An article in a newsletter I subscribe to got me thinking about something that loomed over my free, fun-filled summer days through my school years- The Summer Reading Assignment. It was a constant reminder that school was waiting for me and that, even though I might not be in a classroom, I was still responsible for getting some work done. And you know what? It was a good thing!
What are your thoughts on summer reading assignments? What kinds of assignments have you seen for this summer?
(A quick note before I begin: Although I am using the term “assignment” throughout this post, I do not mean something that is recorded in a grade book. For me, summer reading assignments are strongly encouraged, but they are not mandatory nor do they affect the student’s grade. Summer reading assignments are given to provide students with a direction for learning and an opportunity to experience reading in the world outside school.)
Since I am past my elementary and high-school days, I hadn’t given much thought to summer reading assignments until an article pointed out that summer reading assignments are declining. While they are still sometimes given out, they tend to be simple, short and less intellectually demanding: the summer equivalent of busy work.
Yet summer reading assignments can play a key role in helping students remain engaged in learning and retain the gains they made in the school year. According to research by Reading in Fundamental, “Children who do not read over the summer will lose more than two months of reading achievement. Summer reading loss is cumulative. By the end of 6th grade children who lose reading skills over the summer will be 2 years behind their classmates.”
Instead of omitting or over simplifying summer reading assignments because we think students won’t do them, let’s design engaging assignments that encourage participation and provide children with an opportunity they can truly learn from.
Productive, Engaging Summer Reading Assignments
Try sending your 1st or 2nd graders into summer with this list of summer reading tasks that require students to read and write while engaging with the world around them, making choices and thinking creatively.
End of year- June 30
Choose a plant or leaf. It can be from around your house or somewhere you traveled to. Try to figure out what kind of plant it is by looking online or through a book. Put a drawing, photograph or pressed leaf in your journal. Record what kind of plant you think it is and how you figured it out. Include information on where the plant grows and anything else you learned.
Beginning of July- mid July
Make a recipe. Pick a recipe from a cookbook, magazine, online or a relative’s recipe collection. Read the recipe and copy it in your notebook. Ask an adult to help you make the recipe. Take a picture to keep in your notebook and write about making your recipe and how it tasted.
mid July-end of July
Brighten up a rainy day by making a coffee filter umbrella with an adult. (http://www.sunnywithachanceofsprinkles.com/2013/03/toddler-activity-coffee-filter-umbrellas.html) Stay dry by reading a book a book while your umbrella dries. Write down what book you read in your notebook. Why did you pick that book? What kind of books do you like to read on rainy days?
Read a story about a character who goes on an adventure. In your notebook write the title and author. Draw a picture of the most exciting part of the story.
Where would you want to go on an adventure? Go online or find a book to learn more about the place you choose. Write in your notebook about what you would do there.
Reading is Fundamental has a wonderful idea for a School-Break Calendar that lists ideas for how to incorporate reading experiences into summer fun. Instead of handing out a packet of worksheets for students to complete over the summer, try a smaller amount of more meaningful opportunities. I love the idea of making a calendar that students could take home at the end of the year.
Even better would be if you were able to send your students a piece of mail every month with a short greeting and the directions for the next reading task. Children love getting mail! They will be more likely to participate if you make them feel special and address the assignments directly to them. A few dollars in postage and the time to address envelopes will go a long way.
Take it even further and keep up your classroom website over the summer. Post pictures students send you of their reading assignment experiences. This is a fantastic way to encourage involvement because children love to share and see their work displayed. Others can see that their classmates are participating in the summer reading tasks and they may then want to be part of it too. You can also post your own photos or bits of information about your summer reading to model that summer reading is something fun for adults too!
Many teachers already keep in touch with parents throughout the year by email, so it shouldn’t take a lot of time or effort to connect a few times during the summer. Everyone (except me) seems to have a smart phone these days. If you make parents aware of your plans to encourage productive learning over the summer, many will be willing to take a quick phone picture and email it to you. Be sure you design your assignments with modifications, like drawing a picture, so all students can participate. You may even want to send each child home with a notebook for summer. (Notebooks are cheap if you plan ahead and buy them when they are on sale before the beginning of the school year.)
Although it’s already the middle of summer, keep these kinds of ideas in mind for some of you reading assignments during the school year.
What other engaging reading assignment ideas do you have?
Please share here. If we keep adding ideas to this post, then we will can make a list that you can choose from for next year’s summer reading assignment!