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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in summer learning

Posted by on in General

(Image Source: YIES.com)

Ok, I know it's the end of the year and all you can think about is sleeping in, maybe getting your feet in the sand, and finally having a little time to relax and eat a meal without having to complete it in under 10 minutes as you grade stacks of papers or help a student in your classroom. As teachers this is one of the best feelings in the world. We hear that last bell ring and suddenly enter into a month or two of bliss and being able reset, refocus, and relax.

But before you get too comfortable, I want to make sure you don't accidentally go and waste your summer break. So here are 5 ways you can be sure to waste your summer break.


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Posted by on in Professional Development

people woman coffee meeting

Once the school year starts, there's hardly a moment to breathe. The pace of school life, particularly at the early-childhood and elementary levels, is marked by significant time-on-task with large numbers of children and tremendous responsibility for coaching, leading, and responding to students', families', and system-wide needs, expectations, questions, and requirements.

Summer gives you the time to strategize for the year ahead, and as you strategize, it's good to think about the new and existing initiatives, opportunities, and expectations that exist. In the best of circumstances, I think it serves educators well to stay ahead of these new efforts and endeavors so that you don't have to back track, do it over, or repeat work. Plus, to plan with the future in mind means that you're ready for this new work.

To break down this strategizing, I recommend the following actions:

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

My daughter finished Kindergarten last week. My goal has been to keep her summer as unstructured as possible. I want her to have downtime after her first year of elementary school. I want her to have the mental space to develop and nurture her own interests. I want her to have fun. Which is not to say that she won't be learning. She's six years old. She is a little sponge, soaking up opportunities for learning every day. Here are the things that I plan to do that I think will support my daughter's learning process without taking away her autonomy or joy of learning:

KnuffleBunnyFree1. Keep piles of picture books on the kitchen table and by her bed. Rotate these every couple of days to give her choice. Keep the simple reading log that we've been using on the kitchen table, so that we can jot down books as we read them. Read to her while she eats breakfast, before bed, and during whatever other times she requests it throughout the day. Visit the library as needed to keep the piles of books fresh. We are still mostly reading these books to her, but whenever she decides that she wants to read a picture book or early reader aloud, we're happy to listen and help out.

2. Keep a Grade 1 workbook on the kitchen table or the playroom desk, in case she wants to use it. She especially likes the Scholastic workbooks that I get from Costco. She has already asked me to get the Grade 2 workbook, for when she finishes. I am not requiring her to do the workbook at any time, and certainly not to finish it. But I find that if it is her own idea, and she has some downtime, she's happy to use the workbook to practice her writing and math. Last night she was practicing sentences while my husband and I were finishing dinner. I loved workbooks as a kid, and seeing her industrious work does make me smile.

3. Keep her afternoons as open as possible (vs. having structured activities). My daughter ended up deciding at the last minute to sign up for swim team. There is practice every morning, though she is only required to go three times a week. These practices do get her outside exercising and spending time with her friends. They've been staying to play together at the pool for longer than the 45 minute practice time, so I figure this is a reasonable compromise. She also has two 50-minute karate classes a week, but as previously discussed, the karate classes bring her great joy. She's also going to do one week of "spy camp" because I couldn't resist. But otherwise, her schedule during the week is clear.

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Posted by on in School Culture

When Harold and the Purple Crayon was published in 1955, kids everywhere (including me and my brothers) sat too long on our fannies watching TV. Maybe author Crockett Johnson had a few TV addicted kids of his own, so he wrote a story about a little boy who creates a big adventure with just an oversized crayon and his imagination. The book's still in print because parents are still hoping to inspire their kids to unplug and be creative. sigh.

Summer should give kids a break from prescribed learning and a golden pass to let their imaginations get the better of them. Typically, though, when school let's out, students on vacation often settle into a predictable diet of screen time all the time. As an app developer I know there are loads of creative apps for kids, but often the most creative playtime involves no tech. Ask Harold and his 21st century real-life counterpart... Caine Monroy.

A few summers ago Caine (then age 9) went to work each day with his dad who owns a used auto parts shop in East Los Angeles. There wasn't much for Caine to do, but there were plenty of cardboard boxes. So Caine decided to use his imagination and his hands to create his own fun. And boy, what he made was amazing! The response he got  from everyone who saw it even more incredible!

So grab your kids and together watch Caine's Arcade (10 min) and Caine's Arcade 2: From a Movie to a Movement (8 min). Be prepared to be blown away with delight as one little boy shows children and adults that we already have what it takes to make our own fun and to get others to play along.  Learn about the Global Cardboard Challenge.  Then talk about how your family can make this your most creative summer ever. Got any empty boxes lying around?


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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies


The summer slide is not the latest dance fad among teens, but a term teachers use to describe how students tend to lose information during the summer months. Students are out of the classroom and “free” from the constraints of learning, yet if the goal of education of education is creating life-long learners, summer is not a time to mentally check out. If anything, it’s a time to let  minds run free and focus on areas of interest; something that does not happen during the school year very often.

While parents may be conjuring up pictures of kids sitting at the kitchen table working through SAT practice books or reading Crime and Punishment, I propose a different approach to summer work which I like to call free-range learning. The emphasis here is to let students control what and how they want to learn over the summer and have a more relaxed approach to learning. My own three kids were never the type to grab a book and disappear into their room for hours on end, so I had to come up with way to “trick” them into keeping their minds engaged during the summer. Here are a few suggestions:

Travel or explore your city. Going new places and experiencing new things keeps minds active and fresh. Science shows that exposure to new places is good for your brain, so provide some of these experiences for students over the summer. Attend a local festival, try different ethnic restaurants, spend an afternoon in a new neighborhood, or visit a historical site.

Take up a new hobby. Interested in music? Art? Hiking? Summer is the perfect time to learn how to play the guitar or piano or go to art camp. If you can’t afford lessons, try some online learning forums to see if the hobby is something your child would like to pursue.

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