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Academic Writing Creative Writing

Tips and Resources for Young Writers at Any Age

ActivityHero shares the insights of writing professionals who work with kindergarteners through high schoolers. With these tips, parents can help support kids’ writing goals.

By Wendy Chou

Writing is a key life skill that engages and empowers kids–and is highly correlated with overall academic success. ActivityHero talked with professionals from two writing programs to learn their favorite tips. We also list online resources that will appeal to today’s tech-savvy kids, ‘tweens, and teens.

Tips for Elementary School Writers (Age 6-8) 

1. Have some fun

Darrell Dela Cruz, of Cupertino’s Communication Academy, recommends playing word-centered games to boost knowledge of words and definitions. Some examples are Mad Libs, Boggle, Scrabble, and Bananagrams.

2. Be a role model

Remind kids that writing matters in daily life. Adventures In Writing (AIW) Camp co-founder Jen Hartvickson tells parents: “Write lists, write thank you notes, write letters. When they see you writing, they will do what you do!” 

3. Check out these resources for elementary school writers

  • Storybird is an online forum that allows kids to create and share their own books or to read from the free online library.
  • Three Good Things – A Happiness Journal is a free app promoting a simple and positive message.
  • Krakeln is a friendly vocabulary-building app suitable for even young users.
  • Orange Street News  is a newspaper created by Hilde Lysiak (with her dad’s assistance) when she was just 7 years old and is the inspiration for her own book series.

Tips for Tweens (age 9-12)

1. Practice, practice, practice.

All the experts we consulted agreed that practice leads to writing improvement. Journaling and writing to pen pals can encourage regular writing habits. Jen Hartvickson also finds that tweens are more motivated when given free rein to choose their own topic.

2. Read widely, then discuss.  

AIW Camp Co-founder Hans Hartvickson sees value in parents and kids reading books together, then talking about “what worked” for them and why.

3. Try a song.

Hans Hartvickson suggests songs help teach writing traits and are fun too. AIW Camp has published many songs on YouTube.

> > Find writing camps & classes near you

4. Check out these resources for tweens

  • Stone Soup Magazine is a high-quality literary publication (in print and online) by and for kids.  
  • Youngzine presents current events for a school-aged audience and accepts kids’ submissions of articles and book reviews.
  • KidPub.com has featured kids’ works since 1995 (requires small fee to publish).
  • Brainstorm great reads with blogs like Brightly which lists dozens of titles sorted by age and genre.

Tips for Teens (age 13+)

1. Experiment with styles.

Take chances and try out new styles and content. Teens are starting to develop their unique voice.

2. The more practice, the better!

Consider entering contests at libraries and at school. Don’t stop there: find open mic events and poetry slams. Teens may enjoy blogging about a particular hobby and developing an audience. Many sites host blogs for free. 

3. Find online networking sites devoted to teens

Online writing communities allow teens to network and seek advice from other writers. Here are 4 recommendations:

  • Underlined is a teen-centered website that provides opportunities for collaboration and feedback.
  • Wattpad is the largest and most visible online reading and writing platform, giving it the nickname of “YouTube of writing”.
    Teen Ink hosts writing submissions by teens, including essays, articles, fiction and poetry. Teens can also contribute their art and photography.
  • Power Poetry is the largest online community for teens interested in poetry.

Final words of advice: Lighten Up!

According to Dela Cruz, parents shouldn’t make writing feel like a chore or something with a clearly defined “right or wrong answer”. The Hartvicksons believe kids need reassurance that mistakes and editing are to be expected along the way. Most of all, our experts all agreed that parents should provide fair and constructive feedback to kids. A “Goldilocks” balance means avoiding unrealistic over-praising, while also refraining from giving only negative comments, which can be demoralizing for kids. 

> > Find writing camps & classes near you

Categories
Academics Reading

4 Tips To Beat Summer Brain Drain






Research shows that summer brain drain is real — kids can fall behind academically during the long summer vacation. Here, 4 practical tips that can help.

By Jillian Chamberlain

Child reading in library in the summer

It’s the time of year that teachers both look forward to and dread: summer vacation. Don’t let their sad smiles fool you, many teachers are just as excited for the break from the vigorous routine as the kids.

But deep down they know what’s going to happen to all the time and attention that they’ve given to their students. According to Marra DeGraff, GiftedandTalented.com’s Personalized Learning Ambassador, “Recent studies have concluded that students show little or no academic growth over summer and at worst may lose one to three months of learning – with the greatest loss in Math.”

 >> Find an Academic Camp or Class

A growing number of schools are giving students summer homework, taking a cue from Asian countries, where summer is not a two-month break from school but two months of mandatory school-at-home whereby teachers give piles of workbooks that kids need to finish by the start of the next semester. Even if your child’s school isn’t assigning extra worksheets or reading lists to help kids better retain their knowledge, there are four things that you can do this summer to help your kids return to school in the fall with the same level–or even more!–of knowledge that they left with in June.

Read, Read, Read!

beat summer brain drain

Reading is a terrific way to keep kids’ minds engaged. If they’re avid readers, they’re probably already looking forward to the quiet days of summer reading.

And if they’re not excited about reading? Remember that a little reading is better than none, and try some of these tips to help boost their enthusiasm:

  • Choose books that match their reading level. Make a book list, or ask the children’s current or future teacher for a list so that the kids are reading quality books that are age appropriate.
  • Create a special space. Set up a reading nook and have snack and reading time each afternoon. Even if they’re a little too old for picture books, try to join them during this reading time, if your schedule allows. Pick up a novel or a magazine (but maybe not your phone), and you’ll not only keep them company, you’ll demonstrate for them just how relaxing it can be to immerse yourself in great reading on a long summer afternoon.
  • Join a community reading program. Most local libraries offer summer reading programs, often with milestones and prizes to help make reading more fun.
  • Make a game of it. Try this summer bingo idea from Pre-K Pages. Print off a copy or get inspired and create personalized bingo sheets for each child.

Find an Academic Summer Camp

A week or two of an academic summer camp can let your child go deeper into the subjects they like, or discover something new to love. One SF Bay Area parent recently raved about a math camp and explained “my daughter, 14, hates school math. She likes puzzles… I was looking for a different kind of logic camp and Mathletes was the jackpot.”

A parent in Atlanta had similar comments about Discover Science Center, “My 6 year old had so much fun playing and doing experiments. She loved bringing home her final results and the lab journal they created and used to document their findings. She honestly didn’t even know she was learning.”

Popular academic camps include math, writing, science, STEM or STEAM and foreign languages such as Spanish, French or Mandarin Chinese.

>> Find an Academic Class or Camp

Make Use of Online Learning Programs

online-learning-programs-for-kids

Kids can challenge themselves with a number of academic websites. Two to consider:

  • GiftedandTalented uses a combination of multimedia instruction and automated assessment of student work to personalize each student’s experience. In just 20 minutes, 3 times a week from home, kids can not only retain but also advance in math over the summer. They also have reading comprehension and writing courses. Get a 10% discount with code: LEVELUP.
  • Khan Academy is another popular resource that offers free video lessons in math, biology, art history, computer programing and more. Your kids can get extra help in areas where they’re weak and need to get ahead or branch out and study something new that intrigues them.

Take Educational Outings

Along with the traditional summer outings to state fairs, water parks, and roller coasters, fit in a few educational trips to keep your child’s mind active and the curiosity flowing all summer long. Start with the local art, science, and history museums, but don’t stop there. Have you always wondered how farms operate, how potato chips are made or what it was like to live 100 years ago? This is the perfect opportunity to plan outings to local places where your kids can get answers to the many questions that they have.