As schools prepare for the end of the academic year, teachers and families begin planning engaging and meaningful summer activities for students. Since students benefit from educational experiences year-round, the summer months provide an opportunity for teachers and families to partner through learning extensions. As teachers, we can improve the efficacy of learning extensions by planning how we will encourage participation, determine activity structure and integrate community resources.
Encouraging Summer Learning
When sharing summer learning extensions with both students and families, it is important to use positive language to help families feel like valued partners in education. Communications should validate family effort and emphasize their important role in supporting learning. We can start communications by thanking families for their support, acknowledging their help on schoolwork or sharing gratitude for communications during the year.
It is also beneficial to communicate the benefits of learning extensions for both the family and student perspectives. When sharing the benefits, consider the values of both groups. In addition to addressing academic benefits, we can also identify additional benefits related to positive outcomes for the family. For instance, the learning extensions could lead to increased family time, regular learning routines and provide opportunities to strengthen both mental and physical health.
Finally, let’s not forget to consistently provide encouragement to families as they work through summer learning experiences. By applauding small efforts of participation, we support engagement in learning extensions with diverse family populations.
Another way to encourage engagement in learning extensions is by thoughtfully selecting activities. We should consider the diverse needs of students and families to provide a range of suggestions meeting family, cultural, academic, socioeconomic and interest differences. One way to address diverse needs is to create flexible activities.
For example, when recommending summer reading activities, allow children to select their own book and provide options to read to a parent, sibling, friend, relative or stuffed animal. Additionally, consider availability of materials and cost when suggesting learning extensions. To support participation, it is helpful to provide activities that have little to no cost and do not require many materials.
If materials are needed, we can also suggest options to substitute supplies. This can also be used to help families vary activities. For example, to help students practice writing, we can provide a list of topics as well as formats of writing such as:
- Vlog scripts
Finally, consider the time needed for each activity. While some activity suggestions can be longer, learning extension activities can also be incorporated into a family’s day. Students can practice elapsed time while running errands, search for sight words while at the store or work with fractions while helping cook a meal. By considering the diverse needs of families and students, we create inclusive learning extensions and increase participation in summer learning.
Integrating Community Resources
Community resources provide excellent support when creating free learning extensions. Some community establishments, such as the library, may already offer activities. When communicating summer learning extension ideas to families, we have an opportunity to identify these local resources by sharing calendars, brochures or web links.
We can also incorporate community resources into other activity recommendations. For example, by using basketball courts at the local park, families can play variations of H.O.R.S.E. with key vocabulary terms from the year. Additional community resources can be used to support social-emotional learning extensions.
Share volunteer opportunities and ideas for families to engage in community service. With other students and families, these activities can be connected to goals for post-secondary education. By integrating community resources, we partner with families to not only access support for learning extensions, but also to engage in diverse activities year round.
Summer learning extensions are part of the school and family partnership. To make the activities most effective, remember to communicate with families to provide encouragement, consideration, and community resources. These aspects of learning extensions will help families feel valued in the partnership, thus increasing participation. As the school year comes to a close, think about the different ways to leverage the teacher-family partnership to support all learners.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.