Success Specialist, Kiddom
Sarah has 10 years of public education experience, including being a founding staff member of a STEM high school in Pennsylvania.
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 skills and not 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.
Here’s some more information on using Playlists in Kiddom.
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.
P.S. Want more resources to kick-start your summer? Check out Kiddom’s content library for access to hundreds of resources from popular content providers.
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