Clear, concise and compelling writing is crucial for success in school, work and life. Clear writing reflects clear thinking. But how can you inspire kids to keep their writing skills sharp when they’re not in the classroom? Here are some writing tips I’ve found helpful over the many years I’ve taught writing to kids of all ages.
Nothing inspires like fun. Collect interesting, amusing, thought-provoking summer pictures from magazines, the Internet, or your family albums. Ask open-ended questions. “What’s your favorite summer memory?” Or, “How do you think people kept cool before air conditioning?” Prompt their imaginations. “Pretend you lived 100 years ago. What’s summer vacation like for you?”
Write jokes about summer activities like the pool, vacation, games and pastimes. Tell funny stories about your summer memories. “Once I lost my bathing suit to a huge wave as I waded out of the beach!”
Talk to Grandma.
The stories our grandparents can tell! Interview older friends and relatives about their summer memories. (They’ll love talking about this.) Then write a short description or story. Together come up with a list of questions for these interviews. Try questions like, “What were summers like before video games?”, “Who were your favorite friends?”, “What games and toys did you enjoy?” or “What sports teams did you root for?”
Treasure old memories.
Keep a family photo journal – electronic or on paper – and have the children write captions for the pictures or a short story summary. A variation of this is to keep a summer scrapbook with pictures and memorabilia of your favorite things. Everyone contributes.
Make new memories.
Keep a personal or family “summer things I notice” journal. Every once in a while, everyone in the family contributes a short piece of descriptive writing, a drawing, a favorite poem or an original one, favorite memories or interesting observations. “Today I noticed how the summer shadows change during the day. I like watching them go from long in the morning, to short at noon, and then long again in the afternoon.” Watch the journal grow.
Stay home and be a world traveler.
Compare and contrast where you live to other parts of the world or the U.S. Use the Internet or your local library to find information. Inspiring kids is one of our noblest tasks. With the right motivation – inspiration – you’ll have little authors on your hands in no time.
Get a pen pal.
Help your child have a pen-pal and keep up a correspondence for the summer and beyond. Cousins in other cities, friends in other parts of the state and never-met relatives in other countries are great choices. Electronic communication is okay, although I think patience and anticipation are undervalued and deserve attention.
Create a story or a play with friends and family members as characters.
Be a critic.
Write reviews of the programs your family watches on TV, the movies you attend, the books you read, the trip to the amusement park or any other activity.
It’s the best way to improve writing. Have favorite authors and imitate their styles.
And remember, if you think your child could use some extra help with writing, Sylvan’s tutors know how to boost your child’s writing skills and confidence!