Build Summer Language Arts Skills
Writing, Journaling, and Spelling in the Summer Months
We all have a pretty good idea of what to do to help kids retain reading skills over the summer: put books in their hands! That's part of the premise behind summer reading programs.
But what about other language arts skills? Students don't lose as much learning in language arts as they do, say, in math, but skills do have a way of slipping away. It happens more when a child is memorizing in a rote way without a deep understanding of the concepts.This is a particular summer time concern when the child wasn't quite where we wanted to start with.
How about putting a pencil in kids' hands during the summer, too? As with reading, it's better to entice than force.
Some students, though, can benefit from focused learning during the summer. It depends partly on how much of a natural pattern finder a student is when it comes to language.
Fun Summer Writing Journal Idea
A summer writing journal? Here's one for the child that's "artsy craftsy". You'll need the following:
A hardback or spiral journal
Loose leaf paper cut into small rectangles
Pencils, scissors, and glue
Stencils (including clouds and other shapes that can be used for speech bubbles...fairly large ones)
Craft materials (including collage items and gel pens)
An age appropriate spelling dictionary or mini word wall
A set of directed writing prompts (if your child needs them for ideas)
1. The child can start by writing a response on a small paper.
2. After getting a little assistance with revision and editing, s/he can trace around her writing and cut it out to use in the day's art journal page.
3. S/he can add whatever other decorative items she likes in the day's journal. The final page should have the day's date, correctly written.
Notes: This activity was inspired by looking at adult art journal pages, but I turned it into a more directed activity for young students.
It's not one that will encourage extended writing or long pieces. But it can provide a context for going through the stages of the writing process.
There are a lot of things you can do with a journal prompt besides just assign it. You can buy a blank book and write a prompt in gel pen on each page. You can write prompts on index cards and put them in a file folder. You can...
I went on a search for journal designs that might serve as guidance or inspiration.Some are for the family where child and adult alike enjoying dabbling in arts and crafts. Others are more basic.
One is a bought journal, but one that looked like it could be an inspiring gift.
A summer journal... That can meet different things to different people. For some it's just having a writing prompt for every day of the summer. Others want something integrally connected to the season.
I went through a few pages of Google results for "summer journal" and picked a few different takes on the theme. I looked for activities that were geared toward elementary and middle grade children and that had something substantial to offer -- though not necessarily the same thing!
There's a short annotation to go with each one.
- Burr Elementary School
Four journal prompts a week, for about 2 1/2 months. They're not necessarily summer-themed -- just questions to evoke thought. Some seemed to invite extended writing responses.
- Monthly Writing Prompts
Here's a prompt for each day. One of the noteworthy things about this one is the presentation. You can print the pages out and cut them into strips.
- June Prompts
These prompts are summer themed and touch on different genres.
- Summer Journal Ideas
From a public school district, Montgomery Schools, comes a packet with both summer prompts and story starters.
- July Writing Prompts
Summer themed writing prompts allow students to practice writing in different genres. One example? Compare and contrast ice cream flavors!
Types of Summer Journal
I wanted to highlight this article separately. It doesn't include prompts,but it does give a brief summary of different types of journal, from nature journal to comic or graphic journal. If you like taking pictures, you might go with a photo journal.
- Types of Summer Journal
A summary from Minds in Bloom.
The Online Journal
Some kids are more motivated when they have a genuine audience and a genuine purpose. The online journal is an option for the child who is not artsy and considers the physical act of writing to be work, work, work.
It is possibly to set up a safe, kid-friendly blog. Edublogs is designed for classroom use, but you can set one up for a home schooled student. One advantage is that there's no "next blog" button or related post thumbnail. You'll still find a lot of the things you find with traditional blogging sites, like different themes. Even the commercial blogs are safe if you monitor internet usage closely enough, but this will need less monitoring.
I understand that Kidblogs is even more restrictive. It's designed to be private to the classroom community. You can set up a guest list for Grandma and other trusted individuals; guests need to enter a password to read posts.
You can also opt for a free Google site with integrated blog function. Google sites are more of an island than Blogger blogs -- again, you won't have to deal with that "next blog" button.
- Kidblog vs Edublog
I believe this is a student writing about the difference (via edublog site).
Writing Fix: Learning from Mentor Texts
We can think of composition and story writing skill development as an apprenticeship. Students develop as writers by examining the work of professionals.
That sounds difficult until you cast the experience in a different light: Children learn by listening to picture books! They also learn by examining the choices the writers make (from hooks to alliteration) and trying out some of the same things in their own writing.
Writing Fix is a wonderful site begun by educators in Nevada. It's designed for writing teachers and elementary teachers. If you do have some time -- and some teaching inclination -- you may want to check it out.
You might want to visit the section of lessons that are picture book themed. Chances are good you'll find many of the picture books at the library.
- Picture Book Prompts
Children learn writing skills from the experts!
Spelling Help for the Intermediate Grades and Beyond
Many children learn spelling patterns intuitively. Some need structured teaching. I think spelling is one of the easier subjects for a parent to teach. For children above eight, I generally recommend a self-paced program.
Spelling Power is a program that I really like. I first used it teaching at a home school cooperative.
One thing that you'll find is a long list of multi-sensory activities that can be used with any spelling list. It's best not to skip these.Many children learn best when you bring the tactile sense in -- and tactile is not all about writing!
The book is a bit expensive, but you can use the same one year after year -- and child after child. I highlighted the 3rd edition here,as opposed to the 4th. It's a little cheaper than the newer edition. (It's also the one I personally am most familiar with -- yes, I have a copy in my possession.)
High Frequency Words
High frequency word lists can be used to guide reading or spelling instruction depending on the level the child is at.
You may want to start with a list of high-frequency words for your grade level (or scale up or down depending on the needs of the child).
Here's a list of 1,200 high frequency words -- that could seem overwhelming! These are arranged, though, in order beginning with the most frequent.
- A Big Word Bank
Concentrate on the early words first.
Working with Words in the Primary Grades
Four Blocks is a great series if you have a bit of time for structured language arts activities, but don't necessarily know a lot about teaching. it's more activity-based than a worksheets, but you won't need a lot of materials. The Making Words activities are a lot of fun. Kids are directed to make words, starting with short ones and working their way up. Then comes the challenge: Can they figure out what word uses all the letters they were given?
In this model, literacy is organized into four blocks. The 4th block is working with words -- phonics and spelling -- but it emphasizes finding patterns and not memorizing rules.
- Piedmont Parent
This short article reminds us that many language arts skills can be practiced through routine activities (or fun ones). Young children can learn vocabulary through something as simple as a trip to the grocery store. Talk, talk, talk!