Around here, summer is in full swing– swimming, grilling, traveling, and finding ways to beat the heat. Summer=fun. With all the fun to be had, I think those parents with school-age children sometimes look for a balance of the summer freedom and working in a little school work. We want kids to keep reading but not push too hard. We want them to work on their writing skills but not feel they are being drilled with workbooks. There can be a fine line of how much to push or even how to push, encourage, coax, or even bribe our kids to keep up with their work.
Even with the challenges, if children aren’t doing something over the summer (minimum: reading), then they are at a higher risk of losing some of the critical skills they have learned the previous school year, and they may face some setbacks come the start of school.
What if I told you that one simple book can encourage your child to write? If you dread the idea of working with your child on their writing, know you are not alone. I get it! Being a former classroom teacher, I can also say that it has been more challenging teaching my own child than other people’s children (I know that sounds really awful.).
Reading and writing are life skills. We need to be proficient readers and writers to be successful in this world.
Keeping a summer journal is a simple way to work on a variety of writing skills and also work on math or content-area skills like science, history, or geography, if you so choose. And perhaps best of all– you’ll be helping your child create a record of their summer. You don’t need a fancy workbook- just a plain composition book (they hold up wonderfully) or another blank bound/spiral notebook. You can write every day, every other day, or when the time strikes (like when something exciting happens that you want to document!)
Tips to get started:
Meet your child where they are.
If your child is just starting out as a writer, focus on a word (like labeling a picture). Or focus on one sentence- they talk, you write. Talk about the letters and sounds in the word. Talk about how you need spaces between each new word. Talk about how a sentence has a capital letter at the beginning and a period (or exclamation point or question mark) at the end to show you are finished with the idea. Work slowly and talk out what you do in your head. If your child is ready, they can write the beginning sound of each word or whatever they are comfortable doing. I would try to let go and let your child take the lead. For more proficient writers, you may want to set an expectation like they need to write __ many sentences.
For this entry, my daughter told me what she wanted to write, and I wrote each word in a scrambled order. Then I drew lines on her side to mark each word. Her job was to copy the words in the correct order. She crossed out the word as she used it.
Idea: Label this ____’s Summer Journal. You can keep it for years, really. Stash it away after this summer, and when you bring it out next summer, your child can see what a difference a year makes! Then just pick up where you left off to document the summer’s events.
Commit to working together.
Utilize the left side of the notebook (the back of each page) as a work space for you. Have your child write on the right side. This way you can commit to working together or model writing for them. You can show them an example of how you write a sentence and talk out loud as you sound words out or say something like, “I need a capital letter for ‘Daddy’ because he has a special name.” Or, “I hear ‘ing’ at the end of jumping. Did you know i-n-g makes the sound ‘ing?'” You can model how you draw a picture to match the story. (Or in this case- a very, rough sketch. Hopefully this “illustration” did not give my child nightmares. I am not proud.)
For more proficient writers, you could brainstorm their topic ahead of time and create a personal “word wall” there with themed words. For example, if they want to write about the beach, they may want to know how to spell related words (ocean, dolphin, castle, etc.) You don’t have to give EVERY word. Make them work a little bit. If they can spell and, they can spell sand!
Keep it positive.
Teaching writing and learning how to write can be tricky! Do not feel the need to teach it all in one sitting or correct every mistake to make it perfect. Hone in on one thing– like putting spaces between words, writing the letter e correctly, or adding some describing words. Applaud effort, offer encouragement, and don’t let it become stressful. If they want to write with a purple pen, let them (this is my opinion- they will learn what happens, right?). You have so much influence in showing your child the value of writing. Show them how it can be fun way to show who they are.
Make it meaningful.
Children will be more motivated to write when they are free to write about what they want to write about. If it’s too difficult to choose a topic, you can help brainstorm ideas. Young children are also very self-centered. (I promise I’m not being mean– you may know this is a developmental trait.) They are very focused on their own world. So have them write about something that’s IN their world– their soccer team, a camp counselor, how they learned to swim, the best part of their day, a trip to Grandma’s house, their favorite book or movie, etc. They will be encouraged to write when it’s meaningful.
What do you do to encourage your child’s writing in your house?