Summer Writing Activities List

Summer 2021 is upon us and every literacy advocate and organization has released their official summer reading lists. While everyone is excited to begin the beloved annual summer activity, the question begs to be asked, what about writing?

Writing is an incredibly important tool we humans have to help us think, learn and communicate. An article from Psychology Today, “How Writing Makes You Happier, Smarter, and More Persuasive” discusses various studies that prove or imply that writing helps people to unwind, communicate better and retain thinking skills.  With so many benefits, why aren’t Summer Writing Lists assigned?!

Not only is it beneficial, but writing is necessary in our modern world. The skill is needed to pass elementary and secondary education levels as well college. Developed writing skills are necessary for full engagement in the workplace. We even use the written word in our personal lives– Facebook rant anyone? Don’t those come off much more relatable and understandable when they are well written? It is in everyone’s best interest to develop writing skills Facebook ranters – and their audience alike.

The best part about this journey is writing doesn’t have to be boring even though it can feel that way when the activity is mandated. This is why summer is a great time to explore writing projects that speak to one’s own soul. Be sure to mix it up, however. Satisfy your inner curiosity with an easy writing assignment, but remember, it is also important to be challenged by choosing writing projects that work on building different skills and may be out of your comfort zone. Diversify your writing journey by choosing projects with an analytical, comparative, descriptive or persuasive angle.

If you are not sure where to start with choosing your writing project, below you will find lists of summer writing project ideas and strategies. Try to complete one of the suggested tasks or let the ideas be a spring board for creating your own writing tasks.

Writing Projects

Summer Reading Support:

  1. Find a question guide to your selected summer reading book and answer the questions on a blog or in a note book.
  2. Write a character analysis. This requires writing while reading and then writing after thinking. The finished product could be a presented as a blog post, letter to a friend, letter to the character, etc.
  3. Setting analysis.
  4. Prepare an interview for one of the main characters in the story and answer the questions in the way you think the character would answer.
  5. Write a journal entry from the point of view of the main character. Try to talk through the thoughts of the individual during a tough time in the story.
  6. Take Notes while reading – focus notes on your chosen analysis topic.

Explore Personal Interest Topic:

  1. Journal on Topic of Choice- Follow any updates on a particular topic all summer long. Record your thoughts in your journal on each article read. Aim for 10 articles through out the summer. Conclude the journal with a final entry that reveals your conclusion from your summer study. *Bonus points if you interview people or find additional information and include a written response to each piece of information in your journal.* Some Areas of Study could include:
    • Science-
      • Biology
      • Chemistry
      • Physics
      • Math
      • National Politics
      • State Politics
      • Local Politics
      • Current Leaders in various industries
      • Health topics:
        • Prevention
        • Specific Diseases
        • Nutrition
        • Self-Care
      • Fitness:
        • Weight-Loss
        • Rehabilitation
        • Body Building
    • History
      • American
      • Any other country
      • of movements
      • leaders of movements
      • of states
      • of cultures and people
      • biographies of famous people and leaders or local heros
      • of national holidays
    • Literature
      • Current reading lists
      • Classic literature
      • Genre Based
      • Geography Based
    • Music
  2. Write a news article or a series of news articles about any topic of interest. (see list above.)
  3. Identify a specific company, event, industry, advancement to study. Identify all the top players and write short biographies on each and what their respective contribution to the industry.
  4. Find the slant – For a chosen, topic search out articles for it based on given philosophies and in an essay compare and contrast each article, pointing out the common facts used in each article and what isn’t common.
  5. Journal about a learning experience. Choose a fun, but educational place to go and make a date to visit. Prior to going decide what you want to learn about and pull online sources the destination offers about your given topic. By writing a pre-event, during event notes and post event reaction a learner will use writing to form a well rounded opinion and assessment of their learning experience.
  6. Assemble a YouTube Playlist of videos discussing your chosen topic. Produce a written response that includes a reflection on the theme your video collection, another writing that describes and defends each video selection on the playlist and another writing that provides a response to each video.

Writing for Change:

  1. Is there something happening in your neighborhood that has you concerned or upset? Or conversely, are you excited about a change or upcoming event? Take the time to write to your local government to let them know! You can write directly to the mayor of your town, or perhaps to a councilperson. Be sure to be respectful and present your thoughts in a concise and professional manner, even if you are upset.
  2. Is there something happening in your state that you want to express your opinion about? Write to your governor or your local senator. You can find out who your representatives are by going to Ballotpedia. Type in your address and find out who represents you and write to them this summer!
  3. What social issue leaves you shaken to the core? Learn about it and write about it! Either create an ebook or blog that focuses on bringing awareness to the worthy cause. Update the blog with posts relay interviews with the main actors of the movement as well as new people you were able to recruit for the cause.
  4. Volunteer to be a Soldier’s Angel. This service is a group of people that work to ensure that military members are engaging in communication with citizens back home. This service is a 3 month commitment, in which you are required to write one letter a month. Besides the time commitment, it appears to be a free service.
  5. Everyone has heard of pen-pals but have you heard of having a penpal in…prison? Its a real service. is a platform where people can find a prisoner with whom they can exchange correspondence. You can search prisoners to choose from based on their goals and interests as well as review the crime they are convicted of before committing to a pen-pal.

Culminating Projects:

  1. Develop the entirety of your project into a blog, website or e-book.
  2. Develop a portfolio -digital or hard copy.
  3. Submit final written thoughts/article to local publications in an attempt to get published.
  4. Develop a slide show and post on a blog or website.
  5. Use a blogging app to create a digital magazine showcasing everything you read and learned over the summer.

Comment below – are you excited and motivated to produce a piece of writing this summer? What project will you choose? Do you have an idea that isn’t listed here?

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Filed under Language Arts, Summer Writing, Writing Tips

Better Your Writing: Step 4 – The First Draft

“Ain’t nothing to it but to do it.” – Ronnie Coleman

First Draft

With road map in hand, look through the notes you have in your journal about this topic and enter those thoughts in the box of your writing road map that makes sense. Now its time to let go. As you think more deeply on your chosen topic, let the words flow on to the paper or screen. In some ways this is the most liberating part of the writing process.

Really take a moment to explore the main point of each supporting paragraph. Write down every thought you have that relates to each main point. Feel free to look up information from credible sources and include that information into your rough draft.

You don’t need to worry about form, voice, sentence structure or any grammar in general. You only need to get your thoughts out of your head. Whether they are fully developed thoughts, half complete thoughts, just the beginning of an idea or just the end of an idea -this is the time to dignify your thought process by introducing it to the world.

The only real rule you want to adhere to is to put your thoughts in the correct boxes you created for your outline. Following this rule will save you time in the next revision phase. While this is the time to be free, be free in an organized way!

For example, if you are providing background information, or explore generally why you feel the way you do about something, most likely this information belongs in the introduction box. If you are providing evidence to support one of the claims you are basing a paragraph about, put that information in the correct paragraph block; If you are giving your final thoughts on the matter, be sure to write that information in the conclusion.

What to do if you can’t think of anything to write?

There are several techniques that people can use to get move past writers block.

First things first, be sure your environment is conducive to writing.. Make sure auditory distractions are kept to a minimum, though I do suggest soft study music if it doesn’t distract you. Be sure you are sitting comfortably at your desk or table, with the intention set in your mind that it is time to work. Have snacks and drinks available within arms reach to avoid having to leave the room to obtain nourishment. Try to make it impossible to distract yourself from the task at hand.

Before you read, take the time to read over the notes you have already taken about the topic at hand. See if any other thoughts, connections or strong feelings are evoked by reading over the material. If so, take note of it. These sentiments could lead to main topic sentences for your body paragraphs.

Another technique to employ to get through writers block , if reading your current notes isn’t helping, is to read. It seems counter intuitive, but many an author employs this technique. By filling your mind with new information, it gives you new concepts to wonder about, and connections to make, which ultimately translates into having more things to say.

If you don’t know what to say, perhaps you have questions about the topic? Write down all those questions – in the appropriate paragraph box in your outline- until you are done asking questions. Then look up the answers to those questions and write the answer – you guessed it- in the appropriate paragraph. It never hurts to let curiosity be your guide, when writing a paper at least.

Finally, you may want to keep yourself in the pre-writing session until you have something to work with. If you find you don’t have enough material, you will need to go back to your references, or find new ones, to make your point. It may be a vicious cycle. Due to this, it may make sense to schedule more than one pre-writing session until you have all the information that you want to include in your paper.

Still looking for ways to better your initial writing? Review my past posts on Journal Writing and Prewriting.

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Filed under Learning Guides, Writing, Writing Tips

Summer Reading Material – Honest History Magazine

This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase by clicking the links in this article, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you are still on the hunt for summer reading material for you child, Honest History is a great resource to consider.

This magazine is perfect for readers ages 6 -12 and each issue takes an in-depth look at the the topic depicted on the cover.

If your child is curious and enjoys reading about past events, Honest History magazine is perfect for them. The magazine was created for curious thinkers; it is designed for children whose imaginations are sparked by the the world around them and by what they read. If, when your child is done reading, they end up having more questions than answers – this magazine is for them. These magazines were designed to pique the reader’s interest and fuel their desire to learn more about the given topic.

Not only are the articles in depth, and written with the intention of keeping bias at bay, but it is impossible to not be engaged with the beautiful artwork present in each edition.

Not only do you have the ability to subscribe to the magazine to receive 4 issues over the course of the year, you can also purchase past issues.

Honest History Magazine has been kind enough to share a discount code of learningwleigh that you can enter at checkout to receive 10% off single issues.

Head on over to and explore the titles and content of some of the past issues, including: –

Honest History – Past Editions
  • A Portrait of India
  • An Era of Exploration
  • The Spirit of the Games
  • The Race to Space
  • The Story of an Empire
  • The War of the Currents (Edison vs. Tesla)
  • A Pirate’s Tale
  • The Swan King
  • Cookbook: History is Delicious

Each edition comes with well written articles and suggestions for DIY activities.

Whether you subscribe or just purchase one or two single past editions, your child will be well served from a language arts and history standpoint if they commit to reading these magazines over the summer.

Have you experienced “Honest History?”

Let me know your experience in the comments below.

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Filed under Favorite Reads, Language Arts, Reading, Summer Reading Reading Guides

2021 Summer Reading Club Descriptions

Read the descriptions of the clubs below and click on the links to register for the clubs.

Family Reading Club

Sundays at 1PM – July, August, September

Elementary- level books, articles and other reading material are read and afterwards either individual families, or families come together to speak to each other about the story and make connections. Literary activities are provided as an option for families who want to continue to explore the topic after the meeting has ended. Perfect for family members of all ages. Launching Week of July 1st, 2021

$20 per month,

$50 if you buy three months at a time.

Use Coupon Code: Place all three months in your cart and use: FamilyReadingClub2021

The entire household can participate for one price.

Elementary Summer Reading Club

2PM grades K-2; 3PM grades 3-5

Tuesdays and Thursdays

July – 6, 8, 12, 15, 13, 15, 20, 22, 27, 29

August – 3, 5, 10, 12, 17, 19, 24, 26, 31

Elementary level books are read out loud and then we work as a group on literary activities that help reinforce the story elements as well as reading comprehension strategies. If you miss the live read, a video will be posted of Leigh reading the book so that you can hear the story that way. By the end of the class, your student will have built a portfolio of summer reading work.

Launching the week of July 1st, 2021.

$50 for the entire summer, for each time slot.

Novel Study – Phantom Tollbooth

Wednesdays 2:00PM – 3:30PM

July 7, 14, 21, 28

August 4, 11

Grades 6-8

6 week course

Explore the world created by Norton Juster. In this story we follow the adventures of Milo, an apathetic boy who happens upon a toll booth that takes him to a different world. In this land language is figurative, so you better be sure to say what you need efficiently and correctly. Besides reading the story, we will learn about figurative language, note-taking, themes, and how to prepare your notes to write a paper.

$75 for the course

Transformation Book Club

Grades 9-12

Friday 2:00PM – 3:30PM

July 9, 16, 23, 30

August 6, 13

6 week course

This book explores the work of two NJ-based authors. The first, “Turning a Mess into a Message” by Edison Jaquez describes how the author found himself at rock bottom and how he worked to get back on top of his game. Each chapter focuses on a different area of life and provides tip on how to successfully navigate the situations we live through.

The second book is called, “I AM, I WILL” by Dr. Daniel Jean. This book is essentially a life plan to creating the life that you desire. Both books, and the activities within, can serve as a solid life plan.

$75 – includes the cost of books


Active Reading Strategies

Grades 4 – 7

3 Hour Class, 2 – 1.5 hour sessions

This class introduces readers to five reading strategies including visualization, predicting, connecting, questioning and monitoring understanding. We will also go over the KWL Chart.

Grammar Boot Camp

Grades 4 -7, 3 Hour Class, 2 – 1.5 hour sessions

This class will review parts of speech, punctuation, sentence structure and the paragraph. This is the perfect class to get students ready to identify and utilize grammar in the classroom or for any written assignment.

Writing Boot Camp

Grades 4 -7

3 Hour Class, 2 – 1.5 hour sessions

This class teaches the writing process, how to write the perfectly planned paragraph and essay. This class will help students to respond properly to open ended questions in class and on essay assignments.

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Filed under Reading, Summer Writing, Writing Tips

Why You Should Expand Your Vocabulary

expand your vocabulary

Do you find yourself utilizing the same word repeatedly? Do you have a hard time expressing yourself clearly? Have you ever wanted to find a more direct way to speak or convey your thoughts to others? All of these happenings and thoughts could be clues that you desire to expand your vocabulary.

But these aren’t the only reasons people should actively work towards refining and expanding their language ability. In fact, they only scratch the surface in terms of reasons for anyone to actively seek to improve their communication skills and expand their vocabulary. From advancing your communication skills, to connecting to people, to having a deeper understanding of the world around you, there are practical and beneficial reasons for actively expanding your vocabulary.

Words Are Our Tools

“Words are instruments, they are tools that, in their different ways, are as effective as any sharp edge or violate chemical. They are, like coins, items of great value, but they represent a currency that, well spent, returns ever greater riches.”

Tim Radford, Address Book: Our Place in the Scheme of Things

Words (after individual letters) are the basic tools humans have for conveying our messages to each other. The words that we choose to use and the way we string them together make all the difference between a message being clearly received by the recipient, or not. The idea that words can be used as social tools is explored in the linked psychology paper.

Think about a time that you had to have a difficult conversation with someone – perhaps with a boss or a loved one that you were upset with but didn’t want to hurt. When it was your turn to speak, did you angrily say whatever words came to mind recklessly? Or were you careful, pausing before speaking to ensure your message was delivered gently? Believe it or not, even if on a subconscious level, you understood in these situations that your words were powerful and had the ability to either make or break the situation.

Salespeople are a group of people that are acutely aware of the power of words. They are trained, or some instinctively know, to stay away from words that sow doubt in the minds of their buyers and will tend to use words that breed positivity or make a buyer feel good about what they are buying.

In each of these instances, the respective speakers are aware of how their words can affect the outcome of the situations in which they are participating. Whether it is completing a sale or having a heart to heart with a loved one, or conducting a professional conversation at work, the words used during these conversations are important, and most people understand this – even if it isn’t something they actively think about.

Expanding your vocabulary to be able to use the precise word needed in any given situation can greatly increase your chances have having the situation work in your favor.

“Language is the key to the heart of people.”
― Ahmed Deedat

When working to connect with people, the words that we use can help bring those connections closer.

Perhaps you have heard the idiom, “you are speaking my language.” There is so much truth to that phrase and there are instances where knowing the vocabulary of the person with whom you are speaking will undoubtedly help you to connect with that person and ultimately achieve whatever objective you are seeking.

Perhaps it is simply to make new friends, court a significant other, complete a sale, or successfully deliver a persuasive message to different people, speaking the language of the people with whom you are trying to connect can lead to better results.

One of the best ways to “speak the language” of your audience is to learn the basis of their language – their vocabulary. So if that person is into music, social justice, manages a company or had a different point of view than you, you need find the way they speak or think, and cater your message to that way of thinking. That task will include needing to understand their vocabulary and the concepts to which they subscribe. But of course, their concepts might be explained using specialized jargon – jargon that you would need to know in order to connect with your audience.

If you want to connect with different people, for any reason, expanding your vocabulary to knowing and understanding theirs is the first best step.

“So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.”
― N.H. Kleinbaum, Dead Poets Society

As the late, great Robin William’s character Mr. Kleinbaum so eloquently proclaimed in the above quote – using less advanced vocabulary is in some ways an act of laziness. Especially given the technological advances that have flourished since that inspirational film was released.

Finding the exact word needed to properly convey one’s thoughts is easier than ever now that the internet and Google have been invented. And when it comes to wording a message in the exact way needed to meet an objective, taking a few seconds, or minutes, to search the right word is the least that could be done to get the message right.

Sometimes, crafting a message, even in everyday discussion, can be a labor of love. Adequately preparing can reap rewards ten-fold.

Do your self a favor, take the advice of Mr. Kleinbaum, and use the appropriate advanced word to further your message. Take the time to expand your vocabulary and you can’t go wrong.

“A man with a scant vocabulary will almost certainly be a weak thinker. The richer and more copious one’s vocabulary and the greater one’s awareness of fine distinctions and subtle nuances of meaning, the more fertile and precise is likely to be one’s thinking. Knowledge of things and knowledge of the words for them grow together. If you do not know the words, you can hardly know the thing.”
― Henry Hazlitt, Thinking as a Science

It can be argued that the more words you know, the more minutely concepts could be understood which ultimately results in a more robust knowledge base. Just like words are the basic building blocks of communication between humans, they are also the basic building blocks of our knowledge and our thoughts. The higher level verbiage we use translates into a higher level thoughts and thought processes. These higher level thought processes can lead to an expanded understanding.

One example that illustrates this point is the way most science text books are set up. At the beginning of every chapter is a list of vocabulary words that will be utilized during the chapter study. Understanding the meaning of those words and the context in which they are used will help a student to understand the material better.

While it is true that everyone has different learning strategies, I am hoping that I presented enough evidence here to support the idea that expanding your vocabulary is a beneficial activity that can help enhance your life in many ways. From creating or deepening personal relationships to achieving goals and having a deeper understanding about the world around you, expanding your vocabulary is the best first step anyone can take to increase their knowledge.

Do you agree? Do you think it is beneficial to expand your vocabulary? Why or why not?

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Filed under Language Arts, Learning Guides, Vocabulary Words

How to Participate in a Book Club

So you joined a book club, now what?

Perhaps a friend or coworker suggested a book club for you, or there is a book that you have wanted to read for a while and coincidentally an organization is running a book club with your book of choice, so you signed up.

But now the pressure is on. What is the best way to participate and contribute to the book club?

First and foremost, unless you have signed up for a particular duty related to the book club, your main goal for the book club should be your own personal enrichment. It is okay to be selfish with this! You want to get the most out of this book club for yourself. If you do this well, you will find that oddly, it could help others in the group.

What Tools Do You Need

  1. Time – This seems obvious, but be sure to give yourself time to read the book, but also enough time to digest what you read. I will detail this further later in this blog.
  2. Physical notebook or digital notebook – you want to use this tool to gather your thoughts about the reading piece.
  3. The book- you don’t necessarily need to purchase it. You can borrow from the library or a friend.

Get the Most Out of It

“To read without thinking is like eating without digesting.” –Edmund Burke

  1. If your book club provides guide questions, by all means use them! You want to read the guide questions before each chapter. Then, while reading try to find the answers to those questions. Doing this could prepare you for the discussion when the book club meets.
  2. When you are reading, if there is something that really moves you, take a moment to write about it in your physical or digital notebook. Perhaps it is a line that makes you think deeply; or it resonates with something that happened in your own life. Either way, when what you are reading evokes a strong emotion in you, take the time to explore that emotion and write about it. You should notate the particular quote that had an effect on you, along with the page number. The write your thoughts. Some writing prompts for that activity are as follows:
    • This quote made me (angry, sad, happy, nostalgic, etc.) because……
    • This quote reminded me of a time when x happened to me……
    • This saying reminded me of my (friend, family member, loved one, etc.)
    • This quote reminded me of a scene in another book I read. Compare the two.
  3. Write down any questions you have. Maybe something that a character does makes no sense to you. Write a question about it. Maybe you question why the author made a particular choice? Write that question down and bring it to the discussion. You never know, someone else in the group may have the same questions.
  4. Summarize each chapter when its done. If you take no other notes, a great way to take organized notes is to simply summarize each chapter once complete. Doing so can help you navigate through the book quickly while discussing.

What if you Didn’t Read the Book?

Don’t panic. It’s okay – it happens sometimes. Still attend the meeting. If you are put on the spot, just be honest. But listen to what other people have to say about the book. Even though you didn’t read it, listening to other people’s insight can still help you have an understanding of the themes and lessons learned through the story or narrative. And perhaps it will motivate you to read the book. 🙂

I hope that this covers the basics of participating in a book club. If you have any questions or need some further advise, feel free to comment below.

Happy Reading!

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Filed under Language Arts, Reading

How to Overcome Reading Challenges

One of the biggest challenges I have heard people express about reading is being able to stay focused to complete the paragraph, page, chapter or – the entire book. Even if it is a book or article that covers a topic that readers have an interest in, they still can’t seem to find a way to stay focused.

If this describes your reading experience, don’t worry – you are not alone.

The good news is there are several strategies you can utilize to break through this reading setback.

  1. Set your reading environment. If reading is truly a challenge for you, take the extra step of making your reading time and environment conducive to your goal. Sit somewhere that is comfortable and quiet. Make sure the electronics are off or set on silent. Perhaps you could put some peaceful instrumental music on low volume for background noise, if you feel it won’t be a distraction for you. Have any beverages such as coffee, tea, water – or wine if you are of age, and your snack of choice within arms reach to limit any need to get up in the middle of your reading session.
  2. Set your reading intention– Before you start reading, close your eyes, breath deeply for a few breaths. Tell yourself, either in your mind or out loud, “I will read 10 pages today,” or whatever the goal is for the reading session. Say it at least three times. Open your eyes and get to work.
  3. Use your finger to guide your eyes. This may seem like a juvenile method, but it really works well. Sometimes our eyes are lazy. It is so easy for them to wonder to any little distraction that makes its way into your reading environment. By using your finger as your guide, you are forcing yourself to stay focused on each word as your finger passes it. If you are new to reading, do this exercise for short time. For example, perhaps just have the goal to do this with three sentences at a time. Then work your way up to a paragraph at a time. Then two paragraphs and so on until you feel comfortable with it.
  4. Use guide questions – Now that we have found a way to keep our eyes from wandering, we have to find a way to keep our mind focused. Guide questions are a great way to do that. Generally you want to read guide questions before you start reading. The goal is to find the answers to the guide questions while reading. In this way, you are giving your brain a job to do. Reading then becomes a way to find specific information, rather than an activity of deciphering what feels like random information.
  5. Creating questions– If guide questions are unavailable, create your own questions. This can be done by turning chapter heading and subheadings into questions. Then dedicate your reading time to finding answers those questions. Additionally, you can use the 5W questions (who, what, where, when and why) plus how, to create questions for yourself before you begin each and every reading segment. When you take this route, sometimes you will find the answer and sometimes you wont, but either way, it gives your mind a job to do while reading, which can make it easier to focus.

If you aren’t a fluent reader, getting into reading may take some intention and work. However, once you overcome those challenges, reading can be rewarding. Being able to learn on your own time is empowering as is using your brain to complete all the complex processes involved in learning new information through reading.

I do hope these tips work for you! Feel free to comment your experience below.

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Filed under Language Arts, Reading

What is Metacognition?

If you have ever declared you are a “hands- on learner,” or knew that you learn by reading, doing, writing, or discussing with someone, congratulations, you have taken part in metacognitive thinking! Essentially, metacognition is having an awareness of how you learn. It is when someone takes the time to think about how they think.

By taking the time to think about how you learn and then utilizing strategies that are most effective for your learning style, you are setting yourself up for a more successful learning experience than someone who doesn’t use metacognitive skills.

If you are looking to improve your metacognition skills, there are three areas that you can focus on: planning, monitoring, evaluating. (Teal, 2012) For the sake of this article, we will use the activity of researching a new topic as a guide for implementing these three steps.


Metacognitive planning means to identify the task at hand as well as the resources, tools or strategies needed to complete it. One technique is to ask questions to confirm understanding. For example, in order to identify the task at hand, ask yourself, “what exactly does my teacher, manager, coworker or teammate need from me?” Ask for confirmation if you aren’t certain you understand what is being asked. It seems like a simple step, but making sure you understand what is asked of you will save you from wasting time working on unnecessary tasks. Sometimes I employ this question before asking any other questions. Make sure you know your objective.

The next stage of planning is identify what process needs to be completed in order to accomplish the task or similarly what tools are needed to meet an objective. Sometimes this understanding may be immediate. For example, a student proficient at locating information in a textbook will use headings and subheadings to quickly identify information asked of them. Similarly, an HR admin may automatically know which programs to use to pull an employee time report without giving it too much thought. Other times, the process or tools needed to meet an objective are not so apparent.

If you are presented with a new situation and aren’t sure how to proceed, go down the checklist of questions below.

1. Confirm the intended outcome.

2. Identify the best processes and tools needed to accomplish the outcome.

3. If you are having trouble with step 2, solicit assistance from your classmates, coworkers, teacher or managers.

So, if you were tasked with writing a paper – and you never wrote a paper, nor do you know anything about the topic at hand, your first step would be to 1. write down all the questions you have about the topic and 2. write down all the resources you may want to consult in order to find answers to your questions. The list of resources you create may look something like this:

  1. Library -physical or digital
    1. section of library that’s relevant to your paper topic
  2. Websites – usually ones ending in .gov or .org
  3. Peer-Reviewed Journals
  4. Individuals to interview
  5. Associations dedicated the topic.


Monitoring can be challenging step in the metacognition process because one has to objectively record what takes place during the process of completing the task at hand.

As you work through your project, either keep a mental note or actually record the steps you take while completing the project, along with the results of each step. This can be done with journal-style entries or with a form specifically created to record data.

If you have ever participated in the scientific process, this step is exactly the same as recording the results. The only difference is you are the basis of the science project, which can make it difficult if this is the first time you are observing yourself.

It may be helpful to create a data recording sheet, that outlines objective questions and outcomes, prior to commencing the project. This will help keep assessments objective.

In the case of writing a paper, a way to monitor what is working in your research approach would be to record how useful each resource is in answering the questions you have about your topic. You could create an excel spreadsheet, word document or a learning journal that records the outcome of each resource used. The notes you take could be as detailed as you would like, however the more detailed the notes are, the better off you will be when you work on your next paper.


Finally, once your learning project is complete, it is time to review your notes and reflect on the process as a whole. You can evaluate by answering some basic questions, as outlined below, or reflect in a journal-style entry. After reviewing the results of this learning project, you may want to conclude with how you can improve your learning process next time.

1. Were you successful on the first try?

2. Did you understand the task at hand?

3. Did you choose the correct tools/ resources to accomplish your task?

4. Were you partially successful? In other words, if you were to do this project, would you keep some of the strategic steps you used, while changing others.

5. Did you have to change your method or strategy mid-project?

Specifically, as it relates to researching a topic, evaluating the notes taken in the previous step can help guide the next research project. For example, did any resources lead to a dead-end? Did one type of resource prove to be more useful than originally thought? Was interviewing someone more stressful than originally thought? Take the time to review how each resource helped or hindered your research process.

All in all, taking the time to think about how you think will save you time in the future and refine your thought process on future learning projects.

Being conscious about the way you learn is a skill that you will employ each and every time you tackle a new learning project. By consistently honing your skill of learning, you will become a better learner.

But don’t just take my word for it, there are plenty of books out there that explain the learning journey of individuals as well as the mechanics of how learning occurs. Sometimes, when we read how other people worked through their learning journey, it can inspire us to take up our own.

This awesome book teaches children about the pliability of their brain with the focus of maintaining a growth mindset. This book teaches readers what their brain is capable of and tips on how to learn. Hint – it involves asking yourself questions!

If you are ready for a book with a little more substance, with techniques that dive a little further than what the tips in this article provide, this is the book for you. In this book, Saundra Yancy McGuire delves into the tried and true techniques she has used as an educator over the past decade or so. She has an entire chapter dedicated to Metacognition.

If you prefer to read about someone else’s learning journey, “The Art of Learning” by Josh Waitzkin is an excellent read. Josh was known the world over as a chess wiz kid and his story was told in the movie, “Searching for Bobby Fischer.” In this book, he details specifically how he was able to learn about chess to become a national champion, and how he applied similar strategies to later study martial arts.

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Around the World Reading Club

On September 20, 2020, Learning w/ Leigh will be launching the Sunday Morning “Around the World” Reading Club.

Each week, this reading group will travel around the world by reading one children’s literature book that represents a specific country or region of the world.

In addition to gathering via zoom at 11:00 every Sunday morning, students and parents have the option to participate in suggested activities provided by Learning w/ Leigh upon registration to the class, or to sit back and enjoy the story and participate in the discussion.

The first two Sundays are free as a kick-off special.

Starting in October, the courses will be $5 per session or $15 per month per household.

The proposed schedule thus far is outlines below. Some or all of the links below are affiliate links:

September 20 – Believe in Your Dreams by Edison Jaquez

September 27- Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx by Jonah Winter

October 4- When Stars are Scattered Part 1 by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

October 11- When Stars are Scattered Part 2 by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

October 18- All About the Harvest!

October 25- It’s Halloween!

November 1- TBD

November 8- TBD

November 15- TBD

November 22-TBD

November 29- TBD

But this is only the beginning!

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Meet the Artivist

This weekend, I had the opportunity to speak with an artivist. He was captivating, passionate, knowledgeable, helpful and dedicated. During our 40 minute conversation he dropped so much knowledge on me, I felt I had taken a crash course on the modern civil rights movement that included historical and political facts sprinkled in for fun. He proudly announced that his home town of Paterson, NJ was a stop in the Underground Railroad and that it was the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Not only was I thankful to have learned from him, but I was motivated and inspired by the energy and dedication Jaquair Gillette puts into his words when discussing causes that mean the most to him. He has a way of communicating the heart of issues he is focused on that makes you understand their urgency and want to help.

The Issues that Matter to Jaquair Gillette

Where can I begin?  It is hard to narrow it down because Gillette is well versed in almost every social ill that is occurring in our modern society. From Walmart’s methods of double dipping from the government purse, to the gentrification of New Jersey, socialism for the rich, individualism for the non-rich, equal justice, economic inclusion and assassination politics, he is basically a walking encyclopedia of social justice knowledge.

Not only is he aware of the issues, but he can point you in the direction of an organization that works to fix the issues he is concerned about. He doesn’t just talk. In the past he has been involved in petitioning for various causes, donating to causes and participating in the marches and rallies from New York to, Washington D.C and Los Angeles. He stays involved in the issues through both his art and the work he does his community. 

Through our conversation, Gillette discussed organizations that are involved with equal justice and economic inclusion.

Equal Justice organizations:

Economic Inclusion organizations/activities:

One of the ways that Gillette advocate for these causes is through an organization he founded with two friends called, “The R.E.B.E.L. Experience.”

What is The R.E.B.E.L. Experience?

As described on their Facebook page,”The R.E.B.E.L. Experience as being created to produce creative content that not only entertains, but inspires, culturally and morally educates, and elevates the beauty and truth of the human experience and its possibilities through film, television, theatre, new media, art and music.”  R.E.B.E.L. is an acronym for Reach Everyone by Expressing Life. And they live up to their name.

One look through their Facebook profile and YouTube page, it is clear they like to keep their finger on the pulse of conscious art of the local, grassroots variety. They advocate for the arts, perform at venues in the city and in New Jersey, showcase different types of art such as graffiti and the spoken word and so much more.

The organization was founded in 2012 with three founders Jaquair Gillette,  Akiba Rhodes and Sean English. The three founders are surrounded by a family of individuals who make up the crew – operating the cameras, sound and lighting equipment. Since its foundation they have worked to produce enlightening content that uplifts local individuals and projects a message of hope and guidance for those wishing to get involved in the various causes that are showcased in R.E.B.E.L.’s films.

They have a talk series called “The Soapbox” that delves into social issues and concepts that relate to artists defining who they are and the importance of their craft, individual spoken word pieces advocating positive life choices, local art shows and activities of local artists. In many ways the organization’s YouTube page is like looking through a window into the world of elevated, conscious, uplifting artistry.

“3rd & 4th Chapters”

R.E.B.E.L.’s  latest work “3rd & 4th Chapters”  was inspired by the plan to obtain civil rights and full immersion into American society for black Americans as outlined by the late Corretta Scott King. Chapters 1 and 2 of the plan have already been accomplished. Chapter 1 is ending slavery and Chapter 2 is ending the Jim Crow laws of the South. Chapter 3 – Equal Justice and Chapter 4 – Economic Inclusion are still outstanding.

The short film follows a character who grew up in a rough area, but was able to achieve success. He works hard to bring positive change to his old neighborhood, yet faces unforeseen obstacles from unlikely places. Ultimately, life changing choices must be made by unsuspecting people that will either help or hinder the cause. The film will have you guessing until the end what will happen.

“3rd and 4th Chapters” is a powerful reminder that even though so much time has passed since Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 were outlined by Mrs. King, fulfilling those chapters have not and will not be a straight line from point A to point B.  There will be obstacles, some from outside a community and some inside the community. However, change is inevitable as long as people stay dedicated to the cause.

Gillette’s hope when making this film is to bring awareness to the challenges that face people who have the desire to bring positive change to under-served communities; the goal is also to motivate people to get involved with helping to fulfill the remaining chapters as outlined by Mrs. King. There is so much work to be done and every little bit helps.

What is next for The R.E.B.E.L. Experience?

With their latest project only having dropped less than two weeks ago, the group has several projects already in the works.

Several projects are in the works. One, a short film entitled 21 Eagles, which is a piece that coincides as one of several prequel pieces to a later feature heist film entitled Jersey Auto. The feature will film showcase the cultural institutions and characteristics that make the state unique while addressing and economic issue that effects small businesses and consumers alike. 21 Eagles is inspired by true events and the effects of gentrification of the state. The film will touch upon the “Home Rule” in New Jersey that has allowed for the creation of a staggering number of municipalities that all require state resources to keep afloat.

What is Jaquair Gillette up to Next?

Jaquair will continuously be working to create and connect with people who create things that matter. He has a spoken word performance coming up at the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe on April 18, 2020. He also will be acting in a short 5 episode web series titled, “The American Jungle.” A great way to keep up with him is to follow his Facebook page.

And last but not least, he would like to give a shout out to the Sophisticated Sisters of Omega Phi Chi!

Thank you, Ja. We appreciate it. 😉

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