Kathleen Sokolowski recently wrote a fabulous post about using QR codes in combination with writer’s notebooks which, if you missed it, you can read here. She also linked up several posts about summer writing, posts with practical and important ideas and inspiration which have been published on TWT over the years.
I’ve been exploring ways to keep students writing throughout the summer, reminding them to live writerly lives even when they are not participating in daily workshops. Somehow it feels less complicated to supply students with books to read than reasons to write. And yet, there are some really important messages I wish every student could hear before packing up their desks, cubbies, and lockers for the year.
Writers pay attention to the events, details and emotions
within their world all the time:
- It’s easy to forget that the actual act of writing is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to writing. Especially in the case of narrative writing, writers have to be on the lookout for stories at every corner and in every crevice of our lives. Remind students to notice the stories within their lives, and remain alert for the stories within your own life, as well.
- Closely related to the first bullet is that summer is a great supplier of stories! Remind students that part of being a writer is paying attention to the small moments that matter, and so often those moments happen during summers–finding a perfect shell, going into the ocean for the first time, learning how to macrame, meeting a new friend at summer camp, catching a firefly, running through the sprinkler–these are all stories in the making. Writers just have to recognize, remember, and retell them. The reminder to live on a story-hunt is a powerful one for the entire writing community.
- Have students tell stories of some of their imagined adventures they will have over the summer. They can tell the stories they hope will happen, which is an important activity for a couple of reasons. First, it will help them set their sights on what they want to accomplish in their non-writing lives, Second, it will help them hold onto the stories they do end up creating. Writing helps us live life twice. This envisioning could help students live life even three times!
Ideas that have been suggested and written about before,
but are important enough to repeat:
- Cleaning out office cabinets, I came across unopened packages of blank notebooks, and I brought them to our kindergarten and first-grade teachers. “You can give these to students to use as writer’s notebooks over the summer.” The teachers gave the notebooks to students with love and fanfare, and I can’t wait to see if some of those pages fill up over the summer. I will definitely check in with these students in September! If you have the funds (and sometimes there are unexpected pockets of money within school budgets), think about giving students summer notebooks. Just as you decorated them in the fall, you can spend some time decorating them for the summer, or tell students to decorate their notebooks as they spend their summer days. A fresh notebook at the beginning of the summer may inspire students to save those ticket stubs, programs, or special photographs that could become important parts of their writing lives.
- One of the teachers in our district and I are offering a Kidblog platform for students over the summer. This is an experiment, and we are looking forward to seeing how much energy we can maintain in the blogging lives of these students! (If anyone has had experience with summer blogging with students, please share!)
Perhaps the most important idea, involving our own writing lives:
- Make a decision to keep your own writing life going throughout the summer, and share that decision with your students. That doesn’t mean to fill a notebook or write a novel–although it could! It might mean keeping a list of ideas in a special place in a notebook, or taking pictures of story-worthy things throughout the summer and creating a picture file. It might mean tagging pages of books you read where you admire a writing move the author used–reading like a writer counts as building your writing life! If you want to really be brave, explore and think about Kate Messner’s invitation to write in a digital community over the summer. You can find more information at http://www.katemessner.com/teachers-write/.
Without a doubt, the most important, impactful, high-leverage work I have done to improve my teaching of writing has been writing. Even if your students from the past school year won’t benefit from your writing life, your future students will. Trust me. When you write, you understand the metacognitive processes better, and more importantly, you send a message to the people around you that you are a writer, and you value writing.
If others have ideas for inspiring students’ writing lives during the summer, please share them. We are all learners!