Give Your Students the Tools to Bridge the Summer

Rear View Of Family Walking Along Wooden BridgeWith summer just around the corner and final exams wrapping up, students and teachers are undoubtedly looking forward to break. While students dream of free time, the great outdoors, hanging with friends, and family vacations, many teachers also plan to enjoy the warm weather, setting aside time for individual hobbies and interests. While everyone is looking forward to unwinding, intellectual stimulation is still at a premium. According to the National Summer Learning Association, “most youth lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in math skills in the summer.”1 As teachers, you’re probably wondering, what can I do to help prevent summer learning loss? The following Q&A offers insight on how you can help your students retain knowledge gained throughout the school year, learn some new things, and have fun at the same time.

Q: How much time should children spend on academics each day during the summer?

A: The summer learning loss can be countered in as little as 15 to 30 minutes of academic work per day. You can help students by encouraging parents to dedicate time to different academic areas a few times each week. You can also provide recommendations for online learning resources and/or learning workbooks to help give parents some direction. The key is consistency, so urge parents to set up a weekly schedule and encourage them to stick to it. (You may even want to send home a sample schedule and checklist.)

Q: How can I make summer reading lists more engaging?

A: While many schools require students to complete a summer reading list, teachers can take this concept and kick it up a notch! How? Look for ways to connect reading to writing. Along with the summer reading list, provide a list of writing prompts that encourage students to use critical thinking and/or creative skills. Move away from prompts that ask students to summarize and move toward questions that ask students to relate the book’s ideas to their lives, form conclusions, or evaluate what the author is really trying to communicate to the reader.

Creative assignments may include (depending on the age of the students), having students:

  • Write the first chapter of a sequel or prequel.
  • Write a diary entry as one of the main characters.
  • Draw a picture of one of the scenes from the book.
  • Write a poem from the point of view of the main character.
  • Write a short play or video script based on the book.
  • Connect the message of the book to everyday life.
  • Act out key moments from the book on video.
  • Re-tell the main ideas of the story to an adult or sibling.
  • Write a review of the book.

Here’s a real life example of taking summer reading lists to the next level, by extending a summer reading into work when school started up again:

St. Gregory the Great, a K-8 school located in Williamsville, NY assigned the sixth graders to read “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park as one of their summer reading assignments. This story is about a village in Africa where children have to walk almost 10 miles a day to provide drinking water for their families. Instead of writing a book report, the students formed teams and researched water scarcity and disease in Africa. Next, they presented their findings during an assembly to the entire school. During the assembly, the sixth graders pitched their idea to get the whole school community involved. They planned an awareness walk in order to raise enough money to pay for a well in Sudan. Students K-4 carried a bottle of water for one mile and grades 5-8 carried gallon water jugs for the mile walk. In this wow idea, the students raised awareness, raised over $5000, taught other students about an important issue, showed empathy, and did something that made a positive impact on others.

Q: How can I inspire my students to get out and discover new things over the summer?

A: Offer ideas to keep families busy during the summer. Some fun ideas include a list of places parents can take their children that motivates learning. Ideas include libraries, museums, aquariums, art galleries, public parks, zoos, nature preserves, or historical sites. Educational outings also provide a great opportunity to ask children to engage in free writing, journal writing, or creative writing. It can be as simple as asking students to write about one thing they learned to finding and using an online student-writing prompt.

Q: What about technology?

A: Technology can be a great substitute to educational outings (in moderation). Make a list of your favorite educational apps and websites and provide recommendations to parents. Find a group-learning platform where students can discuss summer reading or join in a little friendly competition. Online reading book challenges represent another way to keep students connected and engaged.

Q: What about playtime?

A: Unstructured playtime is so important to a young person’s development. Kids should be using their imaginations and creating. Puzzles, cards, word searches, and board games are always a great idea.

Q: I need more ideas!

Here are a few more ideas to keep students engaged in learning over the summer…

  • Encourage students keep a summer journal about their experiences, vacations, outings, camp, etc.
  • Encourage students to practice math skills they’ve learned over the course of the past year. Bridge activity books are a wonderful resource for your students.
  • Encourage students to work on subjects they may be having trouble with. You can provide a list of fellow teachers that offer tutoring over the summer.
  • Hold a summer reading challenge. Students can track how many books they read and receive a prize at the start of the next school year.

Summer is busy and many families don’t have time to review formal subject areas. Therefore, on busy nights, communicate to parents that they can help prevent summer learning loss by simply reading with children for at least 15 minutes each day!

Do you have any tips for other K-12 teachers?

Please share your ideas in the comments section below!

From all of us at PLS Classes, we hope you and your students have a safe and wonderful summer break! And if you are looking for ways to keep your mind active this summer, why not try a PLS Class? With many different online and on-site courses to choose from, you’ll be sure to find one that fits your interests and your schedule.


1. https://www.summerlearning.org/about-nsla/

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