With the dog days of summer setting in, and school starting up soon for some districts across the country, it is time to get our students back into learning gear.
Learning over the summer doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, learning over break is some of the most fun children can have between grades. The best part about summer break learning is that it does not have to be boring. Below I will outline some simple, easy ideas for summer learning for children in grades pre-k and primary grades.
Since they are broad and simple ideas I want to make sure you don’t get hung up on “what’s the learning objective” teacher mode. These ideas work because kids don’t necessarily realize they are working on standards. Adults are talking to them and asking them to work on things that are age appropriate and that they have experience with. Even students that might not have mastered an objective during the year get another opportunity to practice and that’s a win, win in my book!
Sometimes as educators and parents we want to engulf our students in learning in every aspect of their life. And yes, this is amazing! But sometimes we have to go back to basics and work on simple objectives, one at a time. The “Talk to Me, Read to Me, Write with me” plan was invented by a very smart teacher who understood that talking, reading, and writing were the hooks to education for young learners. Thank you! And it really is that simple.
Talk to Me:
This is a no brainer because we talk every day but making sure that our conversations are purposeful is the key. When talking to children make sure that you are role modeling what a good conversation looks like. Listen to them, make eye contact, ask lots of questions (who, what, when, where, why, how), and make sure that it’s a topic that they are interested in.
Have children practice multiple exchanges per conversation and make them responsible for engaging in the conversation. As adults, don’t you just hate it when you are speaking with someone that is always “right” and never let you get in a word? Yea, they didn’t practice multiple conversation exchanges as children.
Talking to children in different settings can also help them develop language. Think about how adults use language (and words) when having a political discussion and how that differs from discussions about cooking, relaxing, walking a dog, etc. This helps students form various verbal and nonverbal communication skills as well as stronger language that pertains to daily life.
Making sure children answer questions in complete sentences is also important. The new CCSS for the primary grades have speaking and listening standards.
Finally, when in doubt apply the good old ‘Yes, and…’ improv technique. This will help children learn how to be reactive in conversation and really makes them focus on the listening before responding.
“Kulhan introduces the two key tools of improv, which are captured by the two-word phrase “Yes, and.” Kulhan says “Yes” means accepting a certain idea or situation at face value. The “and” part involves taking that idea and building onto it, whether that involves taking the idea apart or approaching it from a different angle. Kulhan says this approach creates both openness (“Yes”) and a bridge to your thoughts (“and”) that will foster creativity and fearlessness, eventually leading to innovation.”
Read with Me:
Read with me is such a simple way of helping children learn over the summer. Just think about everything kids are doing; practicing directionality, reading the pictures and the words, asking questions about the setting, the characters, making connections to life, etc. So much learning in a fun activity!
Older children who read over the summer practice reading skills but also analytical skills. Think about your high school and college courses. Authors always mean more than what the words say. Practicing deep reading and analytical skills from a young age will undoubtedly help our kiddos become deep readers (and hopefully the smart kids in lit class).
Write with Me:
I always tell my students’ parents that children should be writing everyday. This is true for all grades and the easiest way to get kids to write everyday is by giving them a journal. Younger kids can write/draw about something they did that day. Older kids can write about what’s going on in their life.
Think about the last thing you just did before sitting on the computer. Was there math involved? I bet there was! There is math in almost everything we do as adults and the same is for kids.
Count me in is as easy as it sounds. Young students should be counting daily. Everything we do is to a meter and we can count it out. I was a dancer when I was younger and everything I do is to a “…. 5, 6, 7, 8…” If I am trying to find a pattern in something I always count. Steps I’m taking, drips from the coffee machine, students, etc. Kids are the same especially young learners- when they get the confidence after learning to count to 10, 20, 100 they practice this on their own. And this is where adults come in; if you notice your kids counting anything count with them.
If they are really good at counting and cardinality ask them questions like, “what if we put two more cups of water in the pitcher?” It’s open ended enough where kids can answer with, “there would be more water… the pitcher will be much fuller… the pitcher will overflow…” but it also very specific where kids can answer with, “we will have 4 cups total…” It gives learners the opportunity to think about math in a different way.
While these answers don’t necessarily make children give concrete number answers (except for a question about totals) it does make kids think about addition and subtraction without having to use those scary words. If you have older children ask those addition, subtraction, which is greater than/less than questions and ask them HOW they got that answer. This will give them the practice to talk through their problem solving processes. If kids make a mistake then by talking through their process they are more likely to see where they went wrong with the mathematical process.
With all of these suggestions consistency is the key. Students who practice these skills daily, even for a few minutes per skill, will be much more ready for school in September. Remember that kids learn at school but it’s our responsibility as care takers to make sure that they see connections in real life. The connections they see between books and real life make schooling very purposeful in their eyes.