Summertime is a crucial period of rest for students, but as educators we know minds should stay active to retain the year’s learning and ensure brains “stay in shape” till back to school season. So how do we balance giving our students time to recharge, while keeping them academically engaged?
The key is to provide students with assignments that give them complete control of their pursuits.
Traditionally students have been bombarded with summer reading lists, math packets, and history readings to prepare them for their upcoming school year — but really, what we want our students to be doing over the summer is relaxing while retaining skillsandnot necessarily learning new content for next year.
It’s easy for teachers using Kiddom to support student learning through meaningful, student-centered activities all summer long. Need some ideas to kick-start the summer? Check out the following activities that can be used in any content area this summer.
Students do a lot over the summer, whether it’s going away on vacation, endlessly playing video games, reading books independently, or hanging out nonstop with friends and family.
By assigning prompts to students weekly, monthly, or at their own leisure, journal assignments can help students document and reflect on their activities throughout the summer. Here are some sample prompts you can assign on a recurring basis using Kiddom:
Identify and explain something you learned today.
If your students were playing video games for eight hours everyday all summer, they learned a lot of new things. Video games use problem solving and inquiry to complete challenges, beat “bosses,” and win the game.
Ask your students to explain how they overcame challenges in their game and you’ll be surprised at how much of what you taught them or how much you will be teaching them, is used while playing video games!
2. How did you use something you learned last school year today?
3. How do you think what you did today might fit into what we are learning next year in class? Write a brief explanation.
This one works really well if you’re preparing them for a new course/subject.
Choose a Book
Keeping students engaged reading books is tough during the off-season. But there is a way to keep them interested and excited.
Instead of assigning them a book for the summer, why not let them choose a book on their own? There is no limit to what they can read: graphic novels, short stories, poetry, or a piece of literature. Have your students choose a book on their own and write a journal reflection about it. You can give them specific prompts, but leaving it up to them to reflect on their thoughts and challenges will help them remember why they love to read and also help them to reflect on their own perceptions and interpretations of the work they chose.
Assign simple journaling prompts at weekly or monthly intervals. Set them up in advance using Kiddom Planner.
Use Kiddom to set up check in dates throughout the summer for students to post their reflections. Students can submit as many times as they want, for as many books as they want.
If you want to go the extra mile, send comments to students throughout the summer — this is a great way to keep in touch with your students as they transition to the next school year. It’s also an effective way to get to know students you may have next year.
“Hack Your Summer Vacation” Project
Yes, “hacking your summer” sounds weird, but bear with us. This involves inquiry and problem solving. Have your students predict problems they might run into over the summer break. Then, encourage them to think about ways they might solve those problems. Perhaps they can even invent something that solves it! Students can submit their work to you throughout the summer to get feedback and encouragement from you.
Bonus: You could join in the fun and create your own invention and submit it back to your students for their viewing pleasure!
Here’s how to create your “Hack Your Summer” project in Kiddom:
1. Set up an assignment for each step of the scientific process or design process. Students can submit their progress to these assignments as they move along in the project.
You’ll notice the assignments in Timeline at left, and additional resources for this project stored in my Planner at right.
2. Set up a general assignment for students where they can submit their inventions to you throughout the summer.
3. Create a playlist of resources for students who might be struggling with ideas for a summer hack or invention.
At the end of the summer, you can share your class with their future teachers to showcase their work. It’s as easy as that!
Independent Research Topic
High school students are often the hardest to get engaged in meaningful summer work, so why not give them an option to investigate a topic that interests them in your content area?
We can use summer assignments to get them excited about the classes they’re set up to take in the upcoming school year. By setting up an open-ended research assignment in Kiddom, students can submit their thoughts, perspectives, articles, and analysis throughout the summer. This is a great way to keep students honing their critical thinking and inquiry skills all summer long. Even better: not only are students working on skill sets that will be necessary for next year, but you’ll gain a wealth of knowledge about your students and their interests throughout the summer! So if you’re spending some time planning curriculum for your new set of students over the summer using your Planner, you’ll also get to learn more about your students and their interests!
You got this
Keeping students engaged during the summer months is tough and rightfully so. We all need a break. But that doesn’t mean completely shutting off all summer is good either. Just as we make our own choices about how we learn in the summer, let’s let our students do the same.
If you’re done with standardized testing, your students are on the final stretch. This is a unique opportunity to go the extra mile and close the year with a bang. So instead of limping to the end of the year, use Kiddom to make every second count.
Share individualized resources
You strategically prioritized what to teach throughout the school year, and the end of the year should be no different. Instead of trying to keep up with your scope and sequence, consider taking a step back and reflecting on the progress you’ve already made. Determine what’s most important for your students to learn on an individual basis, given your time constraints.
Luckily, your reports in Kiddom can help you do just that.
To get started sharing personalized work, use the drop-down menu in your Kiddom reports to cycle between individual students. Review the progress they’ve made on the skills you’ve covered, then use Kiddom’s library of teaching resources to quickly find and assign intervention resources.
Add a message of encouragement to the individual resources you share — your students will appreciate the personal touch.
Send good vibes
You’ve spent an entire school year building relationships with your students, which means you probably have a lot more influence over them now than you ever did before. Unfortunately, you might never get another chance to advise or inspire your students again. So take advantage of every opportunity you have now to positively impact their work and their lives.
The simplest way to do this would be to start with the assignments you’ve already graded. Do this through your Kiddom timeline and find an assignment for which you’ve entered scores without adding comments. You don’t have to have the assignment in-hand. Simply find the submissions with very high scores and add a personal note.
Then, be sure to go through a few more assignments spread the positivity to as many students as possible.
A little positive enforcement can go a long way this time of year. Use it!
Spread the word
It might be tempting to simply keep your head down, submit your final grades, and walk out. But why stop now?
This time of year presents a golden opportunity to help parents and guardians understand why their child struggled in your class. Print PDF reports of students struggling in your class and offer suggestions, in writing, for things they can practice while school is out to prepare for next year.
It doesn’t matter if you can’t hold them accountable to act on it once they’ve moved on from your classroom. What matters is equipping them with knowledge to act in the best interest of their child.
Let’s not forget about the students who excelled in your class. This is your last chance to help parents and guardians of students who excelled in your class to understand why they excelled. Consider providing extension playlists for your top-tier students to access and engage with over the summer.
You’re almost there
Let’s be honest, you might be so overwhelmed with work right now that you’re at risk of losing sight of how important times of transition are for your students. You spent a lot of time at the beginning of the year setting norms, establishing routines, and building procedures. Consider spending just as much time bringing your classroom community to a thoughtful close. That’s the kind of stuff that sticks.
Sara went to Syracuse University to get her undergraduate degree in secondary science education. While teaching, she realized how many students with disabilities were flying under the radar and not receiving the air that they needed from teachers. She decided to attend Southern Connecticut State University to get her Master's in special education with a concentration in assistive technology.
At least three times a week I hear one of my students say “I can’t do this, I’m autistic.”
This is really frustrating, not because I just want them to do what I’m asking (though, that would be nice), but because I hate that they think that their diagnosis is so limiting. They are stunted by thinking only about a worst case scenario, instead of all of the possibilities that exist for them. I have tried many strategies to reframe their perspective. We’ve implemented growth mindset vocabulary into every class, shown them work from the start of the year and now to reflect on improvement, and more. It works for some students for a little bit, but they quickly go back to the “I’m autistic” mindset.
There was one day where multiple students in each of my classes blamed their autism on everything they did (or didn’t do). At my wits end, I turned to social-emotional learning curriculum from Kiddom’s library of teaching resources.
I was searching for something about how to effectively teach students how to cope with things with which they struggle. I came across a TedEd lesson, “The world needs all kinds of minds,” without noticing the author. This sounded perfect, but I was nervous how my students would react to some random person, who was probably neurotypical, telling them that their differences were beneficial in the world. I clicked on it anyway, and Temple Grandinstarted speaking.
As soon as the video started, I knew we had to watch it. My hope was that if parents, teachers and others couldn’t get through to them, maybe someone with the same diagnosis would have better luck. I was right. I have rarely seen my students so engaged. They stayed off of their cell phones, asked questions, and laughed at every joke Grandin made. After the video, we had a discussion about the ideas brought forth in the video and used the questions from the lesson we found on Kiddom. They were then to write about how Temple Grandin made them feel.
It was incredible. Their responses included:
“It was awesome seeing someone like me up on stage”
“If you think you’re gonna succeed you will succeed”
“Made me feel like I could do anything”
Seeing these kinds of comments coming from students who normally struggle to feel empowered was incredible.
It’s nice to see education technology companies like Kiddom integrate social emotional learning resources into their library of free resources. And it’s great to be able to access resources like this directly from the tool I already use to monitor class progress.
P.S. Want to dive right in? Click here to access a demo class!
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Dan lives and teaches in Los Angeles. Over his nine years in the classroom, he has taught 4th through 8th grade, and in his free time he probably watches more cartoons than most of his students. He also enjoys poetry, critical race theory, and Kendrick Lamar.
Have you ever seen ninety 13-year-olds spend 17 minutes together in silence? It doesn’t happen often, but it happened today.
We walked out.
We didn’t go far — just to the sidewalk outside our campus — but it was enough for teachers to cry, students to inspire themselves, and one counter-protester to show up.
A group of 8th graders did the bulk of the planning, making a presentation, putting up flyers around campus, and brainstorming how we would spend our 17 minutes. Ultimately, they decided to spend it creating. We ordered a bunch of sidewalk chalk, and for 17 beautiful and heartbreaking minutes approximately 450 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders covered the area around our campuses with their hope, love, anger, sadness, and determination. I have never been simultaneously more proud and sad as a teacher.
These kids, they didn’t question why this is an issue. They know it in their bones. They know it because they’ve never known an America where school shootings weren’t regular parts of life, where active shooter drills weren’t always routine practice. They think increasing security is a bad idea and arming teachers a terrible one. They also often speak about how nothing can be done about it, that “this is just the way things are”, that no one is going to listen to kids anyway.
Which is why today mattered so much.
Afterwards, while we were processing, one student said, “I felt powerful and encouraged. Like working together we could make a stop to it.” Another said, “It feels relieving. We learned all about this and got to form our own opinions. If we feel mad or passionate, it feels relieving to let it out and do something about it.” The general consensus, more simply, seemed to be That felt good.
During those 17 mostly-silent minutes, some kids talked to each other, and some kids laughed and made jokes. Of course they did. How else do you cope with the magnitude of what you’re up against? How else do you say enoughwhile simultaneously wondering if our school could be next? How else do you even focus on learning every day?
Or maybe I’m projecting now. How else do I cope with the magnitude of what I’m up against? How else do I say enough while simultaneously wondering if our school could be next? How else do I focus on teaching every day?
Maybe that’s why I cried.
I cried twice, actually. Once, in the classroom, looking at their faces as they prepared to walk out. Christ, they were determined. There was no doubt, no confusion, no nervous smiles. Only determination and pride. As they settled into themselves, the feeling in the room changed. They became, for a moment, transcendent. And so, charged with purpose, we walked out.
The second time I cried, it was through sheer awe. Everywhere I looked, kids were brainstorming ideas or helping one another color in hearts or writing down Bernie Sanders quotes or covering every available surface with #enough. Everywhere I looked, I saw love.
Then a neighbor across the street showed up with his “Don’t Tread On Me” flag and ruined the mood.
I was having my emotional moment when a couple boys came up and asked me if “don’t tread on me” was an NRA, pro-gun phrase. When I told them yes, they said I should turn around, because a guy was waving an NRA, pro-gun flag across the street. He waved me over, and I crossed the street so we could chat.
The conversation, while not-quite friendly, was civil. He wasn’t upset about their protesting — he said he’d have no problem if they marched or made signs — but about their covering the sidewalk with anti-gun slogans and images. He said it was vandalism, and in his day he’d have been arrested. What he really meant, I think, was that he didn’t like what he now had to see outside his front windows.
We went back and forth for a while — at one point he said he’d call the city and report us — before eventually ending the conversation. We had a right to protest, and he had a right to protest our protest. I went back to my side of the street, and he stayed on his.
In hindsight, I wish I had thanked him. See, until that moment, the forces we were opposing became invisible. We live in Los Angeles and aren’t exactly surrounded by conservatives or NRA supporters. The entire school, including our principal, supported and was involved in the walkout. Seeing someone oppose them suddenly made the act of walking out and protesting more real. It made them feel powerful. Afterwards, a student said, “Him coming out really put things in perspective with me. It sounds cheesy, but we have to understand that there’s gonna be people who bring us down. All of us together was really powerful.”
I’m also glad that they were able to see civic discourse. He and I disagreed, and I think it’s ridiculous for a grown man to try and intimidate a group of 13-year-olds, but we were able to actually talk to one another. That isn’t much, but it’s something.
Kids developed consciousness today, felt how good communal action can feel.We spent a few moments reflecting on the fact that, for 17 minutes, we were part of a movement involving thousands of other students, all acting with the same purpose. We were connected. That connection is humbling, addicting, and worth chasing.
I don’t know where we go from here. In my class we recently finished writing Activist Letters about either abolition or gun control (the gun control option was a late addition) and are in the midst of a unit on social change. I’m curious to see how this action spills into our other work. I’m working on developing a plan with kids for the April 20 walkout day.
And everyone — teachers, kids, and the few proud parents who drove by to take pictures — gets to go home and say I did something today
Also — a few minutes after I talked to our friendly neighbor, a city anti-graffiti van rolled up. They were there to clean up some actual graffiti and confirmed that we were, in fact, well within our rights.
Trace a student’s journey to mastery with this new feature
Educators in our pilot schools and districts have been using Kiddom this school year to create self-paced curriculum and personalized assignments. Their work is shifting towards student-centered, authentic projects and away from teacher-driven assignments with only one right answer.
This shift provides options for demonstrating mastery in both the processes students use and the artifacts they create. To support our pilot schools’ desires to build student ownership, we’ve expanded the ways teachers can send assignments and students can send evidence of demonstrating mastery.
Now, each assignment created by a teacher can have multiple attachments from their computer, Google Drive, or Kiddom’s content library.
Students benefit too — they can send teachers more than one attachment per assignment, allowing them to do more complex and rigorous work in a streamlined way.
How do multiple attachments support teaching and learning?
Choice: Provide students with choice by sending multiple attachments as a set of options to choose from. An English teacher might attach multiple readings to choose at the same Lexile level.
Modality: Help every student gain an understanding of the learning material by attaching a video, an audio file, and a reading to meet their needs.
Process: Let students share several drafts of a project within a single assignment, or offer checklists and graphic organizers in the same assignment as the final project.
Students will now be able to:
Attach multiple attachments before submitting an assignment
Access and attach items from Google Drive
Make multiple submissions over time on a single assignment
Teachers will be able to:
Send multiple attachments from a single assignment
Attach more than one curriculum resource from Library
Send more than one Google Drive attachment
Attach any combination of files (PDFs, screenshots, images, etc.)
We’d like to thank our pilot school communities for helping us understand why allowing for multiple attachments is critical for classrooms focused on promoting student choice and voice. We’re excited to learn how you’ll use this new functionality in your quest to unlock potential for all students.
P.S. If this is your first time hearing about our pilot program for schools and districts, click here to learn more. We do have some availability for learning communities interested in implementation spring 2018.