Ahh, the summer. Hot days, hot nights, hopefully a dip in a pool or some water. Summer is a time to relax and enjoy a little more free time. I certainly hope you are all doing just that!
However, being the teacher that I am, my mind is also still partially on school. When we get our kiddos ready to embark on what we hope to be an amazing summer, we also have the nagging phrase, “summer slide” echoing in the back of our mind. Summer slide is what happens when kids step away from academics. When they aren’t reading, writing, and doing math every day, it is natural that they will forget just a little bit of what they learned from the previous school year. A certain amount of sliding is ok and to be expected. However, some students are at risk for a greater slide, one that puts them very far behind when they come back to school in the fall. I’ve seen plenty of evidence of this, especially in students who have learning disabilities, students who might not have someone to read with them at home, and other students are typically considered as “at risk” students.
To offset this slide, teachers and schools sometimes send home “homework” that students can work on throughout the summer. Often times this includes reading a few books, doing a book report, practicing some math facts, etc. In fact, it seems that some schools go overboard and kids are sent home with heavy backpacks and high expectations of what they are supposed to accomplish. Spend just a few minutes on Twitter and you will find threads from librarians, teachers, authors, parents, and more lamenting the expectations of summer work. Some even say, for example, giving summer reading assignments turns kids off from reading and therefore does more harm than good.
So what is a teacher/parent/kid to do? How do we address summer slide and also foster a love of learning in kids – when what they really want to do is unwind from another school year? Perhaps your child’s school didn’t give work but you want to avoid the summer slide. Maybe you are a teacher who wants new ideas for what you can assign next year. Here are some suggestions for summer work that will avoid the slide, and help kids soar.
Create a Graphic Novel
Graphic novels, similar to comics but with important differences, are a big hit among kids in the 3rd to 5th grade age group. It has been a long road for the graphic novel, often being dismissed by adults as a genre not to be taken seriously. The literary tides are turning. Recently, the American Library Association approved a roundtable for the graphic novel which could open doors to future award categories, sections in the library – basically it was a call to take the graphic novel as an important work of literature. Of course, kids already knew this. So capitalize on that momentum! Instead of suggesting that your child/student write a book report, tell them to try their hand at creating their own graphic novel. It could be the old cliche of “Tell us about your summer,” or they can choose whatever they want to create in a graphic novel!
I have said it before and I will say it again. Reading aloud to kids will never, never, never be over. In fact, one of my favorite memories as an adult is when a group of friends and I went on a weekend trip and read aloud to each other. Just because your child is reading on their own, doesn’t mean you can’t read with each other. Give them some buy-in by letting them pick the book. Don’t worry if it is a book you have already read – rereading has important benefits for literacy development as well!
Travel and Learn
Traveling is a fantastic learning experience and often doesn’t need the added bonus of a project. Many children do not have an opportunity to get out over the summer. However, if you have the privilege to do so and are curious about adding something else, here are some suggestions. If you are traveling on a long road trip, or lugging kids every day to a summer camp, listen to an audio book in the car. Again, let your kids pick the books! Last summer my niece and nephews and I listened to a book that they had read, and seen the movie, but listening to it read aloud in the car was a whole new experience! Flying to an amazing new place? Create a scavenger hunt for things you can find while there. Keep it simple, 10 items maybe, and let it last for the entire vacation. Many places even have their own literary ties. It might be fun to look up the location before to see what connections you can find.
Visit Your Library
Local libraries are amazing resources for the summer. Often they have programs that are engaging for kids of all ages. Of course you can also visit to check out books! This free resource is one of our nation’s greatest assets – use it! Librarians are more than willing to help as well. Typically they get summer reading lists from the area schools and can help you navigate any summer homework.
Hopefully these ideas will spark a summer soar, instead of the slide!