Did you know teachers often spend weeks every fall re-teaching material already covered the previous spring? As a result, they worry about the new material they can’t get to, and their students may end up feeling bad because they sense their teachers’ frustration—Definitely not the most motivating way to start the new school year.
So what can you do this summer to keep students’ minds challenged? Plenty, it turns out. The secret is a little effort consistently invested. The goal is to make it fun and competitive for your summer-loving students so they engage their ever-buzzing brains: Think of it as daily life, enriched.
Do you read for fun? You can take your students to the library regularly so everyone can browse and choose fun books, and graphic novels count! Reading just six books a summer can preserve their comprehension skills. The more often they visit the well, the more likely they are to take a drink. You and your students can also take turns reading aloud to each other the books they love. And you can encourage them to invite like-minded readers to “book club” at your house. For live literature under the stars, you can take the whole crew to free Theater in the Park events all summer long.
In general, how do you fuel your students’ curiosity? You can surf the web together; when they ask you questions, you can send them to the web to explore and to tell you what they find out. Remember to engage them with follow-up questions so they think deeper, relating what they just learned with what they already know or believe.
Are you taking a family trip? You can enlist your students to research events, to figure costs and travel time required, and—after you return—to tell Grandma all about it in an e-mail. It’s ideal for developing their prefrontal cortexes, their sense of agency, and their math and writing skills. Turn it into a friendly competition: After working up their proposals, students can “pitch” to the entire family, who can then vote by secret ballot, and the best plan wins.
Brain health and heart health go together, and exercise improves learning. So you can all go out and play! Set up some ball games, plastic-disk competitions or swim parties to keep everyone’s brains oxygenated; you’ll think better because that’s how nature made you. Board games from Battleship to Zingo teach students a plethora of mental skills while they think they’re just having fun, so you, too, have permission to move around the board if it spurs them to do the same.
There are camps to learn nearly every conceivable activity abound in the summer, so students can also try a more structured, immersive experience near home or far away. Discovering a lifelong passion maybe just one Google search away.