7 Provocative Ways to Rev Up Your Child's E.L.A. Brain This Summer

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Summer is quickly approaching, and children will be footloose and fancy free.  The last thing kids will be thinking about is school.

However, we know that kids become bored pretty quickly even though the pool, the beach, and their bikes beckon.

During the dog days of summer,  we find them hiding in the basement or their rooms watching television or gaming while they binge on junk food.

And then there is that pesky little problem of summer reading! Teachers prepare packets so kids' brains don't turn to mush!

We know kids rail against this required work until the last possible moment..

Instead, kids need to approach summer brain stimuli in a different way--and, indeed,  this is the challenge we face as parents!

As you will be in the thick of it with them, I tried to think of ideas that are less run-of-the-mill, and ones  I think will actively engage your kids-- and you as well!

1.  BookBub.com

I don't know if you have checked this out as an adult, but it's a great hub for kids as well. 

It began in 2012, and the company is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in case you are wondering.

It was started to help publishers and authors drive their books straight to readers and fans.  

You can get updates about upcoming releases and recommendations from authors about books they love.  

The best thing about BookBub is signing up is absolutely free, which is great, right?

You simply sign up with your email, and you are able to choose the book genres which pique your reading curiosity. They offer over 20.

Here's how it works:   Each day, BookBub will send you a daily email with titles chosen for you and your child based on your genre preferences. You then download the title(s) you want to your Kindle, iPad, Android,or your Nook for  free or for a discounted fee.  Some are as low as $1.99.  

However, there are 2 catches:

  • First, they are down loadable eBooks, so you need to have one of those devices aforementioned.  
  • Secondly,  deals are only for a limited time, so if you see an eBook you want, jump on it or you may lose it!

Again, there are titles for adults as well as children and middle-grades students as well.  Check it out. 

2.  Color-As-You-Go Summer Reading Challenge

This idea is so cute if you have elementary aged kids, but I am sure your older child could be creative and come up with more sophisticated challenges if this doesn't do it for him or her.

The bookmark challenge is on We Are Teachers site, so click on the link and print the checklist and the bookmarks.
All it is is a coloring activity where your child is tasked with a challenge, and once completed, he/she colors in the picture or simply checks it off.

For example:  Read a book your friend is reading.  Read to your teddy bear.

Sounds cute!

3.  Mad Libs

It might be an oldie, but it's a goody!

They have been around since 1953 and were created by Leonard Stern and Roger Price.

The name Mad Libs came about after the creators overheard an argument involving an actor and his agent;  he wanted to ad-lib an interview and the agent thought he was mad, as in insane. 

At the time, Leonard Stern was writing for "The Steve Allen Show" and use this device to introduce guests.

The television audience loved them, so they decided to call their product Mad Libs and released them in 1958.

They obviously caught-on, and they've been selling like hot cakes ever since.
The fun of Mad Libs is:
  •  the person does not begin by reading the story first as he or she fills in the blank!

  • Instead, he/she is asked to fill out a list of random nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs which appear on the back of the story.  

  •  Once he/she has completed the list,  the writer inserts them into the story which makes little sense but more importantly,  creates a whole lot of laughs. My students and my own children love them!  

  • The takeaway is that Mad Libs are a great way to review parts-of-speech in a creative, non-threatening way, and it also stirs up kids' creativity and curiosity. 
  • You can choose to buy the Mad Lib books; here is a link to Amazon.com  There is also a game that can be purchased as well on Amazon.
  • You can also get to the official Mad Lib site by clicking this link. 

4. Blogging for Kids

I encourage you to check out the Website, Kids Learn to Blog.com if you are wondering how to keep your child writing this summer in a way he/she has never done before. 

Since safety on the Internet is paramount, this website is a great place to land to learn the ins and outs of blogging. 

 I also encourage you to read the following article by Dr. Patricia Fioriello entitled, "Blogging for Kids Under 13: Advantages and Disadvantages" which was published on this site.  She acknowledges the benefits and the risks of allowing your child to blog, and it's so worth the read. 

  • The key takeaway is that since parental involvement is the key when your child is blogging, ultimately, it is something you and your child can work on together! 

  • You are encouraging your child to share his/her thoughts with others to increase his/her communication and social skills while you carefully monitor what your child is posting as you establish guidelines and set parameters.

  • Therefore, blogging can be a great way to connect with your child.  He/she will learn to be a responsible online user, and it's a great way to show him or her that you are tech-savvy as well.

  • Think outside of the box and give the idea and a site your attention. 

  • You and your child may decide you have much you'd like to share with the world-at-large!

5. DomiNations

If you've been battling the Fortnight craze in your home, you may want to skip this idea.

Yet, if you are inclined to allocate a certain amount of time for your kid's to access their iPhone, this particular game might be the lesser of many evils.

This game incorporates history and architecture as an integral part of the game as your child will be busy constructing his/her own nation.  It's dubbed as an "Empire builder & battle game."  

Yes, your child will be creating an army, but when he/she is not battling, he/she will be building the infrastructure of his/her own land.

More importantly, he/she will meet interesting historical figures as the game spans from the Bronze to the Industrial Age. 

It's for ages 13 and up. 

There is no sex, offensive language or references to drinking, drugs or smoking, yet there is violence.  

Parents beware: 

1.  Your child can play alone or with friends or anonymous players online in a league. There is a parental code you can enter to prevent this.

2.   Also, in order to advance, your child will be encouraged to make in-app purchases.

**** I encourage you to look it up and decide what is best for your child and ultimately your sanity and budget.

6.  Scholastic.com

This, too, is an oldie and a goody!  It's so timely and fun to read!

I use Scholastic Scope Magazine in my own E.L.A. middle school classroom,and this site is great for kids up to age 14.

 As a parent as well, I urge you to go on and check out the many resources available to you and your child.

1.  When you land on the site, up top you will see the Parents tab.  

2.  Click on it, and you will see all the great resources for you and your child. 

3.  Press on the link,   Scholastic.com and it will take you right to the parent page!  

Scholastic has book clubs, with popular titles at great prices.  You'll also find suggestions for activities for you and your child with printables, and there is even a magazine Parent and Child which discusses pressing parental issues! 

Check it out.  My students and I love Scholastic!  You will, too.  You're welcome! 

7. Would You Rather...

As you may be aware, I did an entire blog on this very fun and effective writing strategy which enables students to practice a short answer response as they employ higher level thinking skills.

Moreover, it is a great way to teach your child how to refute or rebut by encouraging him/her to discuss the choice he/she did not choose and why not.  

For more on this fun writing strategy, you can check out my blog: The #1 Prompt to Get Kids to Buy Into Writing!

There are actual games that you can purchase, and there are also websites that have provocative questions geared specifically toward children.

Click on this link, and it will take you to: Conversation Starters World.com   

Here is an example from the site

"Would you rather be the author of a popular book or a musician in a band who released a popular album?"

I use the Would You Rather writing prompt in my classroom as a Do Now activity every Friday, and my students love it.

Furthermore, I have witnessed great growth in my students' writing as they love to do this, and they don't realize they are practicing their writing skills and the proper way to structure a paragraph:

  • Your child will practice using a topic sentence and a claim- He/she states his/her choice, based on the prompt and why he/she chose it.  

  • Then, he/she elaborates about why he/she feels this way.  Additionally, he/she should also explain why he/she did not choose the other choice and elaborate why. 

  • Finally, he or she concludes his her paragraph by repeating or rephrasing the topic sentence and the claim.  

  • Additionally, you can use an article from the paper or an article from say Scholastic.com and have your child use text-based evidence to back up his/her thinking.  He/she can practice "lifting a line" and using a parenthetical citation.   

So, there you have it.  

I hope these ideas will help you and your child relax, renew, and rediscover the joys of learning this summer in a thought-provoking, less hum-drum way.     

I'd love some to hear some feedback and to know which ideas worked best for you. 

ENJOY your summer with your children! Keep them busy and happy and yourself, too!

My best,



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