanks for those tips!)
    I love your modeling – reflecting on a previous blog! I don’t always remember to “revisit” my current resources.
    I love the “Don’t Break the Chain” tricks. The best thing about the “Slice of Life” challenge was writing every single day! Both having and meeting personal goals is a critical component for “being organized.”

    I appreciate all your ideas before this holiday break (and soon to be summer break)! (I have end of year PD next week and will be thinking of “concrete” ideas for teachers! ❤


  5. Dana,
    My break starts tomorrow. I am thinking about a schedule, exercise, read, write. Thanks for the calendar and Don’t Break the Chain tricks.
    I sent my students home with a letter for summer writing. I’m anxious to see who will take me up on it. I have a few of my parents’ cell numbers. Would it be rude to text them a reminder every now and then? Making writing a daily exercise, like reading, is important for creating lifelong writers. I know my students feel like writers, but I’m not sure if that will transfer to summer or not. Now I need to go start my calendar. Thanks.


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