Ah — spring flowers, birds singing, and bees buzzing — all indicators that longer sunny days and warm weather have arrived. There is a constant energetic undercurrent in my room that signals that the school year is coming to an end, especially since we have completed our state-mandated standardized testing.
As I look towards June, I know it's time to start to prepare for the summer slide — those dreaded words that make literacy and math teachers shake their heads. Summer slide is not the latest amusement park attraction or a new dance craze. It is when students lose their learning momentum. The instructional gains that students make during the year with constant reinforcement are weakened due the closing of the school year (or as my students would say, "Summer fun!"). It is when a student's primary focus is not on picking up a book to read or practicing math facts, but on enjoying vacation.
To lessen the fallout from summer slide, students in my district entering sixth grade are required to complete a summer reading assignment. (Other grades in my district are required to do this as well.) Summer reading assignments are not a new phenomenon. I am sure most of you are in the process of preparing your materials for them. But let's get real. Students — especially during the summer vacation with all of its distractions — need motivation to complete the assignments. How can summer reading compete with hanging out with friends, going to the pool or beach, or vacationing with family?
As much as I would like to think that I don’t stereotype my students, I find for summer reading, I tend to categorize them by what I like to call, “SRP,” short for Summer Reading Personality. Here are the personality types that I have identified. Do any of these ring a bell for you?
• The "I Love Reading Reader" — This student will read no matter what. He is self-motivated.
• The "Prepper" — This student will usually manage her assignment. She will create a plan to complete the task in manageable chunks by the due date as to not overwhelm herself.
• The "Let Me Get it Over With Reader" — This student will complete the assignment, but will just go through the motions. His reading is very superficial and scratches the surface, but he is able to retell the story in sequential order.
• The "Procrastinator" — Need I say more?
In the past, I have tried different approaches for motivating my students, from creating reading lists, to creating a class blog (if you try this, to encourage students to the blog, make sure it is consistently working and kid-accessible), and September check-ins with some success. I wanted my students to not just read the required reading, but to step it up and go the extra step. This year, I am going to try the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge.
Scholastic challenges students around the nation to continue to read even though school is out. The challenge for our students is to surpass their 2013 record — a total of 176,438,473 minutes read! I love the idea of my students being a part of setting a world record. The registration process is easy whether you have a Scholastic teacher’s account or not, and the website contains a series of useful resources which can be downloaded or printed.
You can select the printables that fit the needs of your class. They include:
Reading log forms*
Certificate of Achievement*
Grade-level reading lists
* Forms are also available in Spanish
So let's rally the troops and get them geared up for this Summer Reading Challenge and set a new world record!
As always, any tips or ideas to encourage summer reading? Please share!