With summer break quickly approaching, many teachers and students are looking forward to the time off, warm weather, and fun summer activities.
However, summer can leave families overwhelmed when faced with the idea of keeping up the academic progress and development of their children over the break. So how can you, as the teacher, provide family support for your students and their families when school is out?
Why is Family Engagement and Support Important?
We all know how critically important it is that families are engaged in their student’s learning and school experience.
Students with strong family support and involvement in their school and education:
- Get better grades
- Score higher on achievement tests
- Have better attitudes about school
- Have better behavior than students who do not have a family involved
In fact, family engagement transcends the gap related to the socioeconomic level. This distinction holds true regardless of the income of the family. That family connection is even more critical over the summer. It can mean the difference between a summer slide or a summer stride!
When families are left to their own devices with their children’s educational needs to oversee throughout a two to three-month break, it can be very easy for students to experience the “summer slide” and lose much of the progress they achieved during the school year. It can also be overwhelming to parents, so they may feel that is it too difficult to further or maintain their child’s progress over the summer months.
What is the Impact of a Lack of Family Support?
A lack of family supports over the summer is extremely impactful on students in a negative way. This is demonstrated to many teachers when we return to school in August and the lack of readiness we see in many new students.
When we look back at the end of the year test scores, those often tell a very different story. Sometimes students lose between 17 to 34 percent of what they learned throughout the year. This is why it is so vital that we provide families with the support they need to continue their child’s progress over the summer.
Ways to Provide Family Engagement and Support Over Summer
Regardless of the student’s age, it is important to provide them and their families with materials they can use for summer activities related to learning. For younger students, it could be as simple as using leveled readers that come with reading textbook materials for over the summer to continue their reading practice.
With older students, it may mean providing novels or some nonfiction reading materials for students to work with over summer break. If these kinds of materials are not available to you, many grants are available for such purchases!
Make Yourself Available
One of the best discoveries I have come across in the last few years is Class Dojo. Another similar app is Remind. These apps provide an easy way to communicate with all levels of parents. I have found that parents who are not as keen on communication through phone calls, letters, or folders are much more likely to communicate with these apps.
If the teacher has already established this kind of communication throughout the school year, then they can continue posting and reminding throughout the summer. At their own convenience, they can suggest activities or books to read. Parents will feel that the line of communication to their child’s teacher is still open and that they may ask questions as needed.
Summer Reading Programs
Introduce your students to a summer reading program before leaving for summer break. Often, local public libraries will provide suggestions for summer reading for students of all ages. However, the teacher can also develop some suggestions for summer reading.
After all, the teacher knows the students, their interests, and their reading levels. This would be an excellent opportunity to provide reading suggestions to help prepare students for the next grade level.
Suggest Active Learning Experiences
Provide students and their families with a list of local learning experiences they could do together as a family over the summer months:
- Nature walks
- Summer camps
- STEM activities
- Visiting state parks and nature centers
These are just some of the ideas you could give students and their families to keep on learning over break.
Regardless of the student’s age, writing is a great way to provide support for learning in the summer. Teachers can give the students grade-level appropriate writing prompts or provide them with a journal and suggest keeping a diary of their summer activities. These activities can even include an incentive by giving a prize when students return to school.
Keeping the body healthy is the key to keeping the mind healthy.
Try providing a list of easy, physical activities for parents and children to do together over the summer may be very helpful.
We must find ways to support families throughout the summer so that students can hit their “summer stride” and come back to school in August ready to learn!