How can I make sure the activities I plan for my child over the summer are engaging and skill-boosting, in addition to fun? Thanks for helping us make sure our child stays on grade level.
You hit the nail on the head by saying that summer should be fun. It is definitely a time for free-spiritedness and exploration. There are lots of ways to make sure children are continuing to learn outside of the classroom.
A great place to start is with your child’s school. Many school communities offer initiatives for children to follow, such as reading lists and journaling. For example, Horace Mann Elementary in Northwest D.C. has integrated Noticing Books into summertime for many years. Liz Whisnant, principal of Mann, says: “The Mann community loves how the summer season offers a bounty of opportunity for new learning adventures! We want our students (faculty too!) to capture new learning in a sketchbook that will serve as a collecting place.”
Not only does this encourage children to continue writing over the summer months, but it serves as a way to celebrate one’s summer experiences and later share them with peers. It also holds kids responsible for an activity that is an engaging assignment.
In addition to writing, Whisnant also stresses the value of reading, saying: “We think one of the best features of summer is that it allows more time for reading! Students can read in cars, on trains, aboard boats and planes. We read while sitting on deck chairs and beach chairs, and while lounging in bed. We read alone, we read with friends. We read newspapers, novels and nonfiction. We read comics and poetry and recipes.” Of course, making sure kids have things to read that they are excited about makes summer reading a pleasure and something they are more likely to do willingly.
The Georgetowner’s own Peggy Sands recalls her experience having “a unique summer,” which she describes as one that includes “at least one non-sitting-in-a-classroom experience.” This includes “fun, outdoors and writing.” She recommends trying to be a reporter, creating an interview with someone or writing a how-to article on playing sports. Asking others about their fondest memories of summer is a great way to generate ideas for the younger generation.
One activity that I have personally loved working on with students is creating a magazine with friends. I have worked with small groups of children between the ages of 5 and 13. This is an activity that could easily be tweaked for any age group, including adults. Who hasn’t dreamed of working on a magazine?
Begin by having each child come up with a name that they want to represent their magazine. Then, assign each child a task, like contributing an interview, an advertisement, an article, a quiz or even a comic. You’ll be amazed at the creativity that flows. This is also a great way to encourage entrepreneurship in kids.
Basically, when it comes to beating the potential for summer lags in academic advancement, the key is making sure kids stay creative, imaginative and exploratory. Mixed with a dose of the good, old-fashioned R&R we crave at any age, this is a recipe for a successful summer.