Even though students haven’t returned to school since the global pandemic sent them home in March, summer break is still right around the corner. Depending on your access to technology, the attention span of your child and more, you might be worried, or excited, for them to have more free time on their hands.
To help you keep your children engaged and connected with learning this summer, we reached out to Ileana Rios, a teacher of nearly two decades who leads the third grade advanced academic program at Beech Tree Elementary School. Below, she shares everything from the importance of keeping your children on track, to resources for at-home science projects.
What are some of your favorite ways to keep students engaged with learning through the summer, even though they don’t have a curriculum or set schedule?
The best way to keep the students engaged and to prevent a gap in learning is using online resources such as Khan Academy. The program is free to use and provides videos and practices for all students (elementary, middle school and high school). Parents can set up an account and monitor their child’s progress easily. They can also assign lessons for remediation or enrichment. In addition, I would also recommend Newsela, another free resource for parents and teachers. It is an authentic way to keep the students informed on current news, and it provides them with comprehensive questions.
For parents who are going to have their children home for most of the summer, what items or projects would you recommend that they have for their children to continue learning?
In addition to the online resources mentioned, I would highly recommend doing science experiments that involve observations. Websites like this one provide simple and fun experiments to do at home. The idea behind the experiments is to keep their minds constantly thinking and developing important problem-solving strategies. Both skills are essential in daily life, whether it be at school or at home. For those students who are more artistic, drawing or painting is an excellent way to keep the creativity going over the summer.
Should parents have goals for their students to continue learning throughout the summer, and are they beneficial to the student?
It is important to set high expectations for kids at home. This school year ended very unexpectedly. For some counties, virtual lessons were mandatory but for other counties, the virtual lessons were optional. This lack of continuity will create gaps in learning. Therefore, we need to promote a mindset in regards to the importance of reviewing reading and math skills during the summer. Students can spend 30 minutes for math and 30 minutes for reading daily, or they can review every other day. Science, art or social studies can be done once a week. Developing these types of routines over the summer will create new learning habits for the next school year since we might start with distance learning again. This period of trial and error will hopefully reduce the stress on students and parents as we begin the new school year.
How can parents best keep their students prepared for the next school year too?
Even though it is highly recommended to have a review routine for the summer, the fun of having a summer should not be removed. Students need to be able to see the reviews as something beneficial to them, not just another required assignment. The way that we, as parents, introduce that idea will make the difference in the acceptance or denial of doing it. The best example is when I teach fractions. Some teachers like to mention that they don’t like fractions; therefore, the students don’t like fractions. However, if you introduced fractions as something interesting and playful then everyone will see it as a new adventure rather than a terrible task. Even before we start with the lesson, the students are already engaged and curious. This line of reasoning also applies when talking to our kids about continuing practicing over the summer. Create a reward system, promote the importance of learning, create room for flexibility and, most importantly, don’t get upset. If the child completed five out of 10 problems, celebrate that. After all, it is better to do five than none at all.
What are your hopes for the fall semester?
Even though I would love to see my students face to face in the classroom, I predict that we may begin the next school year with virtual learning again. It will be hard to establish a bond and to set up expectations, but definitely not impossible. We as teachers went far and beyond our call of duty to ensure that our students received daily lessons without any proper training with the given technology, and I know that we will continue to provide the same quality of instruction even if we go back to distance learning for next school year. However, this is teamwork. Parents and teachers need to continue to work together to ensure the success of our kids through things like emailing. An open line of communication will be vital in the upcoming year.
Is there anything else readers should know?
Continuing the learning over the summer will ensure a more successful school year. Stopping now will most likely create a huge gap that could permanently impact the students’ academics, a gap that will take years to close, even with good teachers. Developing a summer routine that involves review of previous skills either daily or every other day would be extremely beneficial for our students. By reviewing over the summer, students will benefit from the review and will be ready for the next school year.
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