Saturday, June 18, 2011

Don't Forget the Skills

The lazy days of summer should be a time for families to relax and recharge. But hey, what about the dreaded summer slump? You don't need to fill the schedule with non-stop summer school style activities to keep those brains sharp. Summer skill review can be a natural and fun part of the vacation plan.

Kids can log summer adventures to keep writing skills sharp.

We basically stick to activities that are already part of our year-round routine, but during summer, we are able to spend more time and leisurely enjoy them. Read alouds, writing to each other, and practicing math facts and letter sounds in the car are all great ways to keep skills fresh, and to introduce new ones. Take advantage of the slower summer pace. One more book before bedtime?  No problem. We can sleep in tomorrow!

Besides the basic routines....

For children performing at grade level, I recommend listing a few skill areas to focus on over the summer.  Keep the list short. For example, does your child need practice reading with expression? Remembering math facts? Adding details in writing? I choose a couple of simple skills that can be practiced in many ways, then I write them down in my calendar so I'll remember to reinforce them when we read, write and play this summer.


We also add a few more opportunities for skill practice within our Alphabet Summer plan, for example this year my boys have both made gains in writing, and I don't want them to lose momentum over the summer. We'll keep a kind of summer journal, to write/draw about any topic, related to the letter of the day.  This year my seven year old is planning to make an alphabet-themed sports book, and my soon-to-be Kindergartner wants to build each letter out of Lego, then draw and describe how he did it. My two year old wants to do everything his brothers do, so in his book we'll do large letter drawings that he can color or fill in with dots, or we can make the letters out of play-doh together while the big boys work. They can replace the covers with their own art work, add pages as needed, and basically do anything they want to do...The idea is to build in some more regularly scheduled time to write.  



For a printable Alphabet Adventure Log, click here.  Available in blank, or activity book format.

Look for games that provide opportunities to review basic skills.  My kids love the game show, Minute to Win It, so we use that concept to set up all kinds of challenges for them to accomplish. Usually it's building stacks of Dixie Cups or balancing quarters, but since they like the format, we can also use it to review other skills. For example, the other day my son suggested that he do as many math facts as he can in a minute.  He doesn't realize this but he's come up with the perfect way to prepare for those timed math tests he'll encounter next year.

In a nutshell, we set up a basic routine for our summer days. We prioritize a few important skills to learn or review, and we try to sneak the skill practice into fun learning activities and routines. Then we schedule in lots of time for new experiences and unstructured play, since lots of learning is happening then too.

Here are more resources for summer learning:

What are your tricks for making summer learning meaningful and fun?