Getting kids to write over summer…
I’ve tried it all.
I’ve sent home daily writing tasks, such as “Write about something you see out the window,” or “Pretend to be your favorite book character and invent a new story.” I’ve had kids shop for blank writing paper from each genre, jotting possible plans on each booklet. I’ve sent home envelopes with stamps, inviting kids to write me letters. Admittedly, I’ve even offered prizes for showing me summer writing in the fall.
While reflecting on the ways I used to encourage summer writing, it’s evident to me that the emphasis wasn’t on the writer, it was on the writing. It was on keeping kids busy with writing instead of engaged as writers. I can say, without a doubt, the kids who brought me a heap of booklets were not interested in actually sharing their writing with me, or in their writing at all, but rather in receiving a long-awaited *prize*.
As a writer, I rarely write following a prompt, and if I do, it is a thoughtfully selected and reflective prompt. Even more shocking, no one gives me a prize when I publish a piece. The reward is much better, and intrinsic.
So, as I prepare information to share with families for engaging their children in learning over the summer, I want to honor the work we’ve done this year and encourage families to support their children with independently pursuing that work until school begins again.
Honoring Our Work
The biggest ah-ha that came to me after becoming a writer was thinking about why I’m writing before thinking about what I’m writing. Genres became as a tool for what I was writing when I had a specific purpose: (1) to connect, (2) to remember, (3) to teach, (4) to convince, (5) to observe and (6) to create. One afternoon, I noticed shadows from our plants made the sunlight dance on our walls. I immediately was inspired to write a poem. On other days, I want to share an experience from school, which leads me to write an informative or reflective blog post. My husband and I both enjoy experimenting with cooking, so we keep a recipe box to remember and revise our favorites.
This became the heart of my writing instruction. Our co-constructed writing experiences were grounded in real, purposeful reasons to write. I thought aloud as a writer, “It was so funny when Thor rolled in the snow! It would make a great story.” I made the variety of genres kids chose when writing about an exciting topic visible to the class at share time: “Ainsley wrote a story about field day. Sienna wrote a teaching book about field day for the pre-K friends. How are these the same? How are these different?” Mini-lessons were devoted to making thoughtful plans for writing when writers have big feelings.
Additionally, providing adequate time for immersion in independent writing projects (we sandwiched these with genre studies in our pacing calendar) gave kids opportunities to think about daily experiences through the lens of a writer. Genre-studies strengthened kids’ abilities to communicate strategically and develop craft in specific genres. During genre studies, kids requested and were encouraged to write in a genre of their choice when they had an important reason to write. When Lauri returned from a trip to Finland during our informational writing unit, he compiled several booklets and announced, “I have a lot of stories to write!”
Now, as I look through kids’ writing folders, for one of the the last times, I of course notice a range of skills. I celebrate evidence that teaching has stuck with some, while others have not yet mastered recent goals. One thing that is consistent, though: In every folder there is writing across a variety of genres. For this, I am confident sending my kindergartners off into the world, knowing that they think like a writer and independently find reasons to write. Here is a sample of the variety of writing I found:(Pssst! The tool is coming, I promise!)
If we want kids to keep writing long after they leave us, we must help them find everlasting purposes to write, to lean on writing as a daily and powerful tool.
So, whether you have dabbled in genre-choice or hope to begin next year, whether your school year is over or nearing its end, whether your writers are avid or reluctant, I hope my efforts to help families engage kids in authentic, purposeful writing projects at home will reach many more than the families in my classroom.
Here is the tool I made for my families, which you can download and share: Writers Write To…
If you have had success with kids engaging in meaningful writing experiences over the summer (or want to share the flops!), I would love to hear about it below!
More on Summer Writing:
- Stacey Shubitz wrote a wonderful post about writing projects she did with her daughter over the summer.
- Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski wrote about using QR codes to create a summer notebook. So cool!
- Anna Gratz Cockerille wrote about independent writing projects for summer in the upper grades.
- Deb Frazier wrote about using a summer Twitter hashtag for students in summer.