Sunday, May 14, 2017

#DigiLitSunday Summer Slide


As a teacher, what do I want most for my students? My fondest wish is that my students become caring, passionate, engaged, educated citizens who are curious, think critically and seek out knowledge. Is that really asking too much? Of course, this is what I aspire to be, too- the kind of person who continues learning, growing, and uses that knowledge to make the world at least a little bit better. 

The whole issue of "summer slide" is, for me, like an iceberg. There is so much below the surface that we need to think about. If students stop learning- stop reading, writing, and thinking- when not in school, what are we really teaching? Are we teaching for compliance? Are we teaching students to fill out reading logs but despise reading, to just wait for that period of time when reading can, in their opinion, blissfully stop? Isn't our mission- all year long- to inspire students to be learners, thinkers, and yes- readers and writers? 

Each year, I get a list of the reading levels my new students were in June when they were second graders. Each September, many students have dropped a level or two or three. Sometimes more. Some didn't read all summer long. They didn't write either. And this makes me so sad because chances are, these kids don't see themselves as readers and writers, as people who read and write because it enriches their lives. They don't see these activities as pleasurable or part of their identity. 

This doesn't sit well with me.

Last year, we tried something to hook our students into reading. I created summer digital newsletters, using Smore. We had a padlet where each week, students and staff members could share what they were reading and this was included in the newsletter. The newsletter featured videos of teachers and staff members reading a summer themed book as a way to give kids some more read aloud time and feel a connection to the school during the summer. The newsletters also included some summer slide infographics and events at the local library. 

Another thing we tried was 2 summer book exchanges- each hosted at the local library. We had a photo booth and bookmarks for kids to color and everyone who came got to choose new books to read. Kids even made video book reviews in front of a green screen. 

This was our first time trying something like this, so of course there are ways to improve upon what we began. One thing I'd like to try is asking parents to sign up for the digital newsletter ahead of time, to explain more about summer slide and have them receive it in their email box instead of just finding it on Facebook or Twitter. I'd also like to create a hashtag for our summer learning, so students and staff members could share what we are learning throughout the summer. As part of the Two Writing Teachers blog series, Keeping the Learning Going Throughout the Summer, I shared an idea to use a bingo board as incentive for summer writing. Writing could also be shared via padlet during the summer, just like reading. 

Digital tools make it easier than ever to keep a learning community connected. Summer can be an exciting way to see students try independent writing projects and have them share their learning across different media. Readers and writers can share and be part of a community of learners. Do we take advantage of these ways to keep our students connected? And, most importantly, are we creating communities of learners who are energized by what they read, write and share and are eager to do it through all seasons? If not, we have more to think about than just the summer slide.