Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.3; W.6.6; W.6.9
What You Need: Internet access, object chosen by the class (optional: puzzle pieces, GPS, local maps, prizes)
What to Do: Ellis Reyes is a math and technology teacher at Islander Middle School in Mercer Island, Washington. He has shared his interest in geocaching (described as a “real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game,” in which players find hidden containers using coordinates) with his students. Reyes suggests beginning by visiting geocaching.com/track to log a trackable item. Your class can choose a fun object, such as a toy or a stuffed animal, to tag and place in a geocache.
Throughout the summer, students can track their geocached item using the website. Different geocachers may pick up the item and move it to a new cache—it has the potential to move all over the globe! Have students research and write a creative story or diary about the object’s movement. If the item travels to Australia, perhaps the protagonist is scuba diving near the Great Barrier Reef!
As an alternative, you could place objects in predetermined caches near the school and give clues so that students can find them. (The clues should be given only to your students, not posted on the official geocaching website.) Within the geocache, place a puzzle piece. As summer approaches, provide students with maps or clues to identify the coordinates of the geocaches. They can use a GPS, such as that on a phone, to find the coordinates and discover your hidden geocache. Once they find all the puzzle pieces, they can turn them in for a prize at the end of the summer. If you go this route, kids should write explanations of how they used the maps or clues to find the geocache coordinates.
Reyes loves using this version of geocaching with his students because “kids love puzzles, and [geocaching] is a way to integrate technology, problem solving, and getting exercise!”
Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.3; W.8.6
What You Need: Internet access (optional: Google account)
What to Do: Challenge students to practice writing creatively over the summer by authoring a “choose your own adventure” story. Based on a popular series of books, CYOAs have the reader making choices to determine what will happen.
Jonathan Wylie is a former K–5 classroom teacher and a digital learning consultant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His website details ways students can use technology to write their own CYOA stories, including with Inklewriter, Google Presentations, and YouTube. Wylie especially likes Inklewriter, a free storytelling tool “created to help students build exactly this kind of interactive journey.” The site offers tutorials and FAQs for teachers and helps build and track the branching of story choices.
Depending on the content area you teach, you can assign different topics to your students. If you teach ELA, have students take a story you read during the year and rewrite it from another character’s perspective. If you teach social studies, have students write a historical fiction piece. In science, students could write a Magic School Bus–esque story involving a topic you covered during the year.
Summer Book Blogs
Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.7.1; W.7.4
What You Need: Internet access, library access or copies of books
What to Do: Keep kids reading all summer by starting a virtual book club with blogging sites such as edublogs.org, which provide a simple forum for online discussion. To start, before the year ends, assess your students’ reading abilities and interests. Choose a few books at an appropriate reading level, and, on the blog you’ve set up, ask some open-ended questions every chapter or two. Your students can respond to these questions via the blog as they read the books throughout the summer.
When setting up your blog, you can choose various options, such as approving posts and comments. If you decide to make this a more in-depth project and require students to write essays, Edublogs also gives you the option to leave private comments. During the school year, if you’re able to monitor the posts closely, it can become more interactive.
Photo: Steven King/Casa Grande Dispatch/AP Photo