Activities and Games

Grades K-1: Summer Learning Activities

Learning doesn’t have to stop when students leave your classroom.

  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2

 Send-Home Learning • Know of new museum exhibits or library programs that will be offered in your area this summer? Send home a list of free or affordable educational attractions.

• If you have extra classroom magazines you didn’t finish during the school year, distribute them to students for summer reading. The same goes for classroom library books you are ready to “retire.”

• Compile a list of sight words and simple instructions for students’ favorite word games so they can play at home.

Day-by-Day Summer Learning

Standards Met: Various content standards
What You Need: Daily Summer Activity Calendar
What to Do: To help prevent the summer slide, Jodi Southard, who teaches first grade at Lost Creek Elementary in Terre Haute, Indiana, sends home a Daily Summer Activity Calendar.

“It includes simple and quick activities that children can do over the summer months to keep their brains engaged,” says Southard, who blogs at Fun in First.

The tasks span content areas. For literacy, students are instructed to make a list of -ode words, write a letter to a former teacher, or find an object that starts with each letter of the alphabet. For math, students can measure 10 objects or keep track of the daily temperature. For social studies, students might draw a detailed map of their house. “Most of the activities can be completed with things families already have at home,” Southard explains.

Send-Home Summer Science

Standards Met: Various science standards
What You Need: Inexpensive science supplies (e.g., table salt, drinking straws), small plastic bags, experiment instructions
What to Do: Callie Krohn sends her students home at the end of the year with her Sizzling Summer Science Kit. “It’s an excellent way to get parents involved in what we were doing in class,” says the first-grade teacher from Phoenix and blogger at Teach-a-Roo. “I also found that when I sent home a few supplies, students were more likely to complete the activities.”

Each kit contains some simple science supplies, a photocopied Science Experiments at Home booklet with instructions for 12 experiments, and a science notebook (sheets of paper stapled together) for students to record their observations. Krohn puts these materials in small plastic bags and staples a decorative bag topper over the opening to keep it closed.

Krohn has made a class set of bags for approximately $8 total. “To be cost effective, I try to use everyday, inexpensive materials. For example, for experiments with air I include straws, feathers, and balloons,” she explains. “Bubbles are always a big hit. Salt is another inexpensive supply—from growing crystals to melting ice, it’s a versatile science tool.”

The Gift of Writing

Standards Met: Various Common Core writing standards
What You Need: Spiral notebooks, construction paper, rubber cement, stickers
What to Do: Kristin Young, a K–1 teacher at Rama Road Elementary School in Charlotte, North Carolina, and blogger at Little Miss Glamour Goes to Kindergarten, hadn’t found that perfect combination of fun and learning for an end-of-year gift until she hit on making personalized writing journals. Young buys spiral notebooks (less than $1 each) and uses rubber cement to attach a piece of construction paper to the front of each one. She writes a child’s name on the cover and decorates it with stickers. On the inside cover, she writes a note to the student, imparting some last words of wisdom. Then, on various pages throughout the notebook, she scrawls writing prompts, such as “In first grade, I will…”

Parents love the journals. “It’s an easy thing to take in the car on vacation or to pull out on a rainy summer day,” Young says. She loves the gifts because “they keep the kids working on their writing skills to conquer some summer slide!” Many students bring their journals back at the beginning of the next year for Young to review. “My reward for them is a new book, but I think they’re just as excited to receive feedback,” she says.

Rollin’ & Shakin’ Math Games

Standards Met: Various math standards
What You Need: Dice, cellophane bag or plastic sandwich bags, ribbon, Rollin’ and Shakin’ student packet
What to Do: Like Young, first-grade teacher Melissa Hodson also likes to send her students home with a gift. “After coming across dice at the dollar store, I knew a kit of dice and math games was just what I needed,” says the educator from Yulupa Elementary School in Santa Rosa, California, and blogger at Today in First Grade. She puts two dice in a cellophane bag or plastic baggie, ties it closed with ribbon, and attaches a booklet of math games that students can play using the dice. The games include ones that practice addition, subtraction, and place value, among other math skills.

“Parents are happy to have simple, educational games that kids see as playing versus learning,” Hodson notes. “The students often come back and show me different games they made up using the dice I sent home with them.” 

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