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Preparing for High School Writing

Hello, 8th graders!

I want to take a moment to celebrate all your middle school successes, both academic and personal, as this school year comes to a close. Look at all the progress you have made and the skills you have gained, whether that’s developing your adaptability, managing to finally do the splits, or expanding your technological savvy.

After giving yourself a pat on the back, if you want to look forward to next school year, stay with me while I offer some pointers for starting high school on a high note.

1. The number one thing I encourage all of my students to do over the summer is read. After slogging through the last couple years, the last thing you might want to do is to look at another screen. Use the summer to find out what kind of reading material is your vibe. Maybe take a trip to a local bookstore or even the library and find a book that fits easily in your bag so that you can remain mobile on nice days while still doing something you really enjoy.

If you are still comfortable with screens, try to find some interesting reading on a Kindle or iPad — the DC, MoCo, Fairfax County, and Arlington County Public Libraries all use the Libby app, which is free and easy to use. As an English teacher, I think it is great if you want to read a book from a list of classics or summer reading, but you certainly don’t have limit yourself to those! Reading a comic book, fashion article, or even a blog from your favorite gamer still counts as reading! Reading more now prepares you to read more information, faster, and more efficiently when you move into more complex topics in the future.

2.  Engage in ideas and activities you are passionate about, whether that’s music, sports, gaming, travel, or other activities. Once you have identified something you are invested in, ask questions! A paper in high school won’t just ask what you thought about a book, but why you think that’s the case. Why is this important? Why are you using this example? Answering these kinds of questions is always more fun when they are about something you care about.

3. Lastly, don’t worry too much when it is finally time to put your words and ideas on paper. The main goal I always want for my students is to be able to get their ideas down on a document at all. Everything else — vocabulary, sentence structure, clarity — are all topics that can be taught and worked on with editing. The one thing that we can’t do together is come up with what you think in the first place.

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