The idea of creating anything at all that motivates children to continue learning and developing themselves as writers has kept me awake over the last few nights. And after a conversation with a few VERY trusted colleagues, I’m thinking sleep is going to be intermittent tonight, too. (Why can’t I just turn off?)
I know that there are some students who will write no matter what. And there are some students who won’t write no matter what. But what about the students who are in the middle? Is there anything I could provide that might be a little different, a little shiny, a little bit enough of a nudge to inspire them to think about their writing lives? Here are a few ideas that are maybe a little different for summer writing. Maybe one or two of them could be the invitation some of those “in the middle” writers would accept.
- Explore mentor texts
As a writer, one of the most important things I do is read. I read a lot, and I read like a writer. Regardless of genre, I pay attention to what I like, what pulls me in, and what I want to try in my own writing. I try to figure out what the author did. When readers notice and name the tricks of other writers, then they are more apt to use those tricks in their own writing.
What if a summer challenge involved reading like a writer? Students could pick a book, a story, or a text (or two or three or four!) and try out the mentor text activities in the chart below. It wouldn’t matter whether they chose a picture book, a nonfiction text, or just a part of a longer book. They could study the writing and pay attention to what they notice, even using grade level charts and checklists to help if those were available.
2. Create a personal toolkit
Many teachers have charts they use in the classrooms, and those charts make great sense to whoever has created them, but some of my favorite work I’ve done has involved challenging kids to make their own charts. What if one of the projects students worked on over the summer was to make their own toolkit, designing charts in ways that make sense to them? While the anchor charts would vary by grade levels, the process and the concept could be fairly consistent across ages. Here’s how I could picture a week possibly going:
|Monday||This chart tells what a story should include for the end of the year in your grade. Make it your own. Use words that make sense to you. Use pictures that help you. Add whatever details you’d like! You don’t have to copy mine!|
|Tuesday||Sometimes charts tell us what to do. Make a chart that helps you remember the steps for writing a story. If you want to add any tips or tricks to your chart, that would be great!||Steps to Consider|
Think of an idea
Add more writing
|Wednesday||Writers have a lot to remember in order to get ready to write. What are the tools you need in order to get ready? Some of you might not need the same thing.||Tools you might need|
Paper- what kind?
Pencils or pens
|Thursday||Sometimes spelling a really hard part for writers. What helps you spell? What tricks do you have? Make a chart of spelling tricks for yourself. It doesn’t have to include everything. What are the tricks that work for you?||Some Spelling Tricks|
Stretch out words
Listen for small words
Break the word into parts
Use a tool (letter chart, vowel chart, word bank)
3. Write With Published Authors
Authors are such generous people, and many of them have given time to make videos and share their knowledge and work with children. Here is a list of some of my favorites, and I’m sure there are many more!
- Choose any video from Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and write with her. She frequently features the work of students who share their pieces with her.
- Laurel Snyder reads from her books and offers up a prompt for imaginary fiction.
- Nikki Grimes shares a poem about food and how students can write one as well
- Any of these videos from Melissa Stewart are great!
- Jacqueline Woodson talks to young writers about how she starts and thinks about the books she writes.
- Writers Speak to Kids offers short videos and writing tips and inspiration from many favorite authors.
4. Writing Contests
There are a few writing contests with summer deadlines. Everyone loves a cash incentive, and some of these are offering just that!
- A K-3 Contest sponsored by PBS of Southern California, students are invited to submit stories and poems by July 31, 2020
- A worldwide poetry contest for all ages with prizes and a July 1, 2020 deadline
- A poetry contest for ages 11-17 with a deadline of July 1, 2020
- Students in K-8 are invited to write a book about bullying and submit it by July 15, 2020 for this contest.
It’s hard to picture some of our students sitting back in front of a screen for some assigned writing, so maybe authenticity, interactions, purpose, and audience could motivate them. (Maybe the possibility of a little money, too…) Choice boards also have a lot of appeal, and I have used Kathleen’s virtual field trips in many different ways over the last several weeks. Therapi’s post about journaling is another great opportunity for motivating summer writing.
If anyone has other ideas or resources of meaningful summer learning around writing, let’s share! And in the meantime, I’ll keep thinking…
I am the Writing and Social Studies Coordinator in Simsbury, CT, and I love what I do. I get to write and inspire others to write! Additionally, I am the mom to four fabulous daughters and the wife of a great husband.