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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Keep Your Children Writing This Summer, Too!

By Guest Blogger, Jennifer Lockert, Assistant Director and Teacher, Reynolda Preschool and Kindergarten

Summer has arrived! Swimming, popsicles, travel, and camps are all on the agenda. We know that leisure time is a desired and necessary plan for our young learners. But parents and teachers also agree that bridging the summer months with fun and meaningful literacy activities provides enjoyment and the necessary practice to keep school skills fresh for when they return in the fall. So, just like incorporating reading into your summer bliss, make a plan for entertaining writing activities, too.

For preschool-aged children it always begins with play. Through play you can promote the two goals of writing at this stage: fine motor skills (so they can produce writing) and language development and thinking skills (so they have something to write about).

Strengthening fine motor skills can be a lot of fun if you are creative. Some preschool-aged children are adept with their small hands and fingers and enjoy coloring or printing small words, while others find the idea of holding a pencil a chore. Children at this age need lots of experience experimenting with many types of materials that help refine hand skills necessary for paper/pencil tasks offered in school. Put together a box of materials that can be utilized often – crayons, pencils, paint, paper, old magazines, staplers, rulers, tape, glue, finger paint, play dough, rollers, cookie cutters, cotton balls, Q-tips, glitter, popsicle sticks – the list is endless. Your child may create a puppet or a recipe or even a self-portrait. Remember, it's all about the experience and the effort at this age. Keep corrections and perfectionism at bay.

You may be asking, "Can my preschooler actually write?" The answer is yes, with your help! Be creative and design open-ended projects that will inspire them to practice writing. Add a pen and paper to play areas so she can take orders at her pretend restaurant or teach school to her stuffed animals. Encourage your youngsters to make birthday cards for family members, presents for neighbors, or keep a scrapbook of summer fun. Delegate the grocery list to your child by having them pretend to write out items or guess letters in food words. Write down a story that your child dictates to you so he has a chance to "write" without writing. Creating purpose behind the project makes it that much more meaningful.

As youngsters get older and have more practice with writing, the challenge is to continue to provide inspiration for writing projects, but to also take the time to practice writing for many different purposes. Like reading, the more your child practices writing, the better writer your child becomes. But school is out, so focus on activities that are more reflective of your child's interests and personal strengths to increase motivation.

Summer writing ideas for elementary-aged children are plentiful: writing postcards to friends and family, keeping a private or shared journal of summer thoughts and happenings, creating a summer memory scrapbook, writing e-mails or handwritten letters, or penning a poem about nature or friendship. Encourage illustrations and photos to accompany and reinforce the purpose of the writing. A little motivation and inspiration go a long way – there is a big difference between mom and dad assigning a child to write a letter to someone they know and working together to design a letter to a local politician requesting a new bench at your favorite park. Remember, it's alright to help them with ideas and editing, but too much parental input may squash the writing process. Let them focus more on producing writing projects than perfecting them.

Some children are reluctant writers. They often feel that they have nothing to write about or they get so caught up in their handwriting or spelling that they struggle getting all their ideas on paper. You can assist your child by engaging in writing projects with her, modeling the enjoyment one gets from writing. For example, keep a travel journal when on a trip and have your child do the same. Share your entries and add events, thoughts, feelings, and opinions. You can also play writing games together. You start a story and have your child finish it or try to out-do one another by creating outlandish characters and plot lines. You could even do the printing or the typing for your child so he can focus on the story creation and not the mechanics.

By investing a bit of time in planning individualized and motivating summer writing projects for your child, you are on your way to a more literate holiday. Perhaps your youngster will be the next best-selling author. A fun-filled, creative time awaits!

Jennifer recently contributed a great blog on how to keep your children reading this summer. If you missed it, here's the link.

Don't forget to register to win a pair of Orthaheel flip flops - a generous offer from Fleet Feet of Winston-Salem. You must be a Triad Smarty Pants newsletter subscriber to be eligible to win. This promotion ends Friday, June 25 and TWO winners will be announced shortly afterwards - just in time for you to sport these sandals at the pool!


Summer said...

We love writing!! Each of our kids has one of the custom journals shared on TSP last year, and they write all the time. Each day we have one hour that is draw, read or write time. Sometimes I print out photos we've taken and they record the stories of their summer. It has been an awesome record of their young lives, and a great way to continue growing their skills they are going to be very ready for kindergarten in the fall!!

RLR said...

Could you please share a link to the custom journals that Summer mentioned?

Katie M said...

Here is a link to the reading journal craft that Summer helped us with on Fox 8 last summer!

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