Monday, May 19, 2014

The Traditional End of the Year Countdown--Have YOU Given That Practice a Deeper Thought?

I am about to reveal something that you likely didn’t know was a source of irritation for me, a “pet peeve”,  if you will.  We all have those, don’t we?  I am no different!  I would like to share that one of my biggest pet peeves is the public and grand “countdowns/days left” displays and discussions that inevitably occur at the end of the year or near any break.    

Why?  The biggest reason is the children.  In this day and age, our children’s summers will not match the summer you have planned for yourself and your family.  Many of our children will be engaged in day care and camps, but it just is not the same as what you have provided for 180 days at school.  The message the countdown sends to kids is often a source of anxiety for a multitude of reasons.  They are anxious about what the structure of their day will be; you have provided a regimented and predictable day for them for 180 days.  Many of our children will spend their summer days craving the attention that you have given them over the 180 days that you were together as a class.  Children like that consistency and knowing what is next; many of their summer days are spent without any structure, challenge, or real engagement with an adult.  You have filled their days at McCall with love, happiness, security and rich experiences that likely will not be matched day for day in their summer days. 

Second, children get the message that this is over—you are done and ready to go home.  It isn’t over, we still have 16 days left to fill with math, reading and science and social studies.  They begin to make bad choices because everyone is “ready for vacation”.  When we maximize that time for them and plan great lessons all the way to the end, you don’t wear yourselves out because you are managing behavior issues due to unengaged, unfocused children.  I came across the attached blog post last night from one of my peers in the tech world and friend from twitter, Amber Teamann.  Her post is what inspired me to share how I feel about the countdown.  She has a similar view, but wrote a GREAT post on a list to challenge you (and her staff) to complete the last 16 days.  I am not saying not to be joyful over your summer and the plans you have, but try to not to be so public about it to the kiddos here at the end.

Make these last days amazing memory makers for the children and plan great lessons.  The kids will LOVE you for it and you will have an end of the year to remember instead of dread, I guarantee it!


Here is the link to my friend Amber’s post which inspired my thoughts in this post: 
technicallyteamann.com/what-can-you-d…

As a 2015 update to one of my favorite posts, here is a great blog with an important message to our being present with our kids:
http://pursuitofajoyfullife.com/2014/01/26/what-students-remember-most-about-teachers/

Summer Literacy

I have been inspired to write today by Kylene Beers post to her blog, "Four Guidelines to Summer Reading" on May 4, 2104.  She writes about all ages in her post, but of course, I am focused upon the youngest readers.  I have long affirmed that the easiest and BEST academic intervention a parent of an elementary child can participate in is simply the act of reading.  Parents should make weekly visits to the library in the summer. This is a zero cost and when consistent, leads to academic impact in the fall when children return to school. It doesn't matter is children choose easy to read books, or wordless books, the effect will be seen for sure in the classroom.  When parents read with their child in addition, this can impact kids even more!

As I stated, Ms. Beers writes in her blog about all ages. One fact that she brings forward in her blog about students is supported by a wealth of reading research, which she has linked on her blog for your review.  Her fact finding in that research leads her to state that students lose up to two months of achievement when they do not participate in summer reading.  In my years of experience, it is not unusual to see children backslide all the way to their previous winter achievement when they do not read over the summer.  Again, it does not have to be challenging material, the simple act of reading a self-selected book helps the children make gains in the fall.  Ms. Beers also writes in her blog, that students who read 10-15 books over the summer make as much gain as students who attend summer school. So, as a parent or an adult cheerleader of a elementary reader, let's make it a goal for our elementary-aged children to read at least 12 new books this summer.

For our children moving into middle school, the recommended number of summer books decreases, as their book is likely to be a bit more "meaty" than a picture book.  Ms. Beers writes that our older students need to target at least 5-6 books over the summer to make academic gains over the summer.  Series books are very popular with our older children.  Summer is a great time to dive into Harry Potter, the Divergent series or even Hunger Games.  I have read all those books and highly recommend them to our children moving into middle school.  I am a conservative mom with a soon to be high school freshmen, so I read all of those books before I let her read them.  I assure you that they are wonderful books that get kids talking and thinking.  As a reading teacher, that is exactly what we want them to do with books.  The series nature also leads them right into the next book.  Divergent and Hunger Games are  series of  three books each.  There are your six books for the summer!

One way that I am encouraging summer reading is by opening the McCall library over the summer.  I hope that coming to school to check out books over the summer will serve as a novelty for our readers.  I will ask them what they are reading and help foster book conversations over the summer.  I bet it is going to be a great hook for our kids and a little bit of encouragement to keep them engaged with books of all kinds over the summer.

She has also got a great idea for posting on Facebook over the summer.  I am going to try that out this summer, as I have SEVERAL books planned to read over the summer myself.  I have a mix of professional and fun things on my list and plan to use the library a lot over the summer months.

Happy Reading!