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While the weather hardly feels warm here in Milwaukee, June has arrived and summer is upon us. Whether the end of your school year is approaching or your school year has already come to a close, it’s never too late to think about summer engagement - both for students and educators!
The Summer Slide, the Summer Slump, whatever you want to call it. You work so hard with your students for 10 months only to take a two month break where they may not pick up a book or a pencil. And, the lack of summer academic enrichment shows big time when your students return for the next school year. In fact, research shows that young people experience significant learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities over summer break.
Our language minority students often have the additional experience of spending the summer immersed in their home language. While this experience is valuable on it’s own, it also means that many students will be coming back to school in the Fall with “rusty” English skills. As if our ELLs need one more challenge to start the school year! So, what can we do to extend academic and language learning into the summer?
Set realistic goals. In all likelihood, your struggling students won’t be able to maintain all of the academic gains they made during the school year while they are home without a dedicated teacher keeping them on track daily. Try reaching out to the parents of these students and recommend your district’s summer school or enrichment program. A more realistic goal may be for students to at least practice some reading, writing, arithmetic, and critical thinking skills. Even just 15 minutes every day is better than nothing at all.
Make summer learning fun. Don’t send home a packet of texts with literature and comprehension questions. Would you want to do that during your time off? One of my favorite end-of-the-year gifts and activities for my third graders was a deck of cards and an afternoon of game playing. There are plenty of card games that involve math, problem-solving, and social skills.
Keep them engaged. You won’t be there to check in with students like you will be during the school year, but you can still encourage them to interact during their summer learning endeavor. Create or continue your classroom blog or other social media venue. You should also keep in mind that not all students have internet access or the ability to acquire a library card based on their age and/or parents’ documentation. Some students may be engaged by writing a letter to you or their peers. If that’s the case, either donate or collect money for a few stamps and envelopes.
Challenge them. Give your students a summer checklist or scavenger hunt, like this one, that’s both fun and engaging! Offer a prize such as a new backpack or lunch with the teacher to students that bring the completed activity back to you next year. Consider setting up a friendly competition between students to up the ante.
Honor home language and culture. Remember to keep any text you send home simple so it can be accessible to parents and families that do not read in English. Also be cautious of any cultural differences or background knowledge needed with the activities you suggest. Keep socio-economic factors in mind as well and don’t “require” anything that has a cost or is far from their home.
Summer for teachers may be busy with a second job, family time, higher education or some much needed down-time. I know I’ve had a few summers so jam-packed with graduate courses, curriculum planning, and classroom projects that I barely felt like I had time off. While it would be ideal if teachers didn’t need to spend their unpaid time working, the reality is that our profession often requires some dedication in the off months. In order to avoid burnout, try these tips to balance your work and personal time so you can start the school year both rested and prepared:
Set realistic goals and prioritize. One year I decided to revamp my entire math curriculum and as a result I spent all of July and August in my classroom. I was completely burned out and didn’t accomplish anything else on my list. Don’t make the same mistake and be realistic by segmenting your work into smaller chunks so you feel successful.
Schedule your work time. Whether it’s daily or weekly, write in a little time to work on that to-do list so you don’t find yourself overwhelmed in August.
Stay connected. Periodically check out Pinterest, Twitter, or your favorite blogs (like ours!) to stay on top of the latest ELL news. You may learn about a webinar or free summer seminar that could benefit you professionally. Don’t forget to check your work email occasionally - you don’t want to miss an important announcement or requirement.
Take time for yourself. Educators are very dedicated, but summer requires some rejuvenation. Spend time with your family, friends and yourself away from work. The final days of summer will be here before you know it and you need to start the year refreshed and ready for those new faces.
Instead of summer slide, think summer break “bridge.” At the end of the day, if you can help keep your kids--and yourself-- engaged over the summer, you’ll be able to capitalize on the hard work from this year and build momentum into the next school year.
What other ideas or best practices do you have for summer engagement? How do you plan to prolong learning?
View the discussion thread.