There is, rightly so, much ado about summer reading. Conversations and plans are made around helping students to continue reading all summer long. But what about the writing?
Our Two Writing Teachers blog has certainly addressed the issue of summer writing before. Stacey Shubitz talked about Closing the Summer Writing Gap and guest author Julieanne Harmatz shared fantastic ways to encourage summer writers last year. Anna Gratz Cockerille blogged about independent summer writing projects for upper grade students. Dana Murphy shared ideas for summer writing for some of our youngest students. Recently, Deb wrote about summer writing and invented a hashtag to keep our writers connected through social media this summer: #KidsWritingLife.
As a third grade teacher, I worked hard this year to establish a community of writers and bloggers who share our stories. With only a few weeks left with my students, how could I motivate and inspire them to keep writing this summer and stay connected as a community?
A new writer’s notebook, especially designed for summer, was the first place to start. But for some of my students, a blank notebook would be overwhelming. Without mini-lessons and ideas on what to put into the notebook, a new summer writing notebook could surely remain as blank and pristine as the sand at the beach in the early morning hours. How could I give them ideas that they could really try in a way that wouldn’t feel scripted or take away their ownership of their notebooks?
Enter QR codes! QR codes can link to websites, video, images, and audio. I knew just what I wanted to link to for my writers this summer. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s blogs, The Poem Farm and Sharing Our Notebooks are absolute treasures for educators and students. Last year, educator and writer Kimberley Moran inspired an idea to create a summer edition of Sharing Our Notebooks called Try This. The site filled with so many incredible ideas for writing! Last year, I showed this site to my class and shared the bookmarks with them, but I was disappointed it seemed no one used it over the summer. I needed to find a different way to show my current students the many awesome ideas on this site that would inspire them to write.
Here’s what I did: I created a Google Drive Folder called Summer Notebooks. I read through the “Try This” section of the Sharing Our Notebooks site and selected the writing ideas I thought would work the best for my students. I created a QR code for each idea that I selected. I put the QR codes on sheets of labels (Avery 5160) so students could easily stick it into a page of their notebook. (All of these can be accessed for use in my Summer Notebooks Google Drive Folder, linked above.) I didn’t put any information on the label other than the QR code for the surprise factor of wondering what the QR code is before you scan it! (Drawback: when you are working with students, you will have to be really organized to make sure they each take a QR code from each sheet because they won’t be able to tell if they have already since all the QR codes look the same! I thought of putting numbers next to the QR code but didn’t want kids to feel they had to go in order.)
While I was doing this, I was inspired to try another type of QR code. What if I could talk to my students and share some of my stories and give them writing prompts too? I used the app Audio Boom to do just that! Audio Boom lets you easily create a QR code for your audio recording. I put my audio recording QR codes also on sheets of labels for students to put inside their notebooks. Some of the prompts I gave were about being brave, using your senses, birthdays, and creating your perfect summer menu.
When I introduce this to my students, I plan on also showing them how I labeled certain pages in my notebook with topics I want to make sure I write about this summer. Students can come up with some ideas that are relevant in their lives- camp, family trips, or other topics they care about. Marcie Rush posted an awesome Slice of Life this week all about writer’s notebooks and summer writing! Marcie shared how one of the teachers she works with, Mary Ann Lana, created a Padlet of resources, including videos for notebook ideas. I plan to share a video about writer’s notebook ideas from Mary Ann’s Padlet with my students as I introduce the summer notebook.
To help families understand QR codes and to make sure they have a QR code reader, I will send home a letter explaining QR codes and how to get the app. I put a mystery question in a QR code on the letter. I told students if they bring back the correct answer, they will get $10 in Class Dojo dollars. I’m hoping this motivates families to get the app and use the QR codes this summer!
In my post Breathing Life Back Into Notebooks, I confessed that I haven’t always used my writer’s notebook as a writer. This summer, I really want to push myself to use the notebook as a tool. I created my own summer notebook with the same QR codes I gave the students and I’m going to challenge myself to write each day.
I hope to write a follow up post later in June with pictures and samples of what my students create for their summer notebooks! How are you helping your students get ready for a summer full of writing?