Get Ready for Summer! Ideas for Teachers to Share with Families
Reading Rockets has packed a "virtual beach bag" of activities for teachers to help families get ready for summer and to launch students to fun, enriching summertime experiences. Educators will find materials to download and distribute as well as ideas and resources to offer to students and parents to help ensure summer learning gain rather than loss.
The school bell may stop ringing, but summer is a great time for all kinds of learning opportunities for kids. Reading Rockets has packed a bag full of activities for teachers to help families get ready for summer and to launch students to fun, enriching summertime experiences.
In this article:
Ideas for active summer learning
Check out Reading Rockets' new summer website, Start with a Book. You'll find a treasure trove of themed children's books, parent–child activities, and other great resources for summer learning.
Offer recommendations for active learning experiences. Check with your local department of parks and recreation about camps and other activities. Find out what exhibits, events, or concerts are happening in your town over the summer. Create a directory or calendar of local summer learning fun to share with your students and their families. (Be sure to note any costs involved.)
Encourage parents to build reading and writing into everyday activities. Some ideas to pass along: (1) watching TV with the sound off and closed captioning on, (2) reading directions for how to play a new game, or (3) helping with meals by writing up a grocery list, finding things in the grocery store, and reading the recipe aloud for mom or dad during cooking time. More ideas at PBS Parents (in Spanish, too).
Summer trading cards. Kids can dive deeper into summer reading by exploring characters with the Trading Cards activity from ReadWriteThink, which provides students with the opportunity to expand their understanding of the reading by creating new storylines and characters. A nifty Trading Card interactive tool provides additional support.
Encourage writing. Give each of your students a stamped, addressed postcard so they can write to you about their summer adventures. Or recycle school notebooks and paper into summer journals or scrapbooks. Another way to engage young writers is to encourage your students to spend some time researching and writing community stories — not only does it build research and writing skills, but helps kids develop a deeper sense of place. Find more good summer writing ideas from Start with a Book: keep a nature journal, create a poetree, share a recipe, or keep a scrapbook of reviews of summer adventures.
Kids blog! Arrange for a safe, closed community so that your students can blog over the summer. Edublogs and Kidblog offer teachers and students free blog space and appropriate security. Free, disposable e-mail accounts are available at Mailinator. Students can create an account there, use the address long enough to establish the blog and password, and then abandon it.
Be an active citizen. Kids who participate in community service activities gain not only new skills but self-confidence and self-esteem. Help them zoom into action! Resources from ZOOM can help them get the most out of helping others this summer.
Read about your world. Newsela builds nonfiction literacy and awareness of world events by providing access to hundreds of fresh news articles (you can filter by grade). Other good sources of quality nonfiction include Time for Kids online and many children's magazines offered by Cricket Media, National Geographic, and other publishers. The bloggers on The Uncommon Corps are enthusiastic champions of nonfiction literature for kids and young adults, and offer many ideas for integrating nonfiction into your reading diet. For more book ideas to share with parents, check out the Orbis Pictus Award winners — outstanding nonfiction for children, presented by the National Council of Teachers of English. Share these tip sheets with parents (available in English and Spanish): Getting the Most Out of Nonfiction Reading Time and How to Read Nonfiction Text. And don't forget to check out our Nonfiction for Kids section.
Active bodies. Active minds. From the American Library Association, ilovelibraries has suggestions for staying fit and having fun that start at your local library.
Get into geocaching. Everyone loves a scavenger hunt! Get in on the latest outdoor craze with geocaching, where families search for hidden "caches" or containers using handheld GPS tools (or a GPS app on your smart phone). Try a variation on geocaching called earthcaching where you seek out and learn about unique geologic features. Find more details about geocaching plus links to geocaching websites in this article from the School Family website, Geocaching 101: Family Fun for All, in Every Season. Or follow one young family on their geocaching adventure: Geocaching with Kids: The Ultimate Treasure Hunt.
Watch a garden grow and build research, reading, and writing skills with this summer project from ReadWriteThink. Children are encouraged to write questions and observations in a summer garden journal. Or check out the Kids Gardening website for lots of great ideas and resources for family (and school) gardening. You can also browse the hands-on activities on our summer site, Start with a Book, in the section Nature: Our Green World.
Make cool things. "Dad, dad, dad, can we make a samurai sword?..." Dad Can Do is a wonderful site full of crafty ideas that bring fathers and kids together. Make a wizard's wand, paper planes, spaceships, ex libris, and quirky things like an origami cowboy shirt (think Woody from "Toy Story") — mostly from inexpensive or recycled materials. You'll also find loads of activities (art and culture, geography, history, science, math and more) at PBS Parents: Adventures in Learning.
Help parents plan ahead for fall. Work with the teachers a grade level above to develop a short list of what their new students have to look forward to when they return to school. For example, if rising third graders will be studying ancient cultures, suggest that parents check out educational TV, movies, or local museums that can provide valuable background information on that topic.
Ideas for summer reading fun
Make sure kids have something to read during the summer — put books into children's hands. Register with First Book and gain access to award-winning new books for free and to deeply discounted new books and educational materials or find other national and local programs and organizations that can help.
Get your local public library to sign kids up for summer reading before school is out. Invite or ask your school librarian to coordinate a visit from the children's librarian at the public library near the end of the school year. Ask them to talk about summer activities, educational videos, and audio books at the library and to distribute summer reading program materials.
Get to know your community public library better. Find out if your public library is part of the Collaborative Summer Library Program, a grassroots effort to provide high-quality summer reading programs for kids. The theme for 2016 is Build a Better World. Colorín Colorado has tips for parents in English and in Spanish about visiting the local library. Or check out our top 9 reasons to rediscover your public library.
Let parents and kids know about the free summer reading incentive programs. At Pizza Hut's BOOK IT! program, find out how to Ignite a Summer of Reading. Over at Scholastic, there's the Happy Camper Summer Reading Challenge that encourages kids to log the minutes they spend reading and map their accomplishments. Kids can participate in weekly challenges, earn digital rewards, and enter to win prizes. The Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program will give away a free book to children who read eight books (and parents receive a summer reading kit full of activities). With the TD Bank Summer Reading Program, kids who read 10 books will get $10 added to their Young Saver account.
Help kids build math and science skills over the summer. Share our Literacy in the Sciences series with families. Each one-page tip sheet (in English and Spanish) suggests easy hands-on activities as well as fiction and nonfiction books to extend the learning. In this section you'll also find links to great science websites for kids, blogs about children's science books, and links to PBS KIDS science programs and activities.
Encourage parents to start a neighborhood book club with other families this summer. It's a great way to keep the summer learning social and low-key. Warmer weather can inspire some not-so-run-of-the-mill meeting places, too: a tent or picnic blanket in the backyard. If the book club catches on, it's something to continue throughout the school year. PBS Parents has a wonderful collection of tips on how to start a club and encourage great discussions. Our special education blogger, June Behrmann, shares ideas (and title selections) for starting your own mother-daughter "accessible " book club using print alternatives.
Suggest to parents that they set up a summer listening program. Listening is an engaging way to learn, and many children love listening to books, music, stage plays, comedy routines, and other works. Point out background sounds, such as the way the peppy tune on a sound track adds fun and humor to an adventure tale. Learning to listen is particularly helpful to children with learning disabilities.
Online activities for families
Share examples of good interactive educational websites that parents and young kids can explore together. PBS KIDS Lab offers the newest educational games, activities and mobile apps, for kids PreK to grade 3.There are lots of other quality websites for kids — here are a few more of our favorites:
Introduce your students and their families to stories from around the world. Let them know about the International Children's Digital Library, an amazing (and growing!) collection of international children's books available to read online in their original languages. Big Universe is another online library of fiction and nonfiction books for kids 0-12. The site also offers adults and kids the chance to create and publish their own stories.
Suggest audio books as an alternative to print, especially for kids with learning disabilities that make reading a struggle. See our article, Listen and Learn with Audio Books (available in English and Spanish). You can now download stories to iPods and other mobile devices, perfect for car rides or a lazy hot afternoon. Tales2Go offers high-quality kids' books through a mobile streaming service. AudibleKids has an extensive collection of downloadable books, and some of them are free through a partnership with RIF. Browse our list of Favorite Audio Books and find even more titles on Book Finder.
For students with vision or learning disabilities, tell your parents about Learning Ally (formerly Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic), which provides free audio books for kids to listen over the summer. Find lots more ideas and resources for accessible print on the blog, Aiming for Access.
Print and share with parents
Distribute a checklist for parents that provides tips on how to find a great summer program. This one, developed by the National Summer Learning Association, is a good basic resource.
Build background knowledge. Put an article about summer learning in your school or PTA newsletter.
Use books as a springboard for conversation, creativity, and acquiring new background knowledge by sharing the Reading Rockets Reading Adventure Packs with your students' families. These themed packs combine fiction and nonfiction books with simple, hands-on activities that kids and parents can do together.
Give parents a tool to help them promote healthy and balanced media use at home during the summer months. The PACT from the National PTA may help families come up with good screen time compromises. The PTA also offers this helpful article, Hitting the Off Button: How parents can stand up for less screen time at home.
Help parents create a literacy friendly house for the summer (and all year round) with our Growing Readers tip sheets (in English and Spanish). And dive into our Summer Reading section for more — including booklists, activities, tips, and more to keep kids reading and learning throughout the summer and all year long.
Offer reading reminders to parents with these tip sheets from Reading Rockets available in 11 languages.
Recommend good summer reads that match your students' interests. You might start with our Summer Reading Booklists with suggestions for kids 0 to 9 years old.
Print and share with kids
Promote simple, fun items that support the reading habit. Reading Rockets has created a "Warning! Reading Rocket in Orbit" door hanger in English and Spanish.
Recommend some great summer reads that match your students' interests. Download the Reading Rockets summer reading booklists — lots of good suggestions for kids up to 12 years old. Or ask your school or public librarian for an age-appropriate reading list.
Some students enjoy doing worksheets while others get very excited about puzzle books and word scrambles, so you might send home a few of these types of activities as an option. Teacher Planet offers loads of links to summer-themed printable activity sheets. And HarperCollins Children's Books has literature quizzes, games, and printables in their Games and Contests section.