School’s out for summer, but don't let that be the reason the books stay closed for two months! Just because our students are found sitting poolside rather than in two-by-two desks there are still many opportunities for learning that can be beneficial for both the upcoming year and in the process of creating life-long learners. One area that is the best to work on no matter what age is reading and comprehension and there are several ways to keep your student’s nose in a book while still being covered with sunscreen.
Before we get into ways to read when the weather gets warm, there are many benefits to spending time practicing reading during the summer. The first being that two months is a long time for a brain to be “at rest” when it’s been absorbing information all year long. Everyone needs a break, but the best way for students to ease into a new school year is to actually keep learning a small part of their daily routine. This is especially true for high school students who take a semester course load. For example, if a grade 9 student has English in the first semester, but they don’t have it again until the second semester in grade 10, that’s over a year without English- specific instruction. Further, since every teacher demonstrates concepts in a different way, it can be difficult to catch up or process a new teaching style if a student really identified with the last one. For Elementary students, literacy, comprehension and reading all have a major emphasis in the curriculum, so students will be spending time every day learning more and more concepts. Rather than giving students a break in the summer away from the books, keeping the reading skills up to date will help them ease into a new routine.
Further, the summer is the perfect time for your student to work on inquiry-based reading or projects with their tutor. Inquiry-based education is a process in which the topics of study are chosen based on what the students are interested in learning. This is a very common practice in kindergarten classrooms, most noted by the colorful learning centers that change on a weekly basis. The success of inquiry bases lessons comes from the teacher’s dynamic teaching style and methods as well as the students’ motivation to succeed. To get started, teachers will listen to their student’s conversations and pick up on themes that they explore, such as families; outer space, nature or cooking. Of course, there are certain topics that will definitely be covered, as decided by the schoolteachers, such as fire safety, patterns, and alphabet, but generally, there is flexibility in what can be taught. As a result, kindergarten students can tell you very specific information such as a whole, verses of a song or what every function of a train is. By tailoring the subjects to the student’s interest, teachers are able to keep a hold of the student’s attention because they are genuinely intrigued as to what is being taught. The process of inquiry learning also opens the door to various learning methods, where students are learning about parts of a bug, they may learn the three basic body parts (head, abdomen, thorax), then identify bugs by looking at a toy set of them, followed up by creating their own bug after going on a nature walk and seeing bugs in their natural habitat. To wrap up the unit, students may have a small presentation of the show and share on their favorite bug or create a booklet with more bug information. Inquiry-based learning is so successful because it supports the natural way students learn and is flexible in its methods.
To incorporate inquiry-based reading into a student’s summer routine, the first thing to decide on what topic is of interest to the student. Pick something easily accessible, with many resources available at a library or bookstore, and will benefit the student’s learning in the future. Some examples for elementary students are studying ocean life, rainforest animals or prehistoric landforms. Whereas secondary students may benefit from learning about different cultures, geographic regions or literary genres like Shakespeare related works. You can work with your tutor to gather resources to get started. Of course, you can always look things up on the Internet, but the benefit of using a book is that it becomes a trusted source to get information from. Many libraries offer kits for summer reading or a librarian can suggest appropriate level reading material for any kind of student. It’s also a good idea to make up a desk or a workspace that is only for tutoring time, this way, the student knows they can devote as much as time as they can to doing their summer task before moving on with the rest of the day.
If a students’ focus is solely to improve reading and comprehension, then just gather more information on the topic is a great start. You can always move on if their interest goes somewhere else. If a student needs to work on writing, understanding or demonstrating their knowledge, then a tutor can suggest projects to do, such as book reports, a Prezi or PowerPoint presentation, a tri-board display or even a small lesson for the students to teach to their parents. Tracking progress is also a great way to stay motivated and can also help the tutor create engaging sessions for the student that are self-directed but valuable.
Overall, taking any small steps to show students that learning is ongoing promotes life-Iong learners. Inquiry-based learning also shows student’s that their ideas are valuable and encouraging them to be explored supports the self-worth that comes from gaining knowledge. The best part of inquiry learning is that students are learning naturally, at their own pace and with a topic that they have a keen interest for, resulting in a steady stream of motivation for a tutor to guide them through their process. Summer inquiry learning also does not have to have any rules or guidelines and students can complete their sessions in an uninterrupted amount of time. It’s an easy way to keep them entertained when on trips or out of the city. Remember to keep students supported by encouraging them to follow what they want to learn about, appreciating their efforts to complete work on summer vacation (now that’s a hard thing to do!) and by showing interest in what they have been working on. By following an inquiry-based reading program, students will not only keep their brain active during vacation, but they will improve their vocabulary, brush up on their comprehension skills, add new problem-solving methods to their reading and develop a sense of self-regulation by making and keeping their own schedule. Talk to your student’s teachers and tutors before getting started if you need more guidance, but remember, as long as students are reading, they’re already doing a productive task that will benefit them for the years to come. Happy reading!