“It has been a pleasure to see your student learn and grow throughout the school year. Please know that it’s imperative for them to continue to read at least 30 minutes daily throughout the summer to ensure that his/her progress will continue into the next school year. I encourage you to help your child access a wide variety of high-quality fiction and non-fiction texts at your local library and to participate in the summer reading challenge.”
It’s easy to prescribe a plan for students to follow over the summer in regards to reading. In my community, both the local library and our school provide a fun and engaging summer reading program, complete with age-appropriate reading goals and prizes. I tell parents often, the single most impactful activity they can have their child do at home to prevent a decline in skills and abilities is to…READ!
“What about writing?” my students’ parents often ask. I explain that being a regular reader impacts writing skills tremendously, but I understand that specific attention needs to be paid to the craft of writing. One of the struggles I see when my students and I are working through any given writing assignment (where I expect more than a couple of paragraphs to be produced) is stamina. We think of stamina as a term for reading, but I believe that it also applies to my students ability to produce varied lengths of written work over various lengths of time (skills that relate directly to Common Core writing standards). I want my students to be comfortable writing EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Knowing that, and in an effort to take advantage of my classroom’s 1:1 access, I often have my students compose their writing on their laptops. Like me, I’m sure you’ve noticed that sometimes just the simple act of adjusting the tools your students are using (i.e. computers instead of hand-written in a notebook/on paper) can amp up engagement. Over the last two years, I’ve found huge success using an online student blogging tool for a variety of writing assignments from reading reflections, to personal narratives, or even poetry composition. An online tool such as this provides me (and depending on the assignment, the other students’ registered on our class blog) easy access to my students’ written work allowing for comments, follow-up questions, and feedback.
At this point it seems obvious, right? Encourage your students to continue blogging throughout the summer. Maybe even create a topic list or calendar so the assignment can be structured and students can track their progress. Model it after a summer reading program perhaps? The summer blogging challenge? Unfortunately, this wasn’t something I thought of until just the other week when something unexpected happened. I logged in to my school email account and noticed a notification from the online blogging program we use; an alert that notified me that one of my students had published a new post. She gave a quick rundown on how her summer was going and even made the comment, “I’m not sure if anyone was checking the blog but I thought I’d write anyway.”
How awesome would it be to set the stage throughout the year,build that blogging community within your classroom, then have your students continue to connect with each other and you during the summer (or beyond?) through blogging? It’s a little to late for this year, but I’m excited to have a full year to plan for and refine the thoughts that I have for what next year’s Summer Blogging Challenge could be.
What do you recommend your students do to keep their writing skills sharp throughout the summer? How do you help them prevent that “summer slump” that impacts so many students during their 10 weeks off? What suggestions or ideas do you have for me as I begin to craft a structured summer blogging challenge? Share your thoughts in the comments below!