Summer Learning: How to create a positive summer reading experience

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Summer vacation is supposed to be a break from the usual routine of school, but many parents worry their kid’s reading skills will digress without some sort of action plan.  According to the "Kids and Family Reading Report," a survey done by Scholastic, an American publishing company, those fears might not be far from the truth for some.

Scholastic’s most recent report showed that among kids ages 9-11, 14% did not read any books during the summer of 2018, compared with 7% in 2016. Among kids ages 15-17, 32% did not ready any books during the summer of 2018, compared with 22% in 2016. 

Now, before you hit the panic button, it’s important to let you know that the same report found that nearly 60% of kids ages 6-17 did have a positive experience reading books over the summer.  So, what can you do as a parent to help increase your child’s odds of having a positive reading experience during their time off from school? 

First, give your child permission to read as many books as possible this summer for pleasure.  Let them choose their own books whether they are easy or hard, long or short.  The truth is that it doesn’t matter as long as they enjoy them.   Also, let them know that you are not going to ask them questions to find out whether they understood the books or not.  If they can understand enough of a book to enjoy it and want to go on reading it, then let them!

Secondly, if a child doesn’t want to finish a book they’ve started, that’s okay!  They should give an author a chance to get the story going, but if they don’t like the characters and don’t care what happens to them, it’s perfectly okay to find a different book.

Lastly, you must keep in mind that reading is reading regardless of the venue.  Let your child select what they want to read from hard cover books and magazines to online versions.  Giving a child permission to read for pleasure will be the best thing you can do for them over the summer!  Too often, reading is associated with comprehension questions and vocabulary checks.  When you remove them, reading for pleasure becomes the focus!

Summer Learning: Taking a Brain Break with Meditation

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If you’ve been following our Shurley English Blog posts, you know we’ve been flooding you with creative ideas on how to continue supporting your students’ academic progress throughout the summer.  We are aware that with the high demands placed upon our children in today’s U.S. classrooms, it’s evident that children (and adults) have fewer opportunities to truly unwind and relax. 

Today, my suggestion is to remember to INCLUDE some “DOWNTIME” into your child’s daily summer schedule, and here’s why:

  • Research shows that time off-task is important for proper brain function and health.

  • The brain uses 20% of the body’s energy while on-task.

  • Napping 10-30 minutes can increase alertness and improve performance.

  • Meditation is a way to give the brain a break from work and refresh the ability to concentrate.

  • Resting mental states help us process our experiences, consolidate memories, reinforce learning, regulate our attention and emotions, and keep us productive!

Downtime will give the brain an opportunity to make sense of what has just been learned, and shifting off-task can actually help learners refresh their minds, gain insight, and return to the task with more focus.

Brain Break Exercise: Meditation with Mindful Breathing

I mentioned meditation as a way to give the brain a break, so show your students how to tap into their own superhero relaxation powers with this simple breathing exercise.  Teach your students that their breath is an amazing tool that can help them relax or calm down at any given moment.  It can help them manage the ups and downs of school and life—all they have to do is breathe.

The purpose of a breathing meditation is to calm the mind and develop inner peace.  We can use breathing meditations to reduce our distractions and feel a deep sense of relaxation.  Allow this breathing exercise to bring more calmness into your classroom while your students learn a valuable tool that helps them relax.

  • Mindful Breathing Exercise (2-5 minutes)

  • Students can stand or sit for this activity.

  • Ask students to put both hands on their belly.

  • Students should close their eyes, or look down to their hands.

  • Guide students in taking three slow deep breaths in and out to see if they can feel their hands being moved.

  • You may like to count “1, 2, 3” for each breath in and “1, 2, 3” for each breath out, pausing slightly at the end of each exhale.

  • Encourage students to think about how the breath feels, answering the following questions silently, in their mind.

    What is moving your hands? Is it the air filling your lungs?
    Can you feel the air moving in through your nose?
    Can you feel it moving out through your nose?
    Does the air feel a little colder on the way in and warmer on the way out?
    Can you hear your breath?
    What does it sound like?

Remember, time off-task isn’t always wasted time or a sign of laziness. I encourage you to create the balance between being a “human-being” and a “human-doing” this summer!

End-of-School-Year Activity: Creating a Summer Bucket List

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As eager as your students are for the school year to end, it won’t be long until they are actually bored during their summer break.  Yes, I said “bored.”  Help your students stay focused and creative while they gear-up for that day with this fun and creative classroom activity.

In this blog, I will share an activity that will teach students a valuable lesson as they create their own Summer Bucket List.  The catch is that they will create it while working in small groups.  As always, you can do as much or as little as you like with this idea.  Here’s how to get started.

 

Lesson and Class Discussion:

First, start the lesson with the whole class by following these steps:

  1. Read aloud and discuss this story, Seven Captive Princesses

  2. Review the definition of the word boredom.  Merriam-Webster defines it as the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest.

  3. Discuss how boredom doesn’t have to be a negative or bad thing in their life.  The state of boredom can be an opportunity to tap into their creativity.  Allow students to share their personal experiences with boredom and their solution for it with the class.

  4.  Ask students if they’ve ever been bored during a vacation.  Ask them to describe what they will do when they get bored over their summer break.  Allow a few students to share their ideas. (Make popsicles, make a DIY costume, plant something, make a movie, etc.)

 

Group Work: Brainstorming

Next, divide your students into small groups (3-4 students per group).

  1. Allow 10-15 minutes for each group to brainstorm a list of activities they could do when they get bored during the upcoming summer vacation.                  

  2. Instruct them to write their list on a numbered sheet of paper. 

  3. When complete, have each group place their list in the middle of the table where they worked. 

  4. Give groups time to rotate around to each groups’ table. (3-5 minutes per table)

  5. Each group will review and discuss the other group’s ideas amongst themselves.

 

Then, when the rotations are complete, have students go back to their individual desks.  Explain the meaning of a “Summer Bucket List.”  In this case, you can describe it as a list of things or activities that someone has never done before but would like to do before the summer ends. 

 

Individual Work: Create a Summer Bucket List

  1. Pass out the “Summer Bucket List” worksheet.  (See Example.)

  2. Ask students to complete their list individually. Add some fun beach music in the background, or enjoy a popsicle treat if you’d like.

  3.  Have students staple their lists on a pre-made and ready to decorate bulletin board. (Be sure students take home their lists on the last day of school.) 

 

Again, go as big or small as you’d like to create the bulletin board.  It’s up to you! With their Summer Bucket List ready to go, your students will hopefully have a creative summer break!

Oh, and don’t forget about YOU!…what’s on your Summer Bucket List?