Like most elementary teachers around the country, I work tirelessly all year to help my students grow as readers. As the end of the school year approaches, I love to reflect back and realize how many of my young readers who struggled in September are now reading on or above grade level, and with greater fluency, expression, and confidence. Then I realize summer is coming. And I get scared. Very scared.
Looking over the records from previous years, I know I have students who consistently ended the school year on or above grade level, but returned in September having erased up to half of the previous year's growth during the summer. Unlike those who love to read and do so at every possible opportunity, I find my students who are most susceptible to summer slide often don’t seem to have the intrinsic motivation and love of reading the others do. During the summer they also won’t have me checking in on them every day to discuss what they're reading and for how long. What they do have, however is a teacher who is not quite ready to let them go, one unwilling to let the good progress they made in reading evaporate over June, July, and August. This week, I’m happy to share with you some of the tricks I keep up my sleeve to keep my students excited and motivated to read all through the summer, strategies that will help turn that summer slide into an easy summer glide into fourth grade.
OK, not really a scavenger hunt per se, but my kids love trying to meet the goal of reading all across the country.
Bingo is a perennial favorite with the elementary crowd, and for the past several years I have sent home the Summer Reading Bingo sheet you see pictured below. Students return it to me the first week of school for a treat out of the class prize box.
My students love writing about the books they're reading on Kidblog or Weebly through the school year. No need to stop that once the final bell rings. If you are already using a blogging platform, keep it up during the summer. If not, I love Kidblog for its ease of use and setup.
You can see by the number of comments on our reading blog from last year, that the kids really enjoyed it. The key to keeping their enthusiasm high, however, is responding to their comments. I think many wrote book summaries or started discussions just to get comments from me and others on their work.
While my students may have all gotten iPads this past December, I'm not letting go of the old-fashioned methods of communication — handwritten letters! Before school lets out I give my students four blank index cards that they address to me. I challenge them to send me at least one postcard during the summer telling me what they have been reading, accompanied by a picture of a favorite part on the front. I love getting the postcards during the summer, and they can always count on getting a postcard back from me. My postcards aren't originals like theirs, however. I normally purchase stacks of inexpensive ones at souvenir shops when I'm traveling out of town. Below is my collection of postcards from last summer.
During the school year, I can always count on parent support to make sure students are reading at home, logging their books, and finishing homework. In the summer, it's not quite as easy. Occasionally during the summer I will email parents just to check in, ask if there are any questions about their students' summer progress, or provide tips for reading activities.
Instead of a summer pack, which my students in the past found tedious, they get sent home with a "Summer Reading Kit," which sounds so much more fun when you're 8 years old. These kits include some just-for-fun items.
One of my just-for-fun motivators is the doorknob hanger shown below. Students are advised they are only allowed to use it when they're reading (or so they are told!).
Tip: print the doorknob hangers on cardstock so they are sturdy enough for students to use.
Print these membership cards for a Summer Reading Club: a very exclusive club where you must read at least three times a week to maintain your membership. Can you tell our theme this year was super-heroes?
We are very fortunate to have a fantastic public library in our community that offers a summer reading program along with story hours and fun events such as Paws to Read, when students can come in to read to real dogs with their trainers. Reach out to your library's children's section to see if they would be willing to come and speak to your children at school about the summer programs they offer. Staff members from the Troy Public Library spoke with our students last week and got the kids super excited about the summer reading program that they offer.
I get excited every single year waiting for the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge to be unveiled. In its ninth year, this free, online reading program seems to break records each year with the number of minutes students log. It is very easy to get your class set up and get them reading. Best of all? You can track their progress online.
The challenge provides free book lists and printable resources you and your students will love including a reading pledge, posters, and book logs.
When students are given their summer reading kit, they know if they complete at least four of the challenges I've included, they are entitled to a special treat when they return in the fall. The most popular treats (and by most popular I mean those that resulted in the greatest number of students completing the challenge), involved treats like a pizza lunch or a slushy. As much as I would love my students to complete everything just for that feel good feeling, it doesn't happen. The year I sent home packets without an incentive for returning it, only three students completed it, which surprised and disappointed me, all at the same time!
As we all know, summer slide can be a major obstacle to helping students achieve at levels they're capable of in the fall. Presenting summer work as a fun challenge for students to enjoy may just be the ticket to getting more students to read.
Be sure to check out these other articles to help keep summer slide at bay:
Take care and have a great day!