By Ann Dolin, M.Ed.
WASHINGTON — Got a reluctant writer on your hands? Although the summer is a perfect time of year to improve writing skills, it’s also the time that kids are the most resistant.
They often see no purpose in practicing skills if they have no skin in the game, such as a grade to earn. What’s a parent to do when she knows her child’s writing is weak, but her overtures to help are repelled? Check out these novel ideas that might just get your child to put pencil to paper this summer.
For the sports-minded Kid
“Through the Mail” is a method that encourages children to write to their favorite professional athletes in exchange for autographs. It’s easy to find each team’s address on the “team by team” tab of NFL’s, MLB’s, or almost any other sports site.
I love the website Cardboard Connections. It contains a step-by-step approach for writing the best letter possible in order to get those autographs back. “Through the Mail” has been around for years, and if you’re the parent of a sports-minded kid, consider it a great option. Encourage your child to set a goal of four letters to improve writing skills and to better his chances of getting an autograph in return.
For the budding entrepreneur
It’s no secret that many successful entrepreneurs struggled in school, yet they found ways to leverage their strengths. I love the idea of encouraging children to start a business, no matter how small. And part of a successful business includes a written plan. The Kidpreneurs website matches students with business coaches to help them develop and execute a business plan. Alternatively, the wildly popular book, “Lemonade Stand Millionaire,” also teaches children of all ages an approach to follow their dreams.
For the social butterfly
Pen pals may seem like their from a bygone era, but they are alive and well. Check out this video about the benefits of writing to new friends from overseas. For a way to connect with pen pals, International Pen Pal Friend World has a host of options. The site matches kids with others throughout the world with similar interests.
For those thinking about college
Does your child have a URL in his or her name? Many high schoolers purchase a domain using their first, middle and last name to create a website of their experiences, awards and activities. First, a domain in your name is very cool, but secondly, it allows students to have a portfolio of sorts that they can share with admissions officers as they’re applying for college.
Not every admissions department will take the time to review it, but the smaller ones will. It’s a great way to get your child to record their activities as they go along instead of at the last minute when it comes to submitting applications.
For those who need to hone keyboarding skills
I’ll never forget my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Cameron, who told us that one of the most important classes we could take in middle school was typing. She was right. The ability to type quickly saves time and reduces frustration.
Students these days do not have the opportunity to take dedicated keyboarding classes. If your child is of the hunt and peck variety, consider a free online typing program this summer. I really like EdutypingAnn. Check up on your child periodically to be sure he’s not looking at the keys as he types since this undermines the goal of being able to touch type.
Backward planning for summer writing assignments
Lastly, most middle and high school students have writing assignments that they have to do. These are not optional; they’re due at the start of school in the fall. The key to reducing procrastination is to first understand exactly what your child needs to complete, and then sit down with him or her to backward plan.
Backward planning entails putting the due date on the calendar, and then breaking the project into small chunks leading up to the due date.
If I can help your child to backward plan over the summer or simply engage in writing of any sort, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Wishing you the best this summer.