Salem Statesman Journal
November 19, 2017
As the holiday season approaches, including time off from school, it’s a good time for parents to consider learning activities children can do to keep sharp, especially in writing. Kids look forward to time off from classes and families have busy schedules, but there are opportunities to help students improve writing skills during winter break.
Writing takes imagination and time. As far back as I can remember, I’ve loved writing. Although I’ll add that it was hard when I was younger — I had so many thoughts about what I wanted to write about, and getting them down on paper was difficult.
Many students and grownups would rather visit the dentist than write something. However, there are techniques you can use to inspire your children to practice writing skills over winter break.
Holiday letters, thank you notes, and cards
Some feel letter writing is a lost art, but your children can learn otherwise. Encourage them to write letters to friends and relatives over winter break, or send that important, and well–crafted, note addressed to the North Pole.
Students can also personalize holiday greeting cards, and write thank you notes for gifts received. These exercises enhance social development and help children sharpen their geography skills while researching recipients’ addresses.
Family folklore and fables
Encourage your children to explore their family’s heritage by creating a family tree or writing about your family’s history. They can interview relatives, perhaps asking questions about favorite holiday traditions or memories.
Each member of your household can also contribute to a family newsletter. Have everyone write a section about what they achieved over the past year, and what they are thankful for this season. Expressing gratitude is beneficial for students and a great way to do so is through writing.
Lead by example
If children see their parents writing over the winter break, they’ll understand it’s part of daily life. Invite your children to collaborate on a story related to winter or the holidays. Together you can write a chapter every week, perhaps on a favorite seasonal custom like the Hanukkah Dreidel game, the candles of Kwanzaa, or mistletoe.
As a parent, you know what kind of writing your children might enjoy. When you demonstrate writing can be fun, they’ll want to do more on their own.
By making writing enjoyable at home you can show your children these are practical skills for everyday life outside school walls. While our world is driven by technology more and more, writing remains a key factor to success.
An estimated 270 million emails are sent daily worldwide, so using written language to communicate has become even more important. Employers are also concerned about having a skilled workforce; according to a recent national report, 44-percent of managers felt writing proficiency was the skill most lacking in college graduates.
Computers are useful, but I recommend writing things down by hand. All my students submit a handwritten rough draft for every language arts portfolio project. Remember that even famous authors like J.K. Rowling started her famous Harry Potter novels by drawing pictures of her characters and scribbling notes on scraps of paper.
Even if your students choose to type their essays and short stories, they still should begin their idea with a rough draft. Writing down everything isn’t necessary, but the ability to write key ideas and facts for a future story is pivotal.
I always suggest an idea web to get started, where my students write the main idea in the center with supporting ideas branching off. That way, they can jot their ideas down and add more details while writing their story. I encourage students to write about topics that interest them, activities they’re involved in, or places they’ve been. It doesn’t matter if your children use sticky notes or keep an idea list on a smartphone – like any skill, good writing takes patience and lots of practice.
Writing also involves plenty of rewriting. Adults do it routinely on projects at work, emails to friends, and more. Writing is a process that flows from brainstorming, drafting, and editing, culminating in a final version. Even writing this commentary required many revisions.
November is National Novel Writing Month, and the Young Writers Program (https://ywp.nanowrimo.org/) offers a fun “seat-of-your-pants” approach to the writing process along with some helpful tools for students.
American author Henry Miller once said: “Writing is its own reward”. Utilizing some of the activities I’ve suggested, hopefully your children will experience that reward over the “winter writing season” this year.
Wendy Richards of Oregon City is a second-grade teacher at Oregon Connections Academy She can be reached through the school at www.OregonConnectionsAcademy.com or by calling (800) 382-6010.