Thursday, December 19, 2013

10 Ways to Get Your Children Writing in the Holidays

We've known for many years that some children (especially children of lower ability) can regress in literacy during long periods of vacation like the summer break. For this reason some advocate that children should keep up their reading and writing over summer. In the Southern Hemisphere we've just entered the summer vacation so I thought I'd offer some thoughts on getting children writing in vacation breaks. I've written a full post on '10 Key Pointers' for developing young writers, but here are four quick principles that apply to summer writing:

1. DON'T make kids do school in summer! What I'm NOT suggesting is that you give you children lots of school activities.
2. DO look for ways to have children use writing for varied real purposes.
3. DO find ways to ensure that your children have interested readers for their writing.
4. DO make it enjoyable, rewarding and even fun!

Some ideas

With the above foundational principles in mind here are some ideas.

1. Quirky journals

By this I mean DON'T ask your kids to 'keep a diary over the holidays' (boring!). Instead try to understand what they are interested in and suggest they 'make some notes', 'keep some records', 'create a list', start their own 'Detective Clues' book, or create a 'Scientists observation book'. Focus on anything that interests them. For example:

Player profiles for cricket, soccer, football, tennis, surfing
Sporting records for specific teams
Ten things you have to know about.... (insert the name of a rock star, sporting hero, public figure, media personality etc)
Top ten things I like about.... (insert the topic)...
A Science Observation Journal (see my last post on science apps for one example HERE)

2. Musical Writing

If your children love music get them to try writing some to well known melodies. Re-write songs they know to make them funny, offer a different point of view etc. Some teachers have found that even rap music is a great way to get some children writing (see my post on music and language HERE).

3. Advertising

Get them to identify, record or collect their 10 favourite advertisements and re-write them or change them to make a serious advertisement funny, or a funny one serious. They could do these in print form, record an audio or even create a video advertisement (all you need is a mobile phone with video option).

4. Fractured fairy tales

Encourage them to take a well-known fairy story and 'update' it. They might change the ending, introduce extra characters, or make a serious or silly point. Here's a useful site that gives examples and offers a template to write some HERE.

5. Never-ending story

I've shared this strategy before. It's very simple. If you have more than one child get them all involved in this (plus you if you have time). You write a simple story starter on the top of a page (no more than 2 sentences). You hand it to someone and they write the next paragraph, they hand it to the second writer who adds their sentences, then folds over all but their own contribution. This is then passed from one to another until the page is full. The last person has to end the story. They then unfold the paper and read it together.

6. Start a blog

I've written about this already on the blog so you can read my post 'Children as bloggers'. But in essence, you need to create a blog template (they might be able to do this with your help) which has a purpose and which they share with specific readers (family, friends etc). There are many 'child safe' sites for doing this. You might take a specific interest of your children and suggest that they find out more and share their ideas. The beauty of a blog is that they can share words, images, audio files, videos etc. When my grandchildren lived in England for six months and were home schooled by their Mum, they all had their own blogs and wrote posts almost every day. It was a brilliant way to stretch them as writers as they described visits to museum, retold stories, did some poetry, reviewed their favourite reading and so on.

7. Try some film making

Once again I've written about this before so first read my previous post on the topic HERE. But there are many wonderful apps that can be used on tablets or packages that allow children to create films and animation. Obviously film making requires some script writing not just filming.

8. Write a book!

There are many ways that your children can make a book using new applications designed specifically for them. One recent example is the use of Clicker Books from Crick Software. This app offers a publishing template that allows children to add text, photographs etc to create a book and then publish it in pdf form to distribute to readers. They might write a book on a key interest, a famous person, their family and life, or simply focus on a topic they find interesting. You might find my post on 'Digital Storytelling' to be useful in relation to this as well HERE.

9. Stories in a box

I've written about this strategy before. If you're cleaning out the shed or the attic, you are bound to find some interesting objects, photos, and artefacts. Talk about them, share your memories, put them in a box and get kids writing. See my post on this HERE. The purpose of this activity is to get children thinking creatively about a set of objects and then creating a narrative that might be related to the objects.

10. Immerse them in poetry

Poetry writing is something that children can find enjoyable and less challenging than you might think. The key is to read lots of poetry first. You can then play with language and from there it is a short jump to poetry.

When my daughter lived in Cambridge for 6 months she took her children to 'Byron's Pool' and did some poetry writing (HERE) and the outcomes were wonderful. But such experiences aren't always available and without your children having much experience of poetry you might just start by getting them to:

  • Play with language, rhyme, new words, and technical terms.
  • Play with words as you drive with them in the car, walk with them along the road.
  • Play word games with them and make it fun! Dr Seuss is a great place to start with general language silliness (see my post on Dr Seuss HERE).
  • Give them new words in the midst of real life experiences.
  • Read some anthologies 

Here's a helpful post on the varied forms of poetry that children can write with examples (HERE).

Summing up

The above are just some of the many ways to get children writing. The key is to make it enjoyable, let their interests be the guide and to offer them readers who enjoy their work and show genuine interest. I would love to have any ideas that readers have concerning holiday writing.


Katherine Collmer said...

Trevor, Thank you for his wonderful post! These ideas are so enticing and will pull children into writing experiences! And, for me, it also provides an arena for handwriting practice! I will share!

Trevor Cairney said...

Thanks a lot Katherine, glad you liked it.