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[Teacher Tips] Best Practices in Assigning Summer Learning

Tuesday, May 23, 2017 -- Scott Sterling

The idea of summer learning loss is nothing new. According to the National Summer Learning Association, the research showing that students regress in their learning over the course of the summer goes back over 100 years. The amount of knowledge lost is counted in months, with low-income students faring the worst.

Although curbing summer learning loss is a community effort, teachers are often on the front lines when it comes to fighting the slide. Here’s how to make the most of this opportunity, and give your incoming students meaningful summer work.

Create an outstanding reading list

Reading lists are often at the core of summer learning strategies. Typically, students are simply given a list of titles that they’ll be held accountable for having read at the beginning of the new school year. The form that accountability takes is up to you—reflective essays, journal entries, and multimedia projects are just a few common choices. However, there are some important things to consider first when you’re compiling your reading list.

The primary goal of your reading list has to be accessibility. Provide online options for students to access the materials they need, or work with your school’s or community’s library to get kids hard copies. And, while most students won’t be thrilled about any summer work, it’s important to try to make your reading list appealing. Make sure the reading levels are appropriate enough for students not to require too much help, and try to vary the genres and subjects to hit different student's interests and preferred reading styles.

Provide digital content

There is a growing variety of digital content out there across all subjects to help keep students’ skills sharp during the summer. See if you can offer your students access to online programs you use in the classroom during the school year while they’re on summer vacation. If not, create a list of free online resources for kids to explore—PBS Learning Media, Discovery Education, and Khan Academy are just a few sites then offer high-quality, engaging, and relevant instruction and activities.

It’s also important to keep in mind your students’ availability of Internet access when it comes to finding digital content for summer learning. These days, it’s more likely for them to have access to a mobile device than a traditional computer, so content that is mobile optimized may be the best fit. If internet availability is an issue, be sure to talk to your students and their families about programs available in your community to increase access.

Encourage exploration

Many students travel during the summer, be it locally or internationally. Try setting up a class page on Pinterest, Instagram, or another photo sharing site and allow students to document their adventures. This is a great way for students to start building rapport with each other before the school year starts, and can spark great exchanges of learning.

If your students tend not to travel, producing an online field trip can allow them to explore without going anywhere. Use Google Earth, Street View, and sites from various attractions and historical sites to give students a virtual experience. National parks, monuments, and museums are all great “stops”.

Want more tips to help your students keep learning all summer long? Check out these Three Ways Educators Can Stop the Summer Slide!