The summer months for students and teachers brings rest, relaxation, and reflection. For teachers, it’s a common practice as well to attend professional learning seminars, prepare new lesson plans for the next school year, and continue to search for new and creative ways to reach and teach all students. A teacher’s learning process never ends, so I got to thinking.
As a father of a soon to be first grader now, it’s become even more clear to me that our kids find time to maintain their learning and reflective practices during the summer months as well.
I know, I know....I can suddenly hear the moans and groans from our kiddos everywhere going, "No way! School is out for summer!"
However, between the camps, pool, and travel, I am seeing how important it is for our kids to keep reading; to keep writing; to keep practicing their math skills; and to ultimately, keep finding ways to learn. 8-10 weeks off over the summer is a long time and it would be easy for students to forget or dismiss valuable skills developed throughout the school year.
My six year-old son Terry came home with a summer reading log, math packet, and writing packet. Each day so far this summer, we have found 15-45 minutes for him to read his books or work on one of his packets. Terry’s reading teacher was kind enough to supply us with 30 books for him to read before he returns in August. Each book may only take 3-4 minutes to complete. At the end of each group of 10 books, we are giving our son a special celebration. When Terry completed the first 10, he wanted a sleepover with his good friend. Done! We are now halfway to the next 10, and Six Flags will be our destination when he’s completed this reading.
I’m not a big fan of extrinsic rewards, which is in essence what we are doing to encourage Terry’s reading. I’m struggling with that concept. However, I do find that these “rewards” are not just toys or objects that he will push to the side later. Rather, we believe we are offering fun summer experiences that don't normally occur during the school year, once we have completed some tasks. Our hope is that his love for learning and his feelings of success through his reading, will ultimately lend itself to intrinsic motivation. We hope these are personal memories that will remain with Terry, all the while, also create opportunities for him stay connected to the countless hours of reading strategies that were taught to him by his amazing kindergarten teachers.
My goal is to help make my son's learning fun, so that hopefully as he gets older, "fun" for him will not only include video games, sports, or pool time during the summer, but also quietly finding some time in his room to read, draw, or count his allowance (developing math skills, right?!) anytime.
I must go now, because after day camp today, Terry and I have a few pages to tackle in his math packet. We are really looking forward to it, because we are adding and subtracting using coins. We get to pull real money out of his piggy bank to complete the assignment! Once we’re finished though, we have a date at the pool. Where's the sunscreen?!