Blogs About Reading

The Common Core Classroom

Emily Stewart, M.Ed.

Guest blogger Emily Stewart, M.Ed., is a third grade teacher at Murch Elementary, a public school in Washington, DC. During the 2012-2013 school year, Emily will be sharing the real-world strategies, challenges, and successes of implementing ELA Common Core standards in her classroom.

Summer, summer, summertime! How parents can support Common Core

May 20, 2013

It drives me CrAzY each year when kids enter into third grade, and it becomes clear that we have to review previous content to get them up to speed. It is such a loss of valuable learning time! If I have to spend so much time reviewing content from the prior grade, for me it begs the question: "Do I have a different definition of mastery than other teachers?" If students have two months off, should they really be that far behind if they have truly "mastered" the content? Just food for thought.

I am always looking for innovative ideas to get my kiddos engaged with content over the summer. With the new complexity of the Common Core Standards, we need to provide resources for parents in order for them understand the kinds of questions they should be asking their kids throughout the summer. Providing novel recommendations, journal prompts and reading games/task cards will help parents fill up some academic time with their kids, while keeping learning informal and fun!

Here are some fun summer learning recommendations for parents, paired with a Common Core strategy or shift:

Community Events and Discussions (Vocabulary Acquisition and Use)
Find book festivals, author talks, fairs and the like, happening in your neck of the woods. So many of these events are free to children, and offer different perspectives and opinions for students to ponder and write about. Experiential learning is absolutely a MUST during summer vacation, so take advantage of museum visits, craft fairs and local day trips (such as hiking), to get kids engaged and to broaden their schema! After the experience, parents will have endless amounts of topics to discuss with their child. Ask your child's opinion, have them justify their responses and encourage your child to ask reciprocal questions as part of the conversation. These are great ways to help students express feelings and ideas through writing poetry, as well as bringing in expository and descriptive writing, too!

Review It! (Defending an Opinion)
After visiting new places, have your kids compile reviews of their adventures in a scrapbook! From the new sandwich shop on the corner to their favorite ice cream store on their beach vacation, kids can record their thoughts and experiences. Help your students to connect Common Core strategies to experiences in their everyday life. As a teacher, expose your students to a few reviews before they head off for summer break. They will give them some schema to build on, and a foundation to understand how reviews are written. Parents can give their kids a 3-ring binder, some inexpensive scrapbook paper and a camera to take pictures of various hot spots. They can collect menus, trinkets, ticket stubs, favorite museum tour maps, autographs, hiking trail maps, etc. which will add to their scrapbook, and help them be specific in their reviews of places visited. Writing opinion pieces and justifying their conclusions is one of the paradigm shifts in the complexity of the Common Core. Why not go wild, and help your child create a blog to post their reviews! Kids can share the blog with family and close friends and encourage them to share comments.

Organize Book Clubs and Ask Questions (Finding Evidence Grounded in Text)
Partner up with some parents who have kids in the same grades as yours and organize a book club! Have students decide on a book (you may have to possibly read it ahead of time) and have the kids write questions to prepare for their book club each week. Students can organize and keep a calendar that breaks the book down into weekly sections, and write questions for each other every week. If someone goes on vacation, skip a week or use FaceTime (iPhone) or Skype to hold a World Wide Book Club! You can also use a list of pre-created Bloom's Questions, which are organized by levels to ensure that "meaty" questions are being asked! Here's another example of Bloom's questions.

Journal Prompts
Using technology and social media (such as a blog) helps to bring journaling to life and offer a novel technique for journal writing. I also enjoy sharing summer journal ideas that kiddos can write about, and compare their responses with those of students from the year before.

The goal in providing parents summer activities for their child is to make sure they are affordable, engaging and connected to content in a meaningful way for kids! Think OUTSIDE of the worksheet box, and enjoy putting together comprehensive summer learning activities that will change the way kids look at learning in the summer!


Thanks, Ladies! You're absolutely right...helping kiddos build their schema, helps them to make decisions about their learning later on, and truly focus when given choices in learner centered environments!

Emily, you are so right about providing engaging activities during the summer and every city has special museums, libraries, outdoor events and enrichment activities. Summer is also a time for reflection, daydreaming and a time for kids to focus on what activities make them happy. This allows them to prioritize during the school year, when time is short. I blogged about that here:

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"Books are a uniquely portable magic." —

Stephen King