According to the National Summer Learning Association, children tend to slip academically during the summer months. In fact, some studies have shown that students may lose between two and three months’ worth of learning in reading, and similar losses can occur in mathematical computation skills as well.
To help your child stay sharp this summer, include some academic activities in your daily routine. However, this doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore for either of you. With a little bit of creativity, these pursuits can be a fun way to keep your son or daughter busy while learning at the same time. Then, when September rolls around, your child will be more than prepared for the academic challenges of a new school year.
This week, we will explore 5 easy ways to keep your child’s writing skills sharp during the dog days of summer:
Letter-writing / Postcards
This is a terrific way to get your child writing without making the task too daunting. If you have out-of-town relatives, or if your child is at camp, encourage him or her to write to family and friends on a weekly basis. If you take a day trip or vacation, buy some postcards and have your child write a quick paragraph to grandparents, cousins, etc. Your child will not only keep in touch with loved ones but also continue to practice the art of composing thoughts and getting them down on paper for others to read.
It’s possible to build writing skills without pen and paper! All great stories – written and oral – have a beginning, middle and end. To become more adept at including these elements in a story, ask your child to share funny, interesting, and/or surprising incidents with you and other family members. Be sure to give your child time to think, and allow him or her to speak without interruption. However, if your young story-teller gets tongue-tied, provide gentle prompts, such as: “How did it all begin?…What happened next?…What happened in the end?…Why was this so memorable?…How did this make you feel?” etc.
Buy a journal or diary for your child to chronicle the summer’s activities. Knowing that others won’t be reading the journal can be motivating for a reluctant writer, and your child may find the journal a special place to write down thoughts and feelings. Remember, the more often a person writes, the more natural the writing process becomes: the journal/diary is yet another vehicle that will promote this writing practice.
Let your child’s imagination soar! For some children, just the suggestion of writing (or typing) a creative story is enough to get them running for paper or a keyboard. For others, though, you may need to be a bit more structured with this activity. First, let your child choose the topic and storyline. Depending upon previous writing experiences at school, free choice may be a welcome change from assigned writing projects. If, however, your child thrives on prompts or lacks the confidence to come up with a topic, there are a few story starters below (see box) to get you started.
For younger children, it may help to write or type as the child dictates. In fact, for the tech-savvy, there are voice recognition programs that will automatically translate the speaker’s voice into text on the screen. Dragon Dictation is a free app for your smartphone that allows you to dictate your ideas and then send them as an email. If your child is a storyteller (but balks at the idea of writing and typing), this may be a viable option.
With vacations, camps, and other summertime activities, you can encourage your child to keep lists. Here are some ideas to get you started: what to pack for camp/vacation, to-do lists, grocery lists, wish lists for things to do this summer, list of goals for next school year, lists of friends to keep in touch with over the summer, etc. Remember that even a simple activity such as this allows your child to organize his or her thoughts in a logical way and then express those thoughts in written form.
Check back next week for more tips on keeping your child’s skills sharp. Upcoming blog posts will focus on Reading and Math!
Ideas for Writers
Today started like any other hot July day. But when we went to the pool and got in the water…My brother and I were playing catch in the yard. It was getting dark. “Ten more minutes, and then it’s time to come inside!” Mom yelled out the window. I threw the ball a little bit too hard, and my brother missed it. The ball rolled onto the neighbor’s lawn, and we ran over to get it. Just as I picked up the ball, the neighbor’s front door opened, and…You’ll never believe what happened on my trip to _________ this summer…I opened the envelope with my name on it. The small piece of paper inside had only five words on it and a picture. It said…
I woke up one morning and opened my eyes. But instead of being in my bedroom, I was in…