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Summer is officially underway at our house. We’ve finished up our year end testing, the school reports have all been submitted, and our Letters of Intent to Homeschool the next academic year have been sent. It’s break time! While we are not year round schoolers, I do use the summer to focus on a skill area which could use some practice. Usually it’s math, but this summer we are writing. It’s a family affair! I’ve come up with a bunch of ways to have fun with this and maybe you’ll want to join us in How to Host a Summer Writer’s Workshop.
Using a Writer’s Workshop Format
Writer’s workshops can be organized in a few different ways, but generally they involve a short teaching time which focuses on a skill or strategy followed by time to write. We’ve been using the time to try out different sorts of writing with a big emphasis on sharing. This has been a successful format for us, but it appeals to a particular type of writer. This summer the plan is to:
- Meet weekly for a family workshop– Each week we’ll meet to play some word games, try out some writing explorations, and share our writing. Since there are 5 of us meeting, that’s a good little group and it will help some siblings to practice giving positive feedback to one another.
- Establish a new group of writers– We had a writer’s workshop meeting for about a year and a half, but a winter full of illness suggested that we slow things down. We’d like to form a new group and begin meeting again. We have some ideas which will bring us writers of varying styles. If getting together seems too difficult, I’m considering some remote meeting possibilities.
Elementary Summer Writing Skills
Joshua is our incoming 5th grader and he’s working on more consistency in his writing. He is talented when he feels like taking the time and distracted when he’s not. He does respond well to varying the activities which focus on writing skills. Here are a few ideas brewing for his summer workshop:
- Writing Fan Fiction– He’s a big fan of Redwall and has written fan fiction for Life of Fred books, but this time he’s working on a story about an inventor in the Redwall books. He’s the inventor, of course, and he’s got plans. This is one he’s typing out right into the computer and adds to the story regularly.
- Using Copywork– We used copywork often when our kids were younger, but it has value as students get older. Copying good writing has its own value and practicing handwriting without the extra task of creating the writing makes for better focus on the mechanics of writing.
- Practicing Dictation– I like to use dictation to hone skills which need work pulling from stories that he likes a lot.
- Playing Word Games– Scrabble, Boggle, You’ve Been Sentenced, and Scattergories are all great games to bring the fun to words. Do you need more word game ideas? Try 100 Family Games for Kids of All Ages and scroll to the word game category for the ultimate list.
- Book Check In (aka Narration)– He loves to chat about the book he’s reading and this gives me a chance to hear what he thinks about his books. I highly recommend this method. It beats other forms of reading comprehension. A lot of times narration is good fodder for writing prompts or you can just listen to the oral explanation.
Middle School Summer Writing
Our new 8th grader will be working on getting more versatile in his writing. Some ideas for him include:
- Find a Little Inspiration by Reading– I have in mind the book, Guy Write What Every Guy Writer Needs to Know by Ralph Fletcher. This is a book about boy writing. Perfect for this quintessential adventuring boy of ours.
- Word Games– Keeping the vocabulary nimble and working with words without requiring writing them down.
- Dictation– Specifically to hone in on the things I know he needs work on.
- Writing Exploration– Simple writing exercises which are fun to think about. They can be lists, descriptions, captions, etc.
High School Summer Writing
Our high schoolers will be a senior and a sophomore this year. In case you’ve forgotten the class structure lingo that’s a 12th and 10th grader. Where has the time gone?! Ethan, our senior, is an engaged writer and plans to major in professional writing with the goal of being a technical writer (with a minor in computer science or math!). His writing focus this summer is mostly aimed at helping him achieve some personal goals in writing. Rebecca, our upcoming sophomore, will be working on a variety of skills. Here is a sampling:
- Expository Essays– All high schoolers need to be able to write a solid expository essay. Rebecca is working on one now entitled, “Hemlines in History”. It takes a look at the trend in skirt length from 1900 to present. This goes along with fashion in history theme.
- SAT Essay Practice– The class of 2016 is the last class to have the essay portion on the SAT. Ethan will spend time getting organized thoughts on paper in a timely manner in preparation for the exam in October.
- Novel Writing– Ethan has been working on a time travel science fiction novel since working through his Other Worlds curriculum. He has a personal goal for completion.
- Word Games– Any time you can play with words is well spent. For all of us. Including high schoolers.
- Persuasive Essays– Another popular essay form for high schoolers and a hallmark of the SAT, is the persuasive essay. Just today Rebecca was making an argument for why Pluto should not be re-designated as a planet. Sounds like a perfect topic to me!
- Collaboration– Ethan and Rebecca are planning a project where he writes and she illustrates. I don’t know what direction they are going in yet, but I’m eager to see the results.
Round up of Writing Ideas
There are a few places in the world of the internet which I enjoy visiting for ideas. I’d like to share them with you:
- WriteShop Blog– WriteShop is fantastic at breaking down the writing process. We have used WriteShop materials and I love the writing prompts they share on the blog.
- Brave Writer– I’ve been hearing about Brave Writer for a long time and I recently picked up The Writer’s Jungle and High School Help. It’s so refreshing to read from a curriculum writer who gets how I teach writing! Julie has a lot of great prompts and ideas. Plus, you can sign up for daily writing tips.
- Small World at Home– If you need ideas on Creative Writing check out Sarah’s sidebar for The Ultimate Guide to Creative Writing Resources and Wordsmithery.
Other Blog, She Wrote Posts on Writing
I’ve written a lot on our brand of writing instruction. Below are some links for more reading!
- Using Writing Conferences to Coach Writers– The nuts and bolts of how I coach our student’s writing and how that looks on a daily and weekly basis.
- Creating Other Worlds Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction– Do you have any fiction writing fans at your house? This is a post all about how our students create other worlds in their writing.
- Coaching Writer’s with a Writer’s Workshop– This post has more details on our writer’s workshop.
- The Ultimate Guide to Coaching Writing– A round up post of all of our writing resources
- How & Why to Make a Word Collage– A fun exercise for word studies. Our kids really loved this activity.
- Resources for Coaching Writers– This is a look at what we use with our writers.
- Methods for Teaching Middle & High School Language Arts– This is a summary post of curriculum and strategies we use in teaching our older students.
The idea isn’t to overwhelm my students and have the work nose to the grindstone all summer. Rather, we’ll do a few things a week just to keep the skills sharp, to develop a few without distraction, and to work toward goals they have set for themselves.
We’re looking forward to reading, discussing, and sharing the writing we’re engaged in this summer. Do you have plans for summer writing? Leave a comment and tell us what they are.by