Oh, boy the last few weeks have been funny for us.
And by ‘funny’ I mean not really laughing funny but funny in a tricky kind of way.
Pretty much everyone’s been on and off sick.
My husband and Maddy have been suffering from allergies like whut.
Maddy had it for a good week, then I was out for an entire weekend, and now Cora has it. I’m crossing my fingers that the rest of us steer clear of it. Because friends, it’s not pretty.
However, in the midst of it all, we were able to do a bunch of fun things and spend time together.
We’ve been doing something for the last few months that has been a whole lot of fun for us all: we’ve been writing power notes to Nana.
Power notes are nothing that crazy–it’s simply fun, authentic writing for kids. Tons of notes written in one sitting. Power writing power notes. Get it?
Fun. And Authentic.
And really, fun and authentic are the keys when it comes to getting kids to write.
Here’s the skinny. . .
Fun, Authentic Writing for Kids–Power Notes to Nana:
These ‘power notes’ are simply written all in one bunch–all in one sitting.
Maddy, Owen, Cora, and I find a time when we can sit down for an hour or two, and then we each write 4-6 notes to Nana.
Nana is 92, and she’s had a long, rough winter. Getting old is tough, and it’s made even more difficult when you add ice and snow to the mix–because then visitors are less frequent, and outings are more difficult.
And because we live three and a half hours away from her, there’s very little we can do to entertain our amazing 92-year old Nana.
So we write notes.
And we write more notes.
And we write even more notes.
- add photos,
- tell stories,
- include games,
- draw pictures,
- add stickers,
- make puzzles,
- print crosswords,
- add newspaper articles,
- ask questions,
- decorate envelopes,
- and do just about anything and everything we can to make the letters fun for Nana.
We usually begin by going through recent photos.
I flag about 8-10 of them, and I print them out. And then Maddy, Owen, or Cora will use the photo as a starting point for a letter.
He or she will simply write a few sentence about the photo: what’s going on? who’s in it? what did we do that day? why is it important/silly/funny/ etc.?
It’s very easy to have letters to elderly family members all be the same ole, same ole:
I hope you are doing well. School is fine, and soccer is fun! I am ready for summer. Hope to see you very soon.
But using photos as starters helps break up that mold. It helps liven things up a bit. And Nana loves seeing her great-grandchildren!
Other times, we’ll use puzzles as a starting point.
Puzzles are a super activity for Nana. We print out mazes or sudoku, or word searches. We even make puzzles for her.
Puzzles can be a short, quick inspiration for a letter, and they give her something fun to do for a few hours the day she receives her letter.
But really, the important thing is that these power notes are a chance for my kids and me to just write.
We write about anything that comes to mind because Nana wants to hear it all.
If Owen wants to write about soccer, he writes all he wants about soccer.
If Cora wants to write about her cheer competition or the book she’s reading, then she writes about her cheer competition or the book she’s reading.
If Maddy wants to write about her 5th grade graduation or her latest school project, she writes about graduation or her school project.
The key is that everyone’s writing about things that interest them.
And they’re writing for a real, live audience.
And their notes are meaningful, and they’re going somewhere.
And when we’re done, we get them ready for the mail.
We address them all, seal them and stamp them, and we put sticky notes on them indicating the day we want them to go out in the mail. So in the end, we have a pile of notes in a basket on the counter, ready to grab and put in the mailbox every 2-3 days.
And because we cannot stop by for a visit like we wish we could–because nothing replaces that in-person hangout time!–these letters help. Even if just a teeny, tiny bit.
This kind of writing really counts, friends.
The cool thing is that research shows that the most successful writing activities are for real audiences and authentic purposes:
The teachers in one study reported ‘that students came alive when they realized they were writing to real people for real reasons or reading real-life texts for their own purposes. . . . more authentic literacy activities are related to greater growth in the ability to read and write new genres.
Duke, N.K., Purcell-Gates, V., Hall, L.A., & Tower, C. (2006). The Reading Teacher, 60, (4), 344-355.
It makes sense, right? When people are doing something for a purpose–a real, true purpose–for someone else, they’re likely to want to do it and want to do it well. So they push themselves a bit, maybe learn a little something, and they grow as writers. Bam. Super exciting!
Need a few more ideas to get your kids writing for fun and meaningful purposes?
- stop, observe, and write
- photo conversations
- everyday journals
- hello, teacher notes
- list writing
- story repair