Tuesday, May 20, 2014

One Activity to Help Your Student During the Summer

A frequent question that teachers get asked near the end of the year is what parents can do to help their child academically over the summer hiatus.

Thinking back to the days when I was in school, I looked forward in earnest to the summer holiday as a time to get together with friends, go to summer camp, and be free of the rigors and scheduling of the school year.  

With that being said, I take a less is more approach to summer learning activities for students.  While there is certainly something to be gained from participating in enrichment activities during the summer months, I feel strongly that there is more to be lost by overemphasizing learning during this time.

During the school year, students are scheduled from dawn to dusk, both in and out of school.  While in school, their time is maximized for learning - as it should be.  After school, many students have plenty of homework to complete, along with other scheduled responsibilities such as sports, Boy/Girl Scouts, etc.   

Thus, when it comes to the summer months, kids need to have time to be kids.  Getting dirty, building magnificent creations, and swimming in the pool/lake are the kinds of activities that they should spend the majority of their time participating in.  Allowing time for their natural curiosity to be their guide is more beneficial to kids than devoting hours on rote learning and meaningless tasks.

So, getting back to the original question, let me share the single recommendation that I make to parents interested in helping their students stave off the summer slide.

Have your child read. Have them read books of their choosing, covering a range of genres, and please do not make them complete book reports after they finish each book.  If you want to have your children complete a follow-up activity to each book that they complete, then engage in a conversation with them about the book.  Ask them to tell you about the story, their favorite characters, the best part of the book, the worst part of the book, and so on.  Participating in a quick conversation about a book they just read will keep the child thinking about what they're reading, and help address any lingering questions they may have. 

Another idea as a follow-up activity would be to have them write a brief response to the book.  I wouldn't recommend having them do this after every book, or they may begin to dread the end of the story!  Participating in this type of activity will keep the writing skills of the child sharp.

Public libraries are always having some type of summer book club for kids, typically nothing fancy, but enough to motivate kids to keep reading.  My local public library has a program where the kids set a goal for the number of books they will read, and if they reach their goal by the end of the summer, they can pick out a new book to take home.  My two children have participated in it the last few summers and have really enjoyed themselves.

So that's it, my only recommendation for how to help your child during the summer. 

What do you think?  Are there other activities that you suggest to parents?

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