Ready for a Challenge? Keep Learning Going Throughout the Summer
My wrist vibrates as I cross the room and I glance down to see my Fitbit screen is shooting fireworks. I’ve reached my daily goal of 11,000 steps and this milestone is duly noted by Fitbit. It’s a virtual pat on the back (or vibration on the wrist) for accomplishing what I set out to do. Occasionally, I earn a badge too- I earned the High Tops badge on one of the last days of school last year, which shows how much teachers move around while closing down a classroom (20,000 steps, thank you very much)! The daily fireworks and the occasional badges aren’t related to any monetary prize or tangible object, but they make me smile and feel like I am making progress towards my goal of being an active, fit person.
As teachers who passionately believe in writing, what we want most is for our students to be anxious to continue writing, to have projects already in mind, to have writing plans all set to go during the long summer stretch. And some will! But I worry about all the ones who won’t. Two months is a long time to completely give up writing and all the strides made in the school year.
When we talk about the “summer slide,” most of the research centers on reading loss. There is always much discussion on how to combat the summer slide and ways to keep students reading all summer long. This is near and dear to my heart, as I want my students to be people who choose to read all the time because it makes you a better, more informed, more thoughtful person. I also want them to be people who choose to write, because it helps you make sense of your world, to communicate your thoughts and feelings, to remember important moments, and to have a voice that can reach across the miles. Writing is often not discussed as part of the summer slide and I wonder if kids get the message that writing is just for school when we don’t explicitly help them see the possibilities for a rich writing life in the summer months.
So, how does my Fitbit and writing summer slide connect? I know I should be an active person and move more, but wearing a Fitbit helps me see quantitatively if I am doing it. I see my steps add up, I get a special celebration vibration when my daily goal is met, and I have a sense of accomplishment that I am moving more. For our summer writers, a challenge to keep writing might help them spark ideas, see progress, and work towards accomplishing a goal. Just like they join a summer reading club at the local library and receive stamps and prizes for reading a certain number of books, a writing challenge can make sure that they remember to write during the summer as they work towards a goal.
I’ve come up with a few ideas to encourage summer writing. I’ve designed them to work together or alone.
Writing Bingo Board: I created two versions- one for primary students and another for older, or more advanced writers.
Summer Writing Ninja Challenge
You could use the BINGO boards above on their own and create rewards (or not) for students who complete part or all of the challenge. My son takes Tae Kwon Do and he is always motivated to earn a new belt. His instructor, Master Frank, often talks about what it takes to be a black belt- dedication, persistence, hard work, resilience, and belief in yourself. Sounds a lot like what it takes to be a writer to me! This gave me the idea to have students earn belts as they fill in their BINGO board. I created a Summer Writing Ninja Challenge!
The presentation includes instructions and a breakdown of what belt students will earn for how many WRITE squares they fill in. It also includes digital badges for each belt. Students who do every task on the board will earn every belt- including the black belt!
There are many different ways schools could incorporate this challenge into the end of the school year and the beginning of the new year.
- Students might design a new notebook or folder to hold all the writing they will do in the challenge.
- Some Ninja books could be read for inspiration (I love Ninja Red Riding Hood, The Three Ninja Pigs, and Hensel and Gretel:Ninja Chicks by Corey Rosen Schwartz) and a student who takes martial arts and has earned belts could explain that process to the other students.
- A school might set up a Padlet where writers can add writing they are doing throughout the summer.
- A school might also consider a special hashtag for summer writing or learning and parents can take pictures of the work children have done and share it on social media with that hashtag.
During the summer, why not set up a day where students can come and share their writing? Badges could be awarded for the progress they’ve accomplished so far and they can share their work with other students, parents, and an educator who would facilitate the meeting. Depending on your budget, students could even receive literacy prizes for certain belts they earned: pencils, post-its, notecards, or other items that would encourage the writing to continue and honor their hard work.
When the next school year starts, why not welcome students back with a gallery of summer writing? Students can submit their favorite piece written over the summer to be part of a gallery. Pieces can also be submitted digitally and be made into a slideshow that can be shared widely. Educators can share pieces they wrote too, because we know that teachers of writing should engage in writing themselves. Students (and teachers) who earned the black belt could be celebrated with their picture taken, a certificate, and any other recognition a school might choose to give.
These are some of my ideas to challenge our students to keep writing during the summer! How would you add or expand upon these ideas? In what ways does your school promote writing throughout the summer?
- This giveaway is for a copy of Joy Write: Cultivating High-Impact, Low-Stakes Writing. Many thanks to Heinemann for donating a copy for one reader. (You must have a U.S. mailing address to win a copy of this book.)
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