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Sizzling Summer Support for Students and Families

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Alas, we have reached the finished line… but is there ever actually an end point when it comes to learning? As we bid farewell to the formidable foe that was distance learning, we now set our sights on yet another familiar antagonist: the “Summer Lag.” As we embark upon the summer of 2020, it has never been more important to support our families and equip them with ways and strategies to empower our students to retain and gain!  

After a tough school year, now what?
With the disruptive circumstances surrounding the 2019-2020 school, it is critical that our students hold on to every precious skill and piece of information possible. We must ask ourselves the question: how can we protect what we have worked so fervently to accomplish? How can we support our families in carrying this torch through the summer months? As educators, we are exhausted and very likely feeling like we have squeezed every resource in our arsenal during this unprecedented wilderness we just navigated ourselves and our students through. We are not alone; our students and their families find themselves feeling the same way. 

Powerful teaching tools within our reach
So what support can we offer and how do we reach our families? Let’s start with the delivery method. Social media has long been frowned upon in many school settings. However, our “new normal” brought about many changes. With the onset of COVID-19, social media morphed from off limits into one of the most powerful teaching tools within our reach. Social media enables us to reach a large portion of our students and families with minimal effort. Oftentimes, the families of our students don't know where to start when facilitating learning. Suggestions can go a long way. What better way to get these suggestions to our families than through social media? Harness the power of Twitter. How many times have you been scrolling through your Twitter feed and saw an awesome resource from PBS? Hit that retweet button and insert these great suggestions into the feeds of the families you are connected with.  

Not a Twitter user? Facebook can be a great tool as well. During distance learning, my team teachers and I created a Facebook group for the families of our students. We were able to share our instructional videos, Google Meet times, and important messages with our families. On the flip side, our students and their families were able to ask and answer each other’s questions, post pictures to allow us, as well as our students, to maintain those personal connections we had worked all year to build. One simple Facebook group quickly created a digital sense of community. This sense of community can easily carry over into summer vacation! You may be thinking, “I’m a little nervous about adding parents as friends on Facebook.” Well, there are a couple of options to solve that dilemma. With Facebook groups, you don’t have to be “friends” with all members. Members can add themselves and as administrator, you always have the power to add and remove members if needed. Want to keep your personal life personal? Create a separate Facebook page for your classroom. This can be a Facebook account solely for your professional practice. 

Modeling is key in our classrooms, the same is true for supporting our families. Don’t hesitate to share fun learning activities you are doing in your own home this summer! The best (and easiest) thing you can do this summer for your students? SHARE SHARE SHARE!

As we begin to take a secondary approach to our students’ learning, it is important to remember the stress we have all just exited. Summer learning should embrace adventure, curiosity, and be led by exploration. Many times, the families of our students associate the word “learning” with worksheets, whiteboard lessons, and drill and practice sessions. These terms are all antonyms of “summer.” When promoting resources, seek out activities that disguise learning as fun, hands-on experiences that alleviate the stress that is sometimes associated with “school.” 

Where can you find activities to share that capture the essence of summer time fun and learning at the same time? 

Here are some good places to start:

Science Fun with Mister C

  • What better way to promote at home experiments than by following along with Mister C as he conducts experiments from his own home. Mister C is sure to engage your students from their own kitchens and backyards! Explored energy with rubber band rockets or learn about chemical reactions by making elephant toothpaste! Fellow PBS Digital Innovator Kevin Cornell (aka Mister C) always delivers top notch activities, heavily supported by high quality resources. These materials are both classroom worthy and at-home friendly. Help your students transform their homes into fun laboratories with Mister C! 

PBS Kids Summer Activity Book

  • PBS Kids has delivered yet another fabulous resource for kids and caregivers this summer! The PBS Kids Summer Activity Book is packed with fun, summer-approved activities sure to keep even the littlest minds stimulated. This is a fabulous resource to share with elementary aged families. They will be inspired to build bird feeders with Nature Cat, become an author with Pinkalicious and Clifford, and create their own adventure to explore! There are plenty creepy crawlers that come with summer, with my favorite resource, the Wild Kratts “My Creature Adventure,” our littles can find and observe caterpillars, lizards, even slugs in their natural habitats and be inspired to create their own original adventure stories starring their new creepy crawly friends!

Make Reading Accessible
Make sure your students have access to literature! Our students’ at-home libraries likely vary greatly from one family to the next. As educators, we need to strive to level the playing field by making sure our families have as much access to quality literature as possible. The best way to do this is sharing digital read alouds. There are several options and resources available to help us do this. “Read Along with PBS” is a compilation of read alouds, available on YouTube, with special guest readers, including Barack and Michelle Obama and several famous authors. 

Storyline Online is another popular alternative. This is an award-winning literacy website that is sponsored by the SAG-AFTRA Foundation. Similar to Read Along with PBS, on this website, celebrities read aloud their favorite children’s books while showing the illustrations.

Do you want to maintain that connection you spent the year building with your students? Utilize a recording software and video yourself reading your favorite books aloud! Your students are sure to enjoy hearing your voice and seeing your face after a long absence!

As we enter a much needed summer vacation, take a deep breath and remember, facilitating support to our families doesn’t have to be a burden. It can be as simple as hitting a share button when you come across a fun resource that sparks your “teacher interest.” Summer is here. Soak up some sun, relax and remember… stay calm and teach on!

Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd 4th Grade Teacher Twitter: @juddashley87

Ashley has 9 years of classroom experience. She specializes in elementary education and putting a "techie" twist on learning. "I place great importance on providing opportunities for my students to practice 21st century digital skills, in addition to mastering 4th grade standards in the process." While she currently finds herself using these resources in her 4th grade classroom, she takes pride in generating technology implementation that can span across all grade levels and subject areas! There is one thing she has learned during her tenure: age is just a number! Children are naturally born with a growth mindset and are capable of embracing technology at any age. Regardless of age, kindergartners to seniors, students thrive when learning is paired with technology!

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