What if We Rethought Summer Learning

Screen Shot 2017-06-10 at 6.56.00 AMMost schools, mine included, put together a lot of effort to prevent summer slide. We offer summer school, we send home books, we create reading  lists, we put practice packets together, we send postcards to every single student. We can only hope that our students stay engaged with literacy and math. But we know many won’t and we know there are a variety of reasons that impact this. We often see it as a failure when scores go down after ten weeks of “nothing”. Many families do not have the ability to continue on an academic atmosphere that would support the activities we offer, and others simply need a break from traditional learning models…they need a vacation from “doing school”.

I think if we focus our efforts too much on the verbal-linguistic or the logical-mathematic “intelligences” and evaluate learning only through those lenses, we are missing out on helping our students develop greater potential in summer learning. I know there is an ongoing debate regarding multiple intelligences, but there should be no debate in valuing children as whole human beings and not just readers, writers, and mathematicians. What if we plant the seed in these children that summer is a time to grow as a human and not just a student. What would that look like?

We could remind them that summer is a time to explore their passions and interests and encourage them to take advantage of that time.

Love music? Listen to it- a lot! Be purposeful and aware of what the artist is doing or saying that draws you to their music. Make connections between artists and songs. Look at the lyrics without the music-does it change what you think about the work? Could you imagine those lyrics with a different tune? Try listening to some new styles of music-give it a chance and if you don’t enjoy it, try to analyze why? Explore your relationship to music.

Love to be active? Summer is a time to break away from that desk and chair and move your body. Explore new activities: yoga, running, skipping rope, bike riding, dancing, karate, swimming.  Take walks in different places and observe your surroundings. Tune into your body during and after physical activity. What do you notice? How do you feel? Can you increase your stamina or skill in an activity this summer? Our children need to develop life long habits for healthy physical activity-summer is a great time to experiment, learn, and build those habits.

Love to be social? It’s often hard in school to be as social as you’d like-we often need quiet times and focused conversation. Summer is a great time to develop those interpersonal skills. Take time to notice how you interact with others. Are you a good listener? Do you ask others questions or do you just offer your own thoughts/comments? Do you engage differently with older and younger people? How do your conversations vary depending on situation and people?  Tuning in to how you interact with people is a valuable skill that everyone could use more practice with.

Love nature?  Summer offers us so many opportunities to get outside and observe the natural world. Jane Goodall started her career simply observing. Encouraging students to carefully and patiently notice the nature in their own back yards can build an appreciation for our environment, develop focused attention spans, spark curiosity and scientific wonder, and offer them solace from the busyness of the world. When kids can appreciate the life of caterpillars and ants, they can begin to see the world doesn’t necessarily revolve around us (humans) and can encourage greater empathy for the struggles all living creatures face.

Love art? Summer is the gift of time for artists.  Encourage children to explore various mediums and approaches to expressing their ideas through art. Take risks with creating your art without being graded or judged.  Break the “rules” and don’t follow directions-play with materials and see what emerges. Art is therapy. Art is self-expression. Art is a way of seeing. Art is a way of being. If a child explored art all summer and never picked up a book, I would define that as successful learning (and my entire life is focused on the love of literacy!)

So yes, our students may SLIDE over the summer in some aspects of learning, but they may also SOAR if we encourage them to explore their interests, find their passions, and take charge of their own learning. We don’t have to abandon our efforts to prevent summer slide, but we would do ourselves and our students a service by expanding our definition of learning and look for ways to set our students on the path to life-long learning beyond the classroom walls and curriculums.


What’s On My Book Radar?

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The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner

Wow, Kate has done it again…created a beautiful story that reflects the real-life challenges so many of our students are facing, and she does it without preachy moralistic overtones-just simple empathy and compassion. Kirby “Zig” Zigonski lives with his mother who is working and going to nursing school-he hasn’t seen his father in years. Each planned visit is cancelled and Zig begins to think his dad is leaving him clues as to why through geocaching. With the help of his friend Gianna (The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z) and a GPS they follow the “clues” but find more than they anticipated. With the rise of homelessness for many of our students, I think this is another powerful “windows and mirrors” book to add to our classroom collections.  I was lucky to get an advanced copy- this book will hit the shelves October 3rd. You’ll definitely want to pre-order this one!


1 thought on “What if We Rethought Summer Learning

  1. Yes, yes, yes to THIS! I suggested to my reading friends to grab a book if you are bored because you never know what creativity that will lead too! You’ve shared even more that I wish I would have suggested! Thanks for sharing!

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