Instead of a “What I Did Last Summer” project, have students choose a favorite summer event/book/film and review it. This puts students in a journalist’s shoes and offers a fresh angle. For example, if the event was a picnic at Grandma’s house, it might be written from a restaurant critic’s perspective.
This type of project requires opinions and emotions, rather than just the retelling of facts like in a traditional report. It provides opportunities to exercise critical thinking and observational skills. Your children might be reluctant at first, but this is normal. Many children, no matter what their age, don’t want to write. They feel either like they cannot write or that it’s too much work. With practice, though, they can write! Adopt a teamwork mentality – a little encouragement goes a long way and can help them get over mental obstacles.
First, tell them they will write a column, and if they don’t already know, explain that columns are articles found in newspapers and magazines. Provide examples to illustrate if you like. Help them choose an enjoyable activity/book/film.
Once they choose a topic, determine how long and involved it should be and let age and ability dictate. A review can range from a brief synopsis with comments and information to an in depth analysis. Short projects are just as good as long ones if the goal is to jump start writing for the year.
These points can help to brainstorm and build the commentary:
- View topic from all angles, from start to finish, and make relevant notes. Some students prefer just to write and skip brainstorming. If this is their style, let them go. Suggest additions and revisions later.
- Discuss items to include. A restaurant review, for example, includes info and comments about décor, atmosphere, service, and food. A movie review includes info on plot and characters and special effects and cinematography, but usually does not give away the ending.
Encourage children to stretch beyond saying, “It was amazing!” Ask questions like these to help expand ideas:
- Was it packed with fun? Why?
- Were characters and plot believable?
- Did special features make this event memorable?
- Are there enough details and personal opinion to give readers a good picture of the book/film/event?
Next, have them compose or dictate (for younger ones) a draft. Review it together and write the final draft. If they wish, let them illustrate and share it with others.
When we were homeschooling, we’d ease into school with similar projects; it helped shift gears from summer to fall. It also helped us reflect on the fun, interesting things we did on our break.
Do you have any projects planned for September? 🙂
Karen Lange is former homeschool mom, having taught her three children in grades K-12. She is a freelance writer and online writing instructor for homeschooled teens. Her book, Homeschool Co-ops 101 will be published by Helping Hands Press in September of 2013. For more information about her writing courses, visit her website.