“Are we there yet?”
“Hey, you’re on MY side!”
“Can we please listen to [insert annoying soundtrack here] again?”
Summer is time for fun, sun and family trips. And although trips may come with the requisite whining and grating music choices, they also provide tremendous opportunities for learning and personal growth. All children can benefit from spending time in nature, exploring a new city, visiting relatives on a farm or any other escape from one’s usual surroundings. Travel also provides fodder for engaging writing.
Not Just “What I Did This Summer”
Travel writing goes beyond a simply narrative of “what I did this summer.” This summer, encourage your budding writers to create a travel essay or blog based on their summer experiences! Follow these steps to help walk your children through the writing process, and to make the activity both an educationally rich experience and a bonding part of your vacation.
1. Share your favorite travel writing from blogs, magazines or books. Looking at model texts helps children learn about style, language and format for their own creative work. Here are some suggested books to read together:
- Around the Word in 80 Days by Jules Verne. This is the fascinating story of Phileas Fogg and his servant Passepartout and their adventurous trip around the world in a hot-air balloon. This classic novel has also been adapted into a graphic novel called Around the World by Matt Phelan.
- A Little House Traveler: Writings from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Journeys across America by Laura Ingalls Wilder. For those Little House lovers—and those who have yet to be introduced to the adventures of the Ingalls family, these journals tell what travel was like before cars, planes and smart phones.
- Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure by Patricia Ellis Herr. This travel book tells the story of a mother’s hiking adventures up 48 of New Hampshire’s highest mountains with her 5-year-old daughter.
2. Tell dramatic or funny stories based on your own life’s travels to spark excitement, wonder and possibly rip-roaring laughter!
3. After sharing travel writing and stories, have your children jot down ideas and lists to brainstorm some of the humorous, inspiring or challenging stories from their own travels. Keeping a daily journal is a great way to document a vacation and find interesting ideas and events from their journey for a travel piece!
4. Use the brainstorming lists and/or journals to start a draft of a travel blog or essay!
Traits of Good Travel Writing
Here are some traits of good travel writing that can get your children thinking about ways to present places and events from a summer trip.
- Focuses on one main place/event.
- Uses background information to describe the place/event. (Older children might incorporate some research on the location or local culture.)
- Uses sensory language to show, not tell, what the place/experience was like. What did you see? Hear? Smell? Taste? Feel?
- Uses dialog and describes the other people on the trip so that the reader gets to know them.
- Combines personal reflections on the experience with the description so that the reader will see why this trip/event was meaningful or special.
Helping Your Child Revise His or Her Travel Writing
After your children have drafted their travel pieces, they can trade writing (with a sibling, parent or other travel companion), and partners can provide constructive feedback for revision. Some questions you might suggest in the revision process are:
- Do I need any further background information to understand what is happening here?
- Are there enough sensory details to make me feel like I’m actually there with the writer?
- Is the essay focused on one main place and/or event?
- What has the writer learned from this experience? Do I know why this experience was meaningful to the writer?
Consider Sharing Your Children’s Travel Writing Pieces
Once your children have revised their travel writing, have them publish and share their work! You can email a “Family Travel Newsletter” to friends and relatives, or host a post-vacation get-together where your children can read their travel writing aloud.
Before any trip, remember to pack some notebooks and pencils, and have your children jot down ideas, conversations and descriptions while you’re on the road. Your children will gain writing skills and enjoyment—and you’ll forever have a chronicle of your adventures through the eyes of your children. You might even reduce the frequency of “Are we there yet?”