So, have you heard of the term summer slide? You know, that time during the summer when students take time to relax and may fall behind on academic work. Actually, the term itself if quite controversial (You can check out the debate on my friend Heidi’s blog at Educator on Fire).
Well, how about finding a way to make writing fun for students over the summer? Don’t worry, I can see the look on your students’ faces (on my students’, too!) and hear groans when you suggest writing for fun. In fact, I absolutely love writing and have always wanted to be a novelist, so I can assure you that my suggestions are genuine!
5 Ways To Encourage Teen Writing
So, in my humble opinion, the most important part is making writing enjoyable for your student, or the teen in your life. Most of the teens I have taught in private English lessons start out hating writing – and then find a really cool niche they love. Trust me, sometimes kids who are 12 to 17 can blow you away with what they write.
Well, here is my short list of writing you can do with a teenage student this summer!:
Who doesn’t know a teen who loves movies? Well, what better way to make a film educational than get your student to write about it? Ask them to think about what makes a movie really great and evaluate the film they’ve watched according to those criteria, such as:
- Were the characters believable?
- Was the plot intriguing?
- What was the theme, mood, or atmosphere?
- Did the film hold true to characteristics of its genre (suspense, thriller, comedy, etc)?
If you have a teen who prefers to read, ask them to write a book review, or additional chapter for the book.
When the plot and characters in a novel are intriguing, this is an incredibly fun task! Not sure which books your teenage student should read? Check out a few suggestions in last week’s post here.
2. Write Poetry & Song Lyrics
Well, I’m sure your teens will be surprised if they like writing poetry, right? Remind them that song lyrics are poetry, so they are likely listening to poems every day. Rather than bore them with technical terms (this is a summer break, after all!), ask them to define what makes a song’s lyric special to them.
Then, ask them to write lyrics for a song based on a topic they choose. It could be a response to a song that exists already (Beyonce’s If I Were A Boy, for example), or a completely new one. Ask them to use a thesaurus to come up with creative words, and think about if their poem is going to rhyme, or not.
You have access to my free printables library, right? I’ll be adding a worksheet on poetry in the June 2017 section, coming up in a couple weeks!
3. Comment on a Relevant Social Issue
So, for older teens, commenting on a relevant social issue can create an interesting piece of writing. In fact, finding a relevant news article – perhaps something about an issue that may occur in their own school – is the best way to start. For example, articles on technology use in the classroom, fat-shaming or even school dress code, like this one can spark great debate.
Don’t forget that summer assignments don’t need to be as rigorous as school year ones. Sometimes, a short paragraph or two about a current event or issue is all you need!
4. Travel Journal
In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve had the travel bug for a long time. Hence the main images for each blog post – which are inspired by photography I take during my travels.
If your student or teen is taking a summer vacation, why not have them try travel journalling? In fact, it’s a great way to record your memories while taking a break from the now so “traditional” selfie or cell-phone photo.
Remind them that the grammar and punctuation doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, journals can have sketches, photos, poetry, drawings and a wide range of creative add-ons. A scrapbook is a fun alternative, too! Amazon has some really great scrapbooks supplies, here.
5. Start A Blog!
Well, coming from a blogger, this is a biased suggestion, of course. I love blogging! In fact, I find my students love to read teen blogs, comment on them, and discuss their content. A few tips:
- For ESL students, using Youtube channels for homework can be a great option. This way, not only do they improve their listening skills, but they learn colloquial expressions, too. Jack’s Gap is one I use for my 12 year old ESL (B1) students. Two brothers (twins) explain their travel adventures, funded by sponsors of their blog.
- Of course, if you’re private tutoring teens, you’ll want to ask for parental permission before asking a teen to start their own live blog.
- Personally, I find that even the exercise of writing a blog post (on paper) is a fun challenge for most teams. Remember to let students choose their own topic, to make it interesting and relevant to them. For example, one of my students recently wrote a post about being on a basketball team!
Are you a teacher who’d like to start their own blog? I definitely recommend Abby Lawson’s Building A Framework to help you get started. It was such a huge help a year ago when I started planning my blog, and even 7 months ago when I launched it. Abby starts from the very beginning and walks you through to creating a beautiful site.
Do you have other suggestions for writing for teens? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Happy Teaching (and Happy Summer!)
P.S. Photography fans, the main photo for today’s picture is one I took outside the Lisbon Archaelogy Museum in Portugal in May 2017.
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