Skip to content

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.

An example of some of the badges I’ve earned through my Fitbit.

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.

Click on the picture to go to the document. If you wish to edit, you need to make a copy first and then you can change whatever you like!
Intermediate BINGO board. You can edit this this same way. Go to “File”, “Make a copy” and then you can change whatever you like.
  • 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!

 

 

Click the picture to go to the presentation.

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?

 

Please join us for a Twitter Chat on Monday, May 8th at 8:30 p.m. EDT/5:30 p.m. PDT.

 

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION:

  • 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.)
  • For a chance to win this copy of Joy Write: Cultivating High-Impact, Low-Stakes Writing, please leave a comment about this or any blog post in this blog series by Sunday, May 7th at 12:00 p.m. EDT. Betsy Hubbard will use a random number generator to pick the winners whose name will be announced in the ICYMI blog post for this series on Monday, May 8th.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so Betsy can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, our contact at Heinemann will ship your book out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
  • If you are the winner of the book, Betsy will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – JOY WRITE BOOK. Please respond to her e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

43 thoughts on “Ready for a Challenge? Keep Learning Going Throughout the Summer Leave a comment

  1. Kathleen, this post is an absolute homerun…so many inspiring and useful ideas- even for middle schoolers! This series has inspired me to host a “Launching Summer Literacy” meeting with the teachers at my school. As you so importantly mentioned, the summer slide in reading gets a lot of attention, but we need to be thinking about our kids as writers, too. Thanks for sharing your innovative spirit with this community 🙂

    Like

  2. Of course I love the two levels of Bingo boards . . . And thinking of one for teachers! But my favorite is the galley when school begins. What a great way to celebrate summer writing! And as long as you mention it in the back to school letter, everyone has an opportunity to participate!

    Like

  3. I love the summer Bingo cards! I think this is a great way to inspire writing over the summer. The summer Ninja idea is also great! I think it will be awesome to share these ideas. 🙂

    Like

  4. This is a fantastic idea! I thought I’d share what our school does to encourage reading over the summer in case anyone would like to “steal” it! We tell the students to “Get Caught Reading” and have their parents take photos of the reading while on vacation. We set up an email address where parents could send the photos, When school started in September, our librarian made a slide show that runs in our learning commons to show all of the photos.

    I think we will incorporate your writing idea as well! Thanks for sharing.

    Like

    • I love that idea!! If your school uses social media you could also organize photos with a hashtag and have them published throughout the summer!

      Like

  5. The BINGO board is a marvelous idea. My favorite is having students submit summer writing to display in a Summer Writing gallery. You could even choose students to read it during the Back to School assembly! Thanks for sharing!!

    Like

  6. I will definitely be trying this over the summer! I teach three classes of 4th graders and this would be motivating for many!

    Like

  7. I love these ideas! Kids–actually we all– need something concrete to keep them going and inspired. All of these ideas will help as we plan to keep the kids motivated to write over the summer. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas.

    Like

    • Thanks for commenting! I’m really glad you think the ideas will help motivate your students! Happy to share the ideas!

      Like

  8. Still thinking about your ideas …. what about having kids choose ideas from the BINGO board in the last few weeks of school–once whatever the last unit we’ve been working on is finished–to get them engaged with the board, and then send them off for the summer to continue using it?

    Like

    • I love that idea! This way you can troubleshoot any questions they have and help them get started! I’m so glad you like the idea and are expanding upon it.

      Like

  9. Thank you for sharing these ideas! They seem easy and practical ways to start conversations in my school about how we might encourage students to write over the summer.

    Like

  10. I appreciate the BINGO card idea – it’s a tangible, fun way full of choice to scaffold opportunities for students to write.

    Like

    • I’m so glad! I was hoping to create something that would be easy for teachers to share with their students and give lots of choice. Thanks for your comment!

      Like

    • Oh that’s awesome Paula! I’m happy you think this is something your schools might want to try. I would love to know if they implement it! Congratulations on your new book!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. You always have such wonderful ideas, Kathleen. My favorite part of this is the idea of inviting kids back to school to award badges during the summer. That not only rewards their hard work, but should refill them with a sense of community to keep them going during the rest of the summer.

    Like

    • Thanks Stacey! I’m also excited about the idea of a Padlet and a digital community to support the summer writing. I’d like to connect the summer meet up with a book swap we are hoping to host mid-summer!

      Like

  12. What an exciting idea! I appreciate the thought you put into it. I think my students will enjoy this challenge!

    Like

  13. We have done so many summer reading calendars and think these summer writing bingo cards are perfect for shaking it up a bit. Not only to spark more writing but also that they both include interesting ways to look at favorite books and authors with a writer’s eye! Thank you so much for sharing your work! It would be a JOY to win Ralph Fletcher’s JOY WRITE!

    Like

  14. When I taught first grade years, I motivated the kids to read and write through the summer by asking them to be my pen pal. They would write to me to tell me what they’d be doing and the books they read, and I would respond immediately with a letter to them. In the fall, I would bring back the now second graders to my class for an after school celebration and a gift of a book that I got just for them. (I used my Scholastic points.) Not everyone in the class participated, but for those who did it was a great motivator. I still have students (now married!) who tell me it was a great thrill to get letters from their teacher in the summer and a memory they still hold on to.

    Like

    • Sorry, I also meant to say that the ideas about the writing black belt and summer badges are fabulous and I plan to pass them on to our staff!

      Like

  15. I can see that you spent some time thinking of all these writing ideas. I see some of the same kids year to year so this could work for my class. We have a Kidblog that will remain open. I will put up a different prompt each week and encourage a weekly check in on the blog. Thanks for making me think more intently about summer writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Margaret- I appreciate you noticing that I did put lots of time into thinking of these ideas! You do such amazing work with your students.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. You have some great ideas that I plan on sharing with parents. As a teacher, that summer slide is brutal! I like the idea of promoting summer writing by displaying, but how would you do that logistically when you don’t have the same kids? Are you thinking it’s more of a school-wide initiative? I guess when I send home my letters toward the end of summer I could ask them to bring something in, but that wouldn’t encourage writing all summer…that might just be a mad dash to throw something together.

    Like

    • I think I was thinking more of a school-wide initiative! One thought is to have your former students come share their summer writing with your new students to inspire them if your school is not doing the initiative as a whole.

      Like

  17. Isn’t it interesting that everyone has a summer reading game/program but so little for writing? Love the bingo board of options for providing the right level of structure, choice, and challenge for the summer. Another key component, as you mentioned, has to be the sharing. I love the Padlet suggestion. I’m also wondering if it would be possible to set up one or two casual writers meet-ups at the school, public library, or even a park. Thanks for the idea and the resources!

    Like

%d bloggers like this: