Parents always ask us what their students should be working on over the summer. Particularly with the dangers of COVID-19 learning loss, summer remediation and enrichment are crucial. Summer break is an excellent time to fill in content gaps from prior years, build a stable foundation for the next year, or utilize advanced coursework to strengthen compensatory skills. Although every student is different, one skill we generally recommend working on over the summer is writing.
Writing is one of the most cross-disciplinary skills students work on during high school, and once they matriculate to college, it can be tough to compensate for a weak writing foundation. That being said, high school is a vital time in writing development. Moving on from the spelling and grammar obsessions of middle school English class, students finally have the opportunity to express their ideas in a clear, cogent manner. We have written at length about beating procrastination, building the perfect argument, and mastering the editing process in other posts. There are so many skills to improve, but investing time improving one’s writing pays dividends for decades.
As important as writing is, it can be tricky to devise a summer improvement plan. To strengthen a student’s math foundation, it’s easy to work through summer math packets. Likewise, a student can work on his or her Spanish using a combination of review packets, online tools, and immersion courses. But what can a student do to improve her writing? The key to working on writing over the summer is to piggyback off of required coursework, standardized test preparation, applications, or creative interests. We’ll break down each of these methods in the sections below.
Writing & Summer Reading
We are huge fans of summer reading, both required and for leisure. Odds are your child has a summer reading assignment in place by the end of this school year. Although most students dread this seemingly monotonous task, if done correctly, summer reading is one of the best ways to improve writing, reading comprehension, and literary well-roundedness.
So, what do we mean by “if done correctly”? Well, most students make one of two mistakes with summer reading. They either wait until the last minute, which leads to cramming, SparkNotes, and academic dishonesty, or they listen to the audiobook and never get beyond plot comprehension. We advise a different approach, one which focuses on annotation, drawing connections, and grappling with the novel’s themes as if the student is writing an essay (which they most likely will). Read a more detailed post about our approach to summer reading here.
For writing in particular, a student can utilize summer reading assignments to improve both writing style and argumentation. For example, teachers often provide discussion questions to accompany whatever book they have assigned. If not, a student or a parent can easily pull discussion questions with a quick google search. Utilizing these discussion questions to write one paragraph, one page, or three-page mini-essays is a great way to improve one’s writing and hit the ground running on the first day of English class.
Using Test Prep & Admissions to Improve Writing
Test prep is another opportunity to improve writing. Whether your child needs to prepare for the ISEE, ACT, or the SAT, utilizing the English and reading comprehension sections to improve writing kills two birds with one stone. Under the watchful eye of an expert who knows how to teach test-taking strategies and writing, a student can truly get ahead and stay ahead. For example, a well-trained academic coach can help guide a student through reading comprehension strategies and then use the reading comprehension section to write an agree or disagree essay, which is an ever-popular prompt of choice in both high school classrooms and AP exams. For more information on securing a top-notch academic coach for this tricky kind of tutoring, please reach out today!
Admissions is another area ripe for writing improvement. The personal narrative style required by most high school and college applications is challenging to master. It requires abilities such as writing to show, utilizing argumentative narration, and top-notch editing. Although many schools have integrated a college essay workshop into their summer offerings, oftentimes a one-on-one approach works best. This way, students get personalized and specific feedback from seasoned professionals on how to improve their writing style.
Our last recommendation for improving a student’s literary skills over the summer is to utilize creative writing. Through formal creative writing classes or individualized instruction, this type of writing practice helps students build excellent command over their vocabulary and an intimate understanding of storytelling. It’s easy to see why this is beneficial. Writing fiction gives students a better understanding of the fiction he or she will read in class. It also provides a unique lens for history classes moving forward, as the narrative is an essential component.
Writing is a critical and wonderful skill to master. Utilizing the summer months to improve this ability can help students build the essential knowledge and confidence they need to create fantastic arguments and analyses for years to come. For more ideas on getting ahead this summer, check out our other posts. If you want to learn more about our unique one-on-one academic coaching services, reach out today.