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Ask an Expert: Top summer learning posts

The school year is almost over. That means it’s time to start thinking about summer – and what you can do to keep your kiddo’s brain cells fired up (and I’m not talking video games).

So, once again, I tapped some EdNews Parent experts to provide some suggestions on summer learning opportunities. After all, some studies indicate that elementary, middle and high school teachers spend as much as four to six weeks of instructional time at the start of the new school year remediating students who have lost essential academic and social skills during summer vacation.

Before I tap the real experts, I’d like to suggest you check out one my personal summer favorites – CU Science Discovery. Courses are offered for all ages in both Boulder and Denver. Scholarships are available. From past experience, I can tell you teachers and resources available for use are incredible. In our household, we are picking between week-long day camps in astronomy, stop-motion animation, crime scene investigation or SciGirls. Tough choices.

Now, on to other tips.

Getting your kids to read

Susan Ryder, an award-winning high school English teacher suggests being creative when encouraging kids to read. To do this:

  • Provide a variety of opportunities and topics. Short stories, recipes, graphic novels, magazines, and online articles can entice reluctant readers sometimes quicker than a recommended novel.
  • Use what they’re interested in to spark a conversation. Reluctant readers can be engaged during the summer by meeting them where they are. If a child is interested in snowboarding but doesn’t necessarily like to read, start with equipment catalogues, ski resort brochures, or short biographies of athletes. Transition to nonfiction narratives written about the sport or fictional accounts. Full length novels might be the end goal – and a completely reasonable expectation- but connecting to literature through reading and interacting with others about what has been read, is the pathway to improvement.

Get ready for next school year

Expert Ann Morrison, a professor at Metro State, suggests doing a bit of research about what content your child will be expected to learn next school year. Then, she suggests, talk to your child to find out what they’re most interested in.

“The point isn’t to pre-teach the content but to provide background information that will facilitate the student learning the new content,” she says.

For example, if the science curriculum for the following year includes the metamorphic rock cycle, make a visit to the geology museum at the Colorado School of Mines.

(Remember, EdNews Parent experts are always eagerly awaiting your questions about teaching and learning, so bring ‘em on by clicking here).

And now, for some EdNews Parent classics that are still relevant as we prepare for the long summer months ahead.

Fun, educational stuff that’s free

This post, by the National PTA and Carson Dollosa Publishing, offers fun – and free – tips for things you can do with your kids over the summer, including identifying leaves in your neighoborhood, listening to music at a bookstore listening station – or even a record store (if any still exist), getting your child into a volunteer situation working with animals or the elderly or anything your child is into, or sletting up a mock Olympcis course in your backyard or staging a talent show.

Now, for the child who is absorbed in technology, check out recommended educational apps in this EdNews Parent post.

A timeless classic remains your local library. Read about Denver’s Summer of Reading program by clicking here. Libraries almost always stage reading programs and fun competitions for kids over the summer. Visit your local branch online or in person for information.

And read this EdNews Parent post for some other good ideas about how to stay occupied with your kids this summer and help them keep on learning. There are great ideas, including starting collections, plan menus and help buy food needed to pull of a culinary masterpiece.

Is your child crazy about getting wet? Then read this post with awesome water-based games you can pull off in your own yard.

Finally, read this post that specifically targets curbing summer brain drain without spending a fortune on tutors, camps or flashcards. It offers tangible ways to help little kids getting ready to head off to kindergarten. For older, kids, there are some cool suggestions about enlisting your kids to help plan trips, running lemonade stands, or calculating baseball batting averages.

So, that ought to get you started. Now please share your great ideas with the rest of us.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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