Most of my kids’ teachers stress the importance of continuing to read, write and do math facts over the summer. It decreases the dread “brain-drain” that happens when kids are out of school all summer. My kids love to read and even like playing math games, but writing…. Well, it’s a little bit of a struggle to get them to write over the summer.
Last year, the twins’ teachers asked them to write monthly summaries for June, July and August which would be due on the first day of school. (Yep — summer homework. I told you they were serious about combating brain-drain.) I was a little worried that the kids wouldn’t remember what happened throughout each month, so I gave them all cheap composition notebooks, asking them to draw pictures and keep a journal of what happened over the summer.
The first time they cracked them open was great. Excited about the journals, they wrote about summer and the pool and how happy they were to be out of school. The second time, they wrote much shorter entries and drew stick figures and wanted to go play. The third time, they didn’t want to write at all. I had to ask why not — what had happened to turn them off these journals so quickly.
“I don’t know what to write about.”
Writer’s block. Of course.
To combat this horrific condition that I (and I’ll bet you) have had now and again, I decided to come up with prompts that they could choose to write about — just to keep that composition muscle working. Of course, they could always write about how unfair life is when no one is around to play and that their siblings are driving them crazy and their mother is making them write in a journal. Again.
But if that theme got old, then they could choose one of these prompts:
- What is your favorite book right now? Why? What’s it about?
- Close your eyes and draw a squiggly line. Now create a picture out of that squiggly line and tell a story about it.
- What movie (or concert or play or festival) did we go to and what was your favorite part? Least favorite? What would you change to make it better?
- What’s your favorite food and why? Google a recipe for it (ask me before hopping online, though!) and write it down. Make a list of all the ingredients we need to buy from the store. Help Mom make it sometime this week.
- What is your favorite animal? Where does it live? How big does it get? What does it eat? (Yes, we can go to the library to get books out for your research — just ask).
- If you could have a pet (other than Louie), what kind of pet would you have? What would you name it? What would you need to do to take care of it?
- What would it be like to vacation on the moon? How would you get there? What would you do?
- What is your favorite Lego set and why? Draw a picture of it. Then go build it.
- If you could design your own brand-new Lego set, what would you make? What would be the story behind it? How many sets would you create in this theme and what are they?
- (On a day-trip or vacation) What was your favorite thing that you saw today, that you did today and that you ate today?
- If you could run your own restaurant, what would you call it? What 10-15 things would you put on the menu and how much would you charge for each? Design a fabulous-looking menu.
- You get to build your very own city — from scratch. What would you call it? What would it look like? Draw a map of it.
- Create your own constellation. Be sure to show how many stars are in it and pencil in the lines to show the image. Tell me the myth behind it.
- You are left alone on a deserted island. How do you survive? How do you find a way to get off the island?
- (Ongoing) Write down a list of books you would like to read. Add to this list any time you find something interesting to read. After you’ve read them, check them off your list and rate them on a scale of 1 to 5 stars (1 star being “I would never recommend this book ever, ever, ever!” to 5 stars meaning “Everyone on the planet should read this book.”)
- (My very favorite one of all) Write a story starring you as the main character — a superhero. What is your name and your special power/ability? Give the rest of the family superhero or villain names. Who is your sworn enemy? What does he want and how are you going to stop him?
I’ll be the first one to admit that these prompts strayed a bit from the original assignment, but I noticed that once they had a topic, it became so much easier and faster to write in their journals. If something significant happened that day — like we went to a festival or a party or on vacation — they would write all about it, but if “nothing” happened, they enjoyed dreaming up their answers to these questions.
I also found that they liked to riff off these prompts and create their own ideas. Last year C really got into writing “The Adventures of Super C” and wrote story after story about how he was saving the planet. E, on the other hand, is my science gal. She prefers to read non-fiction and likes to write down her research about every kind of animal — especially the creepy, crawly, scary ones. She also jotted down notes about vegetable and flowering gardens.
Do your kids keep journals in summer? What do they write about? And what are your favorite writing prompts for kids?