SPRING is just around the corner, and with it the joy of finally stepping outside for hands-on learning. Like many moms, you probably look forward to a new season of field trips. But if you always assign the five paragraph “What I Learned on my Field Trip” report the moment your family returns home, your kids may not quite share your excitement.
If you already use a writing program, an extra report can be overwhelming to an elementary child. Reports can also frustrate a student who spent so much time enjoying her outing that she forgot to take notes. Why not follow up your field trip with a writing activity that appeals to your squirmy son, imaginative daughter, or inquisitive preteen?
Make a Word Bank
After a fun but tiring excursion and a long drive home, your child might be overwhelmed at the thought of writing a report the next day. He can easily show some of the things he learned simply by making lists or word banks!
First, encourage your child to think of one or two things that stood out to him. Was your third grader especially fascinated by the jellyfish at the aquarium? Help him make a list of adjectives, nouns, and verbs that remind him of this awesome creature. Perhaps you’ll want to do this together (out loud at the dinner table?). Or, set your kids loose in the backyard with sidewalk chalk, and take a picture of the word lists they create.
Write a Story
Perhaps your book-loving daughter has just waltzed through the halls of a Victorian home or romped through the fields and cabins of a living history farm. She’s already aglow with dreams of adventure in other times and places. Why not encourage her to write a short story inspired by her day?
Structure the assignment to keep it manageable. Ask her to introduce the main character and the character’s main problem in the first paragraph. The middle paragraphs should show the character attempting to fix the problem. The final paragraph should provide some kind of resolution or closure.
The story might follow a wealthy man attempting to send an urgent message in the days before telephones. Or, it might revolve around a farm girl who wants to make her mother a present for Christmas. Whatever the story, make sure your child includes historical details learned on the field trip, such as the clothing, inventions, or entertainment of the time.
Super Sleuth Research
If your student displays a scientific bent, a trip to the science museum is merely the first step in feeding his ever-growing curiosity. Instead of asking him to rehash what he just learned in a post-field trip report, consider assigning a series of questions and answers—all prepared by the student himself, of course.
Begin by asking him to write one, two, or three genuine questions based on his new knowledge. Which exhibit in the museum left him wanting to know more? Which train of thought did the docent leave unexplored? Questions should focus on hows and whys that require explanation, rather than simple when or where questions that can be answered with a single phrase. For example: Why had no one invented a practical light bulb before Thomas Edison? How do scientists agree on carbon dating?
After you approve the questions, set your student free to conduct research. Then, ask him to write one (or all) of his answers in paragraph form. When finished, have him check his own work for organization, clarity, and proper grammar!
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Your home may be the training ground for budding artists, novelists, and scientists alike. By combining the hands-on learning of field trips with customized follow-up assignments, you are teaching your kids that writing is not only relevant, but fun!
Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella blogs at www.waterlilywriter.wordpress.com.