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.
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! This tool from Youth Service America can help you identify youth project ideas. Volunteer Match offers a searchable database of volunteer options for kids. You'll find other great ideas here: 10 Simple Ways Kids Can Volunteer in Their Communities and Make a Difference and 12 Amazing Volunteer Ideas to Inspire Kids and Teens.
CitizenKid is a collection of books that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global citizens. The U.S. Department of Education published Helping Your Child Become a Responsible Citizen with activities for elementary school kids.
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: Beginner’s Guide to Geocaching with Kids.
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. Find loads of hands-on activities at Start with a Book. Just choose from one of 24 topics (art, music, dinosaurs, bugs, detectives, flight, sports, stars, planets and the night sky ... and more) and start exploring.
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. Sign up for the First Book Marketplace 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 2019 is A Universe of Stories. 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 Scholastic, you can take the Read-a-Palooza Summer Challenge — over the course of 18 weeks, kids can enter their summer reading minutes online, unlocking digital rewards as they complete weekly reading challenges; and access book excerpts, videos, and other summer-exclusive content. Sign up for Pizza Hut's BOOK IT! summer reading program, where you'll receive weekly emails with reading activities for kids.
Check your local library for more free kids summer reading programs with activities and incentives for all ages. Most libraries also have story times and other reading-themed activities.
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. Share these Start a Book Club for Kids tips from Scholastic. Special education blogger, June Behrmann, shares ideas (and title selections) for starting your own mother-daughter "accessible " book club using print alternatives.
Listening is learning, too! 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. If your kids love audiobooks, check out Our Favorite Audio Books, and find even more recommendations at Book Finder.
Online activities for families
Share examples of good interactive educational websites that parents and young kids can explore together. Here are some of our favorites:
- National Geographic Kids: Great nature videos, activities, games, stories, and more
- Discovery Kids: Video, games and activities to explore dinosaurs, sharks, space, pets, history and more
- iCivics: Educational online games and lesson plans to promote civics education and encourage students to become active citizens. iCivics was founded by retired Supreme Court of the United States Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
- NASA Kids Club: A place to play games and learn about NASA through interactive explorations
- Project Noah: Explore and document wildlife — be a citizen scientist!
- Design Squad Nation:Be creative and help people through engineering, from PBS
- My Wonderful World: A multimedia tour of our seven continents from the Smithsonian
- PBS KIDS Lab: Educational games, activities and mobile apps, for kids PreK to grade 3.
- BrainPOP: Games, quizzes, videos about topics in science, social studies, English, math, arts and music, and more.
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. Common Sense Media offers advice for creating a realistic schedule, age-appropriate guidelines on TV time, first websites for young kids to use, handling violent media, and managing kids' cell phone use. The PTA offers this helpful resource, PTA Connected: Take Charge of Your Digital Life.
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.
I like your article - particularly the idea of using everyday tasks (riding a bike to a friends house) to learn time estimates for school work. I am a tutor and do time estimating with my students when we create milestones and plan out long term projects and study times. I did not think to use everyday tasks to help practice. Also, I am linking this article to a blog post I am creating on planner use. www.schoolnuggets.com
Another option for avoiding the "summer slide" in reading skills is to remind parents to turn on the captions or the subtitles whenever their kids are watching TV, DVDs, or other videos. Captions help kids learn to recognize more written words and improve their reading speed. For more info on how to turn on captions and where to find captioned videos online, check out our site: http://captionsforliteracy.org!
Public libraries in 49 states, the District of Columbia, 3 U.S. territories, and a number of U.S. military bases sponsor summer reading programs based on the CSLP theme. Whatever the theme, check your local public, base, or post library to involve your children in reading and activities sponsored by your library. There may even be a summer program for adults!
I think internet4classrooms.com should totally be listed on here. They have a lot of good stuff, plus an interactive summer learning program your kids can sign up to for free! My students and children seem to like it.