Summer school requires specific strategies to work with children who had trouble during the regular school year
For Administrators

Teaching Summer School Can Broaden Your Skills and Build Students’ Confidence

By Brian Gatens June 9, 2014

Though summer school is an unfortunate reality for some of our students, it presents many opportunities for teachers to widen their skill set in a unique learning environment.

Unlike the standard school year, summer learning sessions — and the students who participate — require different approaches to learning. The stereotype is that summer school is a shortened session where struggling students submit to a longer school year as a form of punishment. It does not have to be that way. Learning can and will happen if it is approached with the proper attitude.

Take a different angle

Summer school requires specific strategies to work with children who had trouble during the regular school yearStudents don’t end up in summer school by accident. It’s the result of a yearlong struggle with subject matter and an inability to meet classroom responsibilities. Rather than attempting to teach the material the same way (which failed), take a broader view on learning and approach the topic from a different angle.

As the old expression goes, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” Keep it sane by brainstorming and researching different ways to present the subject matter and the related assessments.

See the big picture

High-performing teachers believe that it’s always the child first and the subject matter second. Given that academic failure drove the students into summer school, this is even more important. While you want to deliver the content, keep in mind that the children in your class have to manage the emotional impact of failure (and the related and more devastating emotion of shame) and the embarrassment of missing out on summertime freedom and relaxation.

Don’t hesitate to reinforce to the students that you don’t care what brought them to you, but that you care about what they leave with. A caring teacher may be the only solace that a summer school child has.

Focus on the essential

Summer school’s compressed time frame forces the teacher to pull out the most important information in a course of study and present it to the class as efficiently as possible. Time is one luxury that does not exist. Based on this, be sure to thoroughly review your class curriculum for the most relevant information and to pay close attention to topics the children will need to know for next year’s classes.

Go with graphics and handouts

Many teachers rely on student note-taking as a primary delivery vehicle for information. This is far too laborious during a summer school session. It’s far more efficient to condense vital information into a series of handouts, infographics or summary sheets. Students will appreciate the consideration you show, and you’ll save precious class minutes by not passing along information bit-by-bit.

Rethink your assessments

A child who failed a class probably struggled with traditional formal tests and quizzes. While a summer school class should contain at least some examples of typical assessments, it’s important for the students to be assessed through a variety of means. Problem-based learning, group work, Google Apps and high levels of collaboration are all strong strategies for working with summer school students.

The “traditional” way of school, for whatever reason, has failed them (as much as they failed it), and they will appreciate approaching learning from a different angle.

Plan to confound expectations

Students in your summer school class most likely have not had great experiences in our schools. They probably expect more of the same during summer classes, but you do not have to confirm those expectations. By focusing on what they can do — and having them do it in interesting and new ways — and showing that an adult believes in them, you can show them a different path and help them enter the new school year with a stronger belief in what they can accomplish in the classroom.

Previously: Can We Overcome the Stigma of Summer School?

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