By Teachers, For Teachers
You’ve worked tirelessly all year long, shaping the brains of our youth. But you don’t want the dreaded “Summer slide” to erode everything you’ve taught them! It’s wise to pass on some simple ideas and activities on how they can keep their brains engaged this summer. Instead of students spending their summer break glued to a video game, show them how their summer break can be filled with fun, new learning experiences. Here are a few ideas to share.
A fun idea to keep students learning during summer break is to have them partake in a summer reading challenge. The concept is simple: The more you read, the more you get rewarded. Scholastic has thought of a wonderful way to encourage students to read while giving back. Starting in May and continuing until September, children can log their reading minutes online to unlock digital rewards as they complete challenges. In addition to rewards, kids can help to unlock a giveaway of around 200,000 books to children in need through a collaboration with the United Way. Challenges such as these help children beat the summer slide by continuing to use their brains all summer long.
Community service is one of the easiest ways to keep students learning during the summer months because students won’t even feel like they’re learning. Plus, there are many added benefits to being an active citizen in the community. According to a fact sheet by the University of Nevada, there are many benefits reaped by the young people offering their services. For example, youth who volunteer are less likely to engage in destructive behavior or abuse alcohol or cigarettes. Children who volunteer learn to be respectful, helpful and kind, and develop their leadership skills and patience. Finally, they leave with a better understanding of citizenship.
One way that students can get involved in their community this summer is by volunteering at a senior citizens’ home and playing games with the residents, reading to them, or just spending time with them. Another idea is to help the environment by picking up trash, creating new animal habitats, and recycling. If those ideas don’t appeal to students, then they can volunteer at the animal shelter or local zoo to help care for animals, or a local shelter or food drive. They can even donate their clothes or simply lend a hand to a neighbor in need. Any act of selfless giving will keep students’ brains working this summer.
Another fun summer break idea is to encourage students to learn a new skill. Learning to cook, learning a new language, or even learning to play an instrument are all great ways to keep students educated this summer. Kent State University found that playing an instrument has positive effects on the brain, such as improving neural activity, fine tuning auditory skills, developing critical thinking skills, and increasing coordination.
For decades, teachers have been encouraging their students to write about their summer adventures in a journal, and for decades students would roll their eyes with disdain, until now. Technology has found a way to make it super fun for kids to journal online: Blogging. Now instead of getting eye rolls from students when you encourage them to journal, you’ll get applause as soon as you mention they should start their very own summer blog. It’s fairly simple to get started -- all you have to do is pick your platform. Kidblog and Edublogs are two of the most popular ones to choose from. Teachers like them because of their easy navigation and safety features for kids. Next, get parental permission to set students up. Finally, teach students how to blog and go over online safety rules. By the end of summer, your students will not only have beat summer brain drain, but they’ll also have a really great blog about their summer adventures.
All the activities mentioned above can challenge students’ brains. However, there are still a few more things students can do to keep their brains active over the summer. For example, building a bird house, repurposing an old household item, planting a garden, or designing an invention are all great ways students can challenge their brains because these activities force students to observe, analyze, ask questions, and follow directions.
Summer is the perfect time to encourage learning, stimulate creativity, and take advantage of the warmer weather by having children be active outdoors. Keeping students’ brains and bodies active during the summer months will help to prevent summer learning loss too. Don’t let your students lose all of that knowledge gained throughout the school year -- share these ideas so they can create fun, new learning experiences all summer long.
Do you have any simple summer activities that children will enjoy?
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a master’s of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the elementary education expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.