Summer slide—when the development of young minds slides backwards as a result of months of inactivity—is a real problem. The summer should be a time for your students to unwind, have fun, and relax, but it doesn’t mean their minds should take a vacation, too. According to Reading is Fundamental, at the beginning of each school year, “it’s common for teachers to spend at least a month re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer.” So, how can you preserve all the progress your students have made this school year?
We have gathered some of our favorite ideas to keep your students’ skills in check this summer in all subjects.
Reading & Writing
Research shows how important it is to keep students reading over the summer, but the same old book club or reading list can get boring. Overhaul traditional summer reading assignments with these cool contests and activities:
Contests & Challenges
1) Barnes and Noble has a summer reading program that gives children a book of their choice once they’ve read eight books and completed a reading log.
2) Scholastic has a summer reading challenge that includes online resources for students, teachers, and parents.
3) If your students are pizza lovers (and, who isn’t?), check out the Pizza Hut Book It! Summer Reading Challenge, which includes tips for parents and downloadable resources for teachers and kids.
Pen Pals Near or Far
Connect your students to new people and places around the world with Students of the World, an international digital pen pal service. Or, ask your students to put down their iPads and pick up their pencils by going old school! Students can write letters or post cards to friends or family members. When the school year begins, have your students present to the class what they learned from their emails and letters or have them make a wall display with their postcards.
Your students probably don’t realize it, but they use their math skills every day, even when they aren’t in school. Have your students take part in some of these activities to help hone their skills:
Encourage your students to help their families with grocery shopping. Students can make lists, check supermarket flyers for sales, clip coupons, and even estimate how much they will spend. Older students can track grocery spending in a journal for certain commodities like milk and eggs and make comparisons each week. When they get back to school, you can do an activity where you chart the changing prices over the summer and have students reflect on why they think the prices varied, which is a great link to economics!
Have students complete a daily math journal in which they record, in just a paragraph or two, all the times they used math in a day. Provide a sample entry for students to use as a reference. Have them reflect on what made the activity math-related or how they solved a problem by using math.
Online Games and Activities
There are a number of great free online math games for students at a variety of grade levels, including: Cool Math 4 Kids, Math Playground, and PBS Kids. Scholastic also has a list of 15 Minute Math Games and Math Apps that you can send home with your students to do with their parents.
Tap into students’ curiosities and love for science with these activities:
Take Home Experiments
Download and select age-appropriate science experiments from Science Bob or check out 40 Cool Science Experiments from Scholastic. Many of these experiments use products or items readily available at home. Include a science experiment template or log and ask students to perform at least three experiments over the summer.
Encourage recycling and imagination by having students make inventions or toys out of recycled materials in their homes. There is only one rule: the invention must be made using entirely recycled materials! Hold a Recycled Inventors’ Fair when the students return to school to let them showcase their creations. Presenting the inventions is also a great way to break the ice with parents on Back to School Night.
Encourage your students to read about local history this summer and if possible, explore historic sites. The local library may be able to suggest some locales in your area. Here are some other suggestions:
Even if your students aren’t taking real vacations, have them spend the summer researching a virtual vacation destination. For North American virtual vacations, they can use Discovery Education or for remote places like the Galapagos Islands, they can use PBS. Allow them to choose the place and then provide a simple handout with guidelines for researching their destination, such as: Why did they choose this area? What do people do there for fun? Etc.
Have students make maps of their community or one of their favorite places. Ask them to identify landmarks or artifacts and note why they are important or significant. Hang the maps on the wall when students return to school.
Regardless of which activities you try, remember that the key to success with any summer program is to engage families at home. Without buy-in from home, any summer enrichment program or activity may fall flat.