For many students, “those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” result in a loss of academic skills. As a classroom teacher, it’s frustrating to spend the first month of the school year reviewing the reading skills and math concepts that students lost over the summer. However, to maintain learning momentum in the summer months, parents can modify everyday fun activities to shore up academic skills and help their children be ready for the classroom in the fall
An overarching summer project could be the introduction of some type of journal. This written record of summer can take any form your child chooses: a bullet journal, a doodle journal, a simple diary, or something of their own creation. Whichever medium you choose, journaling will serve many purposes: recording memories of your summer fun, teaching how to be organized, and honing writing skills. You can even model writing habits alongside your child by creating your own journal.
Start the journal by asking your child to describe what activities he or she would enjoy this summer, and then find a way to integrate some of their suggestions with your own ideas for summer activities. You might be surprised by what you can come up with together.
Cooking together is a fun activity any time of the year, but summer especially lends itself to simple, refreshing recipes. Check Pinterest for a steady supply of fun summer treats. Following recipes allows you and your child to practice measurement, reading, and direction-following skills. Double a recipe or cut it in half it so your child can practice applying mathematical concepts to a real-life situation. For older children, baking recipes can be very specific and offer opportunities to practice different measurement systems; for example, classic croissants will have your child weighing in grams and measuring in centimeters. As you cook and learn together, remember to record your successes (and funny failures) in your journal.
Getting outside is a must in summer months. Let your child lead nature walks, create collections (anything from bugs to rocks), or search for shapes in the clouds — and use your journals to doodle what you observe. Scavenger hunts and treasure maps are educational to make and complete. Take turns playing both roles! To create clues, your child will practice writing, spelling, and problem solving. As the treasure seeker, he or she can practice reading, learn new vocabulary, and again, problem solve. When you write the clues, make them educational by incorporating math problems, logic puzzles, or a short riddle. You can use your journals to draw maps, write out clues, or simply write about the fun.
Make chores a game by setting a timer and turning on some music to get everyone moving. Doing chores at home can translate to being a responsible student in the classroom in the fall. Students who help at home already understand the importance of putting materials away, keeping their belongings organized, and being a contributing member of a larger group. These skills will help them transition into the role of kind, helpful classmate.
Science experiments can be a fun way to incorporate reading and science into your child’s summer. For easy ideas, check out Scholastic, ScienceBob, or RedTricycle. A great science experiment to last all summer is a garden. Even if you don’t have room for a large plot, a few plants in pots can yield tasty results for your family. Some easy options are lettuce, tomatoes, or cucumbers. Ask your child to use the scientific method to predict what will happen when you change a variable affecting the plants; then create a control group and test your theories. Measure everything -- water intake, height, rate of growth, hours of daylight — and use your journals to record your measurements and the exciting outcomes.
Follow your child’s passion by exploring volunteer options in your community. Service can be educational and teach your child that giving feels good. If your child likes animals, walking dogs at a local shelter would be a fun pastime. Your child could also deliver a basket of homegrown goodies from your garden to an elderly neighbor, or volunteer to do yard work for someone who could use the help. If you live nearby a community center, university, or nonprofit organization, find out if they offer any summer opportunities for children in your community. Ask your child to journal about the new friends they make, lessons they learn, or possible careers they might consider based on their encounters.
Don’t fall into the trap of a “lazy” summer; these months can be filled with fun activities that enrich and enlighten. Your children will learn without realizing it -- and with the help of a journal, both you and your child will remember the fun for years to come!
Cossondra George has been a middle-school teacher for over 23 years, teaching a variety of subjects to energetic, enthusiastic, and unpredictable adolescents. She currently teaches in Tahquamenon Area Schools in Newberry, Mich. Cossondra is a member of the CTQ Collaboratory and served on the leadership team for the Teacher Leadership Institute as a virtual community organizer. She is also a teacher consultant for the Top of the Mitt National Writing Project.
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