Summertime is a time of fun marked by family vacations and summer adventures. Summertime can also be a time of learning and growth. Whether your child is trying a new activity, calculating tax and tip when you are dining out, reading a new book, or learning to cook a family dinner, your child is learning!
When I was growing up, my dad and I would choose a character on our first day of vacation – someone or something we saw during our first day that we both agreed was interesting. Items such as a three-legged dog, a one-eyed taxi driver, and an exquisitely dressed couple walking along a dirt road in the middle of nowhere became our writing prompts. We’d share our writing pieces at dinner on the second night. If one was deemed noteworthy, the “winner” got to pick a special activity for the next day. Those experiences certainly helped me become a better writer.
As a father, I’ve found that these real-life learning opportunities are easy to incorporate into our summer adventures. Often times after breakfast, before it gets too hot, we’ll go outside and use chalk to draw on the patio. The things we see in the backyard – birds, trees, clouds, and bugs – become our models. Drawing is an important tool for any emerging writer. My three-year-old Max loves signing his name to each of his drawings and we every now-and-then I’ll show him how to spell out whatever he is drawing… B-E-E.
As a recovering middle school math teacher, I love finding ways to incorporate math into our summertime. Max is a great helper when we make pancakes and we have found many ways to use math while we cook. Just recently, we started counting pistachio and pistachio shells. Along with using the pistachios for basic counting, addition, and subtraction, we guessed how many shells could fit into various objects such as a plastic cup. After we each guessed, we’d count together to see who was closer. While he hasn’t got it down yet, he is learning the important skill of approximation. As pistachio lovers, this is a great activity and it works well with grapes, almonds, and a whole variety of healthy summer snacks.
Along with these methods of summertime learning, HIS offers several resources to support our student’s summer learning in core academic areas. Research shows that many students benefit from ongoing exposure in reading, writing, and math to minimize, or even reverse, summer melt – the process of basic concepts and skills melting away over the summer if they are not used. The Writing Practice Program (WPP) is one of the web-based learning programs that is used throughout the school year and is available to our students during the summer. The WPP provides immediate evaluation of a writing sample based on the six-trait writing rubric. Students also have access to tutorials designed to improve voice, support, sentence fluency, word choice, and conventions.
These web-based programs allow us to identify individual areas of strength and weakness, and target specific activities to fill the holes or extend the learning. Student data is tracked and used in conjunction with in-class learning activities to provide meaningful, personalized attention for every student. Our teachers have found this combination of classroom and digital resources to be valuable tools for meeting the individual needs of our students.
Of course, there are millions of apps and software-based programs designed to extend learning well into the summer. With every magazine, blog, and news program offering their own list of best apps for learning, navigating these resources can be challenging. Common Sense Media is a terrific resource for families and their Summer Learning Guide is a great place to look for digital tools to get the most out of your summer learning adventure.