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Using Summer Vacation for Good: Pushing Student Growth Over the Long Break

By Caitrin Blake May 24, 2016
Fun Summer Learning Ideas

Students often view summer as a time to relax, have fun and forget everything they learned the previous school year. This, of course, is bound to happen to some degree. A break in education often results in students forgetting some information, requiring a few weeks of review for teachers during the beginning of the next school year.

Backslide insurance: Summer learning activities to give parents and students

However, teachers can give students and parents materials or suggested activities that help reduce this backslide, or, even more ideally, promote academic gains over the summer vacation. While students might cringe at the idea of doing worksheets and revolt if summer learning seems too much like being in school, there are a number of fun activities that can help push their understanding of academic concepts forward over the break.

Math skills: Create a summer fun budget

Summer is a great time for students to use their math skills outside the classroom walls. There are a number of easy lessons teachers can use to help students apply mathematical concepts in the real world. For example:

  • Present students with a hypothetical entertainment budget for the upcoming break
  • As a class, brainstorm and list fun summer activities that range from free (go to the park) to expensive (go to Disney), along with their estimated costs
  • Have students make individual lists that prioritize their favorite activities, trips or events
  • Students can then experiment with fitting the activities they want to do into their budget

This lesson enables an understanding of how to create a budget and get more for their money by adding free and low-cost activities to their summer to-do lists.

It’s also a good idea to encourage students to use some screen time to play math- or numbers-oriented video games that allow them to keep math skills sharp.

Summer science camp

Interacting with scientific concepts can be fun for students at home, in the garden or on family “field trips.” During the summer break, parents can join their kids in the kitchen to safely experiment with different “chemicals,” such as vinegar and baking soda, to create reactions and learn about how different properties react to one another.

Getting kids involved with the planting, tending and harvesting in their community or backyard gardens teaches them about the plant life cycle. Students who garden gain knowledge of plant anatomy, how they grow, and the care they require to produce flowers, fruit or food.

Family field trips to see natural wonders or take hikes can be fun and educational. For instance, on a nature walk, parents can help children identify trees, plants and flowers and name geological features. Getting students outside has the added benefit of avoiding a summer spent in front of the TV or computer screen.

Language arts: Find summer reading joy at the library

Through trips to the local library, K-12 students can participate in library summer reading programs. These programs promote reading for pleasure using suggested reading lists, prizes for a certain number of books read and age-appropriate story times.

Students can also use their summers to pursue in-depth knowledge of specific interests. For instance, if a student loves cars or trucks, he or she can use the library to find stories, non-fiction histories and biographies, or even graphic novels about them. If a student is passionate about a subject, he or she may feel comfortable reading above their grade level in order to learn all they can.

In addition to reading for the pure joy of it, students can use summer to refine their writing skills through fun activities. These might include writing letters to friends or family members they don’t often see describing their vacation or a fun daily activity, or imagining different endings or sequels to books they read or movies they saw.

Easy learning activities help students avoid the summer slide

While summer should still be a time to enjoy being away from school, it’s important for students to avoid the backslide that results from not practicing the skills they’ve learned all year. With math, science and language arts activities like these, students can experience summer learning as fun.

Caitrin Blake has a BA in English and Sociology from the University of Vermont and a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Colorado Denver. She teaches composition at Arapahoe Community College.

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