I know, I know — you don’t want to hear it. But, we really are getting to the point where summer is going to be winding down. Not yet, but soon. If you have kids going into junior high or high school, it’s a good idea to help them jump start their writing skills. Some people have a natural aptitude for writing. Others struggle. Either way, it’s possible to develop and improve writing skills with practice. Whether your child loves or hates to write, it’s an integral part of junior high and high school academics. (If it’s not, at your child’s school, it should be because it’s an important skill!)
While you might hear a bit of grumbling and groaning if you suggest writing skills activities to your kids during summer break, that’s okay. If you have a few creative ideas on hand, you might be surprised if they wind up enjoying themselves! In fact, if parents participate, it can be a fun way to spend time as a family while you chill on the deck in a evening breeze or take a break from swimming, etc. The kids will be glad when they return to school and are already “on their game” when the teacher starts dishing out writing assignments!
Use favorite books for writing skills activities
How many times have your kids read a book or watched a movie saying they would have changed the ending? Young minds are naturally creative! You can help your kids improve their writing skills AND take their creativity to the next level by having them write a new ending to a story they know well! Maybe there’s a happily-ever-after book that they would choose to end tragically if they were the author or vice versa. You can turn this into a friendly competition by having everyone write a new ending for the same book, then taking votes for a favorite!
Offer prompts to help get the writing wheels turning
Hand out a list of beginning prompts for a story. These prompts might be several sentences or a single phrase. Set a timer and see how quickly the kids can work their way through the list, forming your beginning prompts into a whole opening paragraph! You can also create a similar activity with a fill-in-the-blank style prompt. You write the paragraph but leave blanks at strategic points where the kids can fill in adjectives, nouns, verbs or other modifiers to bring your story to life!
Freestyle writing with a timer on a specific topic
Freestyle helps build writing skills the same way improvisation helps build acting skills. Set a timer, announce a topic, then tell the kids to write whatever comes to their minds for until the time is up. This type of writing is fun because they don’t have to worry about punctuation or proper formatting. It’s less about mechanics and more about process of thought — getting the ideas from the brain to the paper without thinking ahead. It helps if you choose topics with which your kids are familiar, such as a sport they love, a place you visited as a family or their favorite music band or actor. You can challenge older kids a bit more by choosing a controversial topic of debate and encouraging them to write in a persuasive tone.
Write a friendly letter to help improve writing skills
Studies show that writing on paper uses different aspects of the brain than typing on a keyboard. Long ago, it was common for kids to have pen pals, whether it was a best friend who moved away from the neighborhood or a student who lived in another country. Nowadays, writing letters has become nearly obsolete, but it’s a fun thing to do as a family to help kids improve their writing skills! You can turn it into an art activity as well by letting the kids decorate their own stationary. Suggest writing to a grand-parent, an old friend, a soldier serving overseas or even a resident at a local nursing home.
Not everyone is a fan of writing. Some kids would rather do just about anything in school than have to write an essay or a book report. Then again, you might have a child who loves to write and dreams of becoming an author some day. (No time like the present!) If you take some time on summer break to create some writing skills activities, you’ll be spending quality time as a family, and you’ll help your kids get a strong start to a new school year!