Summer vacation is here, and many students have work to do to be ready for the fall. Especially this year. Here are some short and sweet recommendations for summer math and reading review. Parents can gently guide their children through summer school work in the comfort of their own homes. This year when school ended it took a while to “wrap up” and “unwind” the crazy 2020-2021 school year. Now we are in summer mode and are quite comfortable learning at home.
Summer Math Review recommendation
Over the years I have learned to keep summer school work simple. I always allow a few weeks “off” in the beginning of summer vacation. My four kids like unscheduled time, so after about two weeks “off,” I start gently bringing out the summer review school work. Every summer I order math review workbooks from Tri-C Publications, Inc.’s Summer Skills series. These are paper and pencil workbooks (much appreciated after a year of online learning) that help students review skills they learned the previous year or years.
These Summer Skills review workbooks are wonderful. I have one child in high school this year who will be going in to Algebra II. I ordered the Algebra I Review workbook since it has been a couple of years since my student has been in an Algebra class. This book has 33 lessons in it. I usually try to have my kids do one lesson, which is one page front and back, at least four days a week. But not on weekends!
Not on weekends!
The great thing about these workbooks is that all of the solutions to the math problems are in the back of the workbook and contain pages of “cheat sheets” that list all the formulas students need. The Summer Skills books for younger math students even contain hundreds charts, manipulative punch-outs, and flashcards. These workbooks make it easy for parents to help, even if math was not their strongest subject. I want summer review work to be easy and just a little challenging so that the kids will cooperate with doing it. Each lesson does not take long to complete–maybe 30 minutes or less. Students can even correct their answers themselves!
Summer Reading Review recommendations
Take me out to the library!
Summer reading should be enjoyable. It should be joyful. Especially this summer. We are so happy to have libraries open near us. I live close to a library and love to see families walking home with arms full of books. During the pandemic our school actually joined a program that got every student signed up for a library card to the local public library system. Access to books is a problem and libraries are here to help now, once again.
Take kids to the library. Kids have a choice there. Summer vacation is a child’s time to have a choice in what they read, so graphic novels and comic books are fine. Steer struggling readers to books that are a little easy for them. There is no harm in that at all. Summer is also the time to indulge in a good book series. Holding a book in their hands and turning actual pages and looking at the brilliant illustrations in REAL books will be a novelty for some kids this summer of 2021.
A good online library. Get Epic!
When I was teaching online this past school year, I found an online library that I really liked. That library was Epic! On Epic! I was able to find books for almost all of my early reader students. Epic! has books that can ONLY found on their website. It has alphabet letter books, chapter books, and everything in between. Students absolutely loved picking out their own books to read out loud to me over Zoom. I was working on decoding, phonics, and fluency with many of my students, and there were many, many books on Epic! that worked well for this. Fortunately, my school paid for accounts for teachers. I believe Epic! offers an account for families for summer at a reasonable price. It is definitely worth checking out.
This summer, have your kids read outloud to you. You should read outloud to them, too, of course. But, they should read outloud to you. How else are you going to know how well they read? If they are always squirreled away reading silently, how can you interact with them and their reading? How can you spot trouble? How can you help them? Reading outloud allows parents to ask questions about the reading and offers the opportunity to define difficult vocabulary words. Reading outloud also helps students build reading stamina and fluency.
A technique for reluctant or struggling readers
If your child is a reluctant or struggling reader, you can try this: sit on a couch right next to your child, so you are touching or are almost touching. Together, hold a book and have your child read outloud to you with your voice reading quietly outloud, too, but just a split second behind theirs. Your child will kind of hear your voice echo in their ear. As they read a word, your voice is just finishing saying that word. If your child stumbles on a word, you say it and just keep going and have them keep going with you and then let them lead once again. Try to do this for 20 minutes straight each day. My own son moved ahead one whole grade level using this method when he was in first grade. My mother-in-law, a longtime Special Education teacher, taught me this technique. It doesn’t work for every child. Children that don’t like to be touched or don’t like to hear the echo of your voice may not cooperate.
This technique may seem torturous, but it can really help some children move ahead in reading. When you do this, you are helping them (and you!) with reading stamina and fluency. You are also supporting them and not calling attention to mistakes. You are teaching your child how to read at a good rate and that will help with reading comprehension. Most importantly, you are building their confidence in reading. Some students can handle this technique and others can’t stand it, but it’s worth a try. Summer is such a good time to try this technique. The stresses of the regular school year are gone.
Finally, if you can this summer, go outside and read. Children will see that reading doesn’t have to just be a stuffy indoor, academic thing. Read on a bench, a swing, a hammock, a lawnchair, a step, a towel or blanket on the ground. Reading can be comforting if done in a comfortable spot. Summer allows for that. After the year we have had, we all deserve to be outside this summer.