For most teens and tweens in the United States, summer school isn’t exactly the most appealing summer activity. Let’s face it, other summer options, most of which involve spending time outdoors under the bright shining sun, are simply more appealing.
Given that summer school is often framed as a negative consequence of poor student performance and is, on some occasions, used as a “threat” to coerce students into complying with teacher directives, it is no wonder that summer school doesn’t have a particularly good rap amongst students. Ask a student why they are in summer school and they are likely to tell you it is because they’d either failed a class or performed poorly on an important state test, or simply because their parents are forcing them to attend.
While it may be true that many students are enrolled in summer school because they have not met their benchmarks, it’s time we leave the negative context and attitude at the door and start to REFRAME summer school for our students. It may seem like a daunting task, but the potential benefits of gaining student buy-in for summer school, which include engaged students, increased attendance rates, and accelerated achievement, make it well worth the challenge. Here are 4 practical ways you can help reframe summer school for your students today.
1. Focus on goals.
Rather than allowing students to dwell on why they are being forced to take summer school, start off Day 1 by focusing on what is to be accomplished through your summer course. Post the goals in a prominent location in the classroom and revisit them often so that students are constantly reminded of why they are there. Set measurable (and attainable) content-related goals, such as achieving 80% or higher on the end of summer school test or mastering all of the student’s personal learning gaps within Pre-Algebra using a program like Knowre. In addition to such quantifiable goals, be sure to include longer-term qualitative goals such as “Developing confidence in math” or “Retaining all that is learned in the summer class throughout the next school year.”
2. Leverage statistical data around the importance of summer learning.
Students who do not have access to academically enriching activities over the summer lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months (Cooper, 1996). Make this statistic real for students by illustrating the ways summer learning loss takes place and how that may impact their long term learning and achievement. One way to do this is to make a list of math skills that they learned in the last 2 months of their school year, then have them erase them one by one. Walk them through the imagined consequence of learning loss that happens over the summer, and what it would take to fill in the loss in the following school year.
Alternatively, convey the analogy through a more hands-on approach. Challenge students to build a structure of certain dimensions using specified classroom materials. Once they have completed the challenge, remove some of the materials and tell them they need to fill those missing parts over again. Are they feeling frustrated? Explain how not working on class content during the summer would create the same consequences for them when school starts in the fall. Why start over when you can build on what you already know?!
3. Make it about them.
It is easy to understand why many students who struggle with academic content do not like going to school. No student, at any age, enjoys being in an environment in which they are struggling. Too often, these students fade into the background or receive negative attention from their teachers and peers. Throughout summer school, teachers can focus on giving these students POSITIVE attention. Be sure to foster environments of praise and acknowledgement that highlight incremental progress. Personalize instruction to student’s individualized needs by using adaptive tools like Knowre which allow students to engage with material in a supported self-paced fashion. Frequently allow students who are excelling in a particular area to “play” teacher and help their peers.
4. Personalize instruction.
Personalizing summer content to student needs is a great way to engage students and make learning fun for students during summer school. One of the easiest ways to personalize learning within a limited time is through the incorporation of online learning tools. Knowre, which is free for all summer schools, is a great option. With Knowre, teachers will be armed with specific, actionable data, generated the moment a student begins working, which teachers can use to support student learning. Knowre will further adapt to student needs through the adaptive review curriculum and provide as-needed support in every question to help fill in individual learning gaps.
This summer, lets make summer school a springboard to change student attitudes and confidence towards learning!