Sliding into summer: Activities to ignite your child's learning once school's out
For many parents, myself included, this school year has been a blur of synchronous, asynchronous, in person, hybrid, and just about every other learning model possible.
For children, they’ve learned to navigate Google Meet, the Internet, computer cameras, and more - and that’s JUST the students working virtually! For those students attending in person classes, many for the first time in at least 6 months (for my daughter and her classmates, an entire YEAR!), they’re readjusting to being around more than two or three people at a time, needing to be at attention for more than a few moments at a time, lugging around Chromebooks in backpacks bigger than they are - about as far from normal as one can possibly get.
If you happen to glance at a calendar, you might feel twinges of panic start to creep up as you think to yourself, “How am I going to make sure they don’t fall (even more) behind once summer starts?”
It’s easy to feel like the virtual summer slide is going to hit your child like a pile of books as we close out a very unusual school year - but it doesn’t have to be that way.
We can set our children up for classroom success come August in many fun, easy, and inexpensive ways - in a manner that will work for everyone, not just teacher moms like myself.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to keep learning alive during the summer months:
Make real-life connections to classroom content - My first grade daughter has begun learning about money, so I’ve loved the opportunity to break out coins from her piggy bank to provide useful practice on how to pay for things we need, or may just really want - and even more importantly, so she recognizes that money has value and isn’t represented ONLY by a debit card swiped frequently at Target or Starbucks.
We go over the coin names, their money value, and practice counting them - an especially useful tip for students needing to reinforce counting by 5s and 10s and a great way for more advanced students to see that there’s more than one way to represent a value of 10 cents (i.e. one dime, two nickels, or a nickel and five pennies).
I have also enjoyed - and she has, too - making up scenarios to talk about how we spend our money. Activities like this benefit younger AND older students, as you also have the opportunity to discuss budgets, why they are important, and how to set one up.
Get outside - One of my daughter and I’s favorite things to do during the school-free, beautiful summer months is enjoy the outdoors; from hikes at state parks to lazy afternoons at the beach, there are many opportunities to extend learning.
When we’re stomping all around our local parks, we talk about the types of trees and leaves we see for mini science lessons, how many minutes we’ve walked or what time we started a hike to when we finished (I can’t believe it, either, that she’s had to learn elapsed time at 6!) to sneak some math in, and the importance of the parks to our community to tie in a bit of social studies. At the beach, we count and sort shells and talk about the different types of beach grass we notice.
Appeal to their interests - In this house, my daughter is all about mermaids, unicorns, and magical fairies. She’ll read chapter books to me featuring any/all of the aforementioned favorites, write stories, and draw detailed illustrations.
One of our favorite places to visit is the aquarium, and we’re lucky, because in North Carolina, there are many to choose from! A few years ago, she even experienced the joy of seeing a ‘real life’ Weeki Wachee mermaid as we wandered the aquarium, talking about the different types of sea life and, because she was only 4, I fielded many questions like this: “How does she breathe underwater, Mama?”
She’s also recently seen the Halloween classic “Hocus Pocus” for the first time, and I’m excited to bring history to life for her when we visit Salem in my home state of Massachusetts later this summer; while she may be a bit too young yet for the more specific details of the Salem Witch Trials, there will be plenty more for her to experience, both there and in nearby Plymouth - and she already knows a lot about the Pilgrims. I’m excited to share my childhood joy of seeing Plymouth Rock and visiting Plymouth Plantation.
Experiences like this are wonderful for children of all ages, bringing that added depth to oftentimes boring history subjects, so if you live near science museums, planetariums, outdoor botanical gardens, and history museums, add them to your summer bucket list, particularly on those hot, humid (or rainy) days. Imagine how this could help an older student when asked to create a project on the solar system or the Civil War - the possibilities are endless.
The best part of these experiences, however, is that we’re enjoying them together. After such a long, crazy year, each allows much-needed opportunities for unplugged fun, with a lot of hidden asynchronous learning mixed in.
Don’t worry - your kids will be so excited exploring with you, they won’t suspect anything but the creation of wonderful family memories!
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Written by Melissa Shaver: Melissa is a passionate educator and lifelong learner. In her time as a journalist, she reported on issues in education. Her desire to help students through their struggles led her to leave journalism and pursue a teaching certification in 2007. Melissa has taught grades K-3 and has worked as a reading interventionist. Melissa is full of love and encouragement when working with students and loves celebrating their successes.