The jump from Primary school to Secondary school is a big one - emotionally, socially, mentally and even physically. Students are now expected to be on their way to being matured students and independent learners. I encourage that too. Knowledge of current events, domestic and international should be a given. Students should read the newspaper everyday, news on the net, Time, Newsweek magazines. They should be aware of popular political figures and the history and culture behind countries. A few things that I do with my students that parents themselves can assign their teenagers to do during the school holidays are as follows.
1) Read the newspaper. Select an article that they find interesting. Summarise the article and read the summary back to their parents. All main points of the summarised article should be included. Later, you can ask your child to summarise with two main themes in mind. E.g. Feelings of the writer and sequence of events.
2) Select a political figure e.g. Aung San Suu Kyi. Ask your child to research on who she is and then write about her. Later you can develop an argumentative essay by asking your child to write the pros and cons of having the right to vote for a leader. (whether it is a leader for the class or a country is up to you).
3) Comprehension passages are now chosen from books that belly the literature in school. Whip out those books like Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, Things Fall Apart and To Kill a Mockingbird and ask them to read these books for pleasure, not because it is required of them. Then discuss with them themes found in those books. Or better still, get them to summarise the main points of certain chapters that they like in the book.
4) Freewriting or writing without stopping. Give your child 15 minutes to write whatever he or she wants to write about - sports, school, friends. Do NOT focus on spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes. The point of the exercise is to let your child express himself and write his ideas freely. This exercise is an excellent way for older students to come up with ideas that they can later on use in their composition writing. You can give your child a title E.g. A Recent Trip or A Familiar Place and set 20-30 minutes for them to write freely.
5) Editing. This component requires a lot of practice. Books about Editing can be found in book stores like Popular. Students must train their eyes to spot mistakes and this can only be done with practice.