How to Accelerate Learning Over the Summer Break
As an educator, I have a firm belief that home can be an extension of the classroom. In one of the first schools that I ever taught at, we struggled to find ways to get parents to become active partners in their children's education. It's not that they were not willing, it was just that they were not educators and had limited access to simple, practical strategies they could use at home to help deepen student knowledge in all content areas.
It was also a fact that myself and the other teachers in that same building did not have the time, and most days the energy, to explain to parents or guardians what to do and craft activities to make the home an extension of the classroom.
It wasn't until I was a curriculum specialist, in a large school district, and then had the responsibility of planning the instruction and curriculum for multiple summer school sessions that I struck, what I perceived to be, school-to-home connection gold!
I decided to take a step back and recount all the simplest, practical, and effective strategies that I used in the classroom and make them accessible for parents but also allowed students to take control of their own learning in the process.
What you will read from this point forward is the evolution of how a true home-to-school connection can be made…quickly!
Tips for At-Home Learning
First, we must be honest with ourselves. As wonderful as parents and guardians are, most of them did not go to school to be an educator. If they are an educator and are also teaching summer programs, the last thing they may want to tackle is more instruction with their own children at the end of their day. I have a three-year-old son now, and sometimes I just want to take a breath when I return home before bringing the books out to read with him.
The Big Four
The Big Four is a simple learning practice that can happen anywhere. In most schools, it is innately taught to students of all ages. In the classroom, we teach students to predict, question, clarify, and summarize all the time when we are reading with them.
To bring the Big Four into the living room or kitchen table is a really simple process, parents or guardians just need a template.
Primary grade students should be given accessible texts and then simply skim each text and anticipate the topic. Move beyond the front cover and title and predict the topic of each section or chapter. Look at the pictures and make connections with familiar words.
Intermediate students should skim the text, anticipate the topic also but in addition, think about the author's purpose for writing and think about how the text is organized. We are really talking about story and informational text structure at this point.
Now, it’s time to predict.
Ask students to discuss a bit about what they saw in the pages.
Ask them what words or phrases were repeated in the text.
What words were tricky or difficult?
And finally, what is your prediction about what this text is going to be about?
The protocol for having students generate questions at home can easily be sent via an email, handout, or even sticky note before the summer break.
Before students read a text, have them write down three questions about the subject matter or story. They have already skimmed for predictions; the questioning process began during that time.
After reading, ask them what are two answers to your questions? Most of the time, not all questions generated by students are answered. We don't want to add frustration if the answer is not in the pages which is why I like sticking to two.
Finally, a very simple yet thought-provoking question…what is one thing that fascinated you?
When asking students to clarify at home, we simply need them to access markers or pencils of different colors and find the responses to three everyday questions…what, when, and why.
Whether its fiction or nonfiction they are reading, students can always locate in a text or section what happened, when did it happen, and most importantly, why did it happen.
The answers to these questions also allow the students to craft a very succinct summary of what they read rather than talking about everything that they remember from the text.
If you can't tell by now, I like to make student objectives quantitative, and we can ask the same of summer learning at home.
The Two Dollar Summary is an easy activity for parents or guardians to facilitate at home and it incorporates mathematics into the equation. For this activity, we have students pretend that they have two dollars and are on a word budget. Each word is worth five cents that they will use in their summary. They can not go over budget just as we try to stay within budget in our lives. Here is an example below of a student summary after reading a text about Little League baseball.
Practice to Accelerate Learning
During the summer months, practicing what takes place in the school setting is also necessary. We also want to make sure that we make it simple and practical for parents or guardians.
In this example from a second-grade practice book titled Kid's Learn! we only asked the students to engage in three areas of comprehension common in everyday instruction…quote the text, find the main idea, and word study skills.
We all know how important it is for students to maintain school practices during the summer and this was an easy way to make this happen and very cost-effective.
The last idea that I want to leave you with is how we can involve parents. To this point, we have already involved them in preventing the summer slide at home, but we can also give them some insight into what their student needs to be prepared to learn in the grade they will enter after the summer break.
Have each grade level in your school come up with a Top Ten List of specific areas of curriculum that their child will need a basic understanding of to kick start a new school year.
Here is an example of a third-grade list.
As you will notice, this is not asking the parents to teach these concepts to their children directly but instead making sure they have a basic understanding. This can easily be incorporated into daily tasks in the home.
I invite you to join me for my On-Demand Webinar on How to Accelerate Learning Over the Summer Break. I will give you a more in-depth look into how to successfully plan to build the home-to-school connection and give you some professional insight into valuable resources. I hope to see you soon!
Watch the on-demand webinar at your own pace.
For more strategies and tips on intervention, check out our other blog articles.