10 Ways To Stop the Summer Slide

The following was posted for my elementary kids on my classroom blog mrlosik.blogspot.com.  I am sharing it here to offer up some ideas teachers can use to help their own students avoid the “summer slide”.

Don’t let the last nine months of hard work simply slip away. Here are tens ways to keep the knowledge, creativity, and problem solving growing.

1. Read. Our local libraries are amazing places and wonderfully cool on hot days. Holland’s Herrick District Library has lot of summer activities planned and so does the Saugatuck Douglas Library. The Kent District Library in Grand Rapids does too if your family is up for a little reading road trip. Best of all, they are all free. Another free online resource is the Michigan Electronic Library’s kids section.

Your family can also sign up for Epic Books and have unlimited access to all kinds of digital books for your iPad or tablet. Think of it like Netflix for books with tons of the best titles like Big Nate and Bad Kitty. Epic is $4.99 per month and the first month is free. That’s less than a pizza and whether you like fiction or non-fiction, there is something for everybody.

2. Practice Math Facts. Teaching and learning are a lot like playing sports. Professional football players don’t just sit around all summer waiting for training camp. They are doing something everyday to become faster, stronger, and smarter. Whether it’s running, lifting weights, or perfecting how to better cover a pass, they know without it, they won’t be successful. The same is true with math facts. The more they become automatic, the more you can move on to more exciting stuff. Spend time on IXL and XtraMath this summer building your speed, strength, and brain. Here is the Blue Star IXL login.

3. Build Something. One of the main reasons we do math is so we can make cool stuff. Anybody can be a worksheet monkey but is really special to do something with your math skills. Whether you are just nailing wood together on a workbench or creating your own iPad speakers you have to be able to measure your pieces and solve equations. Check out Instructables.com and you will be amazed at all of the projects from simple to mind-blowing. Most even use things you just have lying around the house.

4. Get Outside and Explore. Did you know that in Michigan you are never more than six miles from water? West Michigan is literally one of the best places on earth to spend the summer. Whether it is a visit to a park, the woods, or the beach there are great places to explore just minutes from your house.  The Shore Acres Park near the Felt Mansion has all of that and more. Walk the trails and check out the different trees and then look for fossils, sea glass, and special rocks on beach. The Lake Michigan Rock Picker’s Guide is a great book for identifying what you find. Here is a cool blog with some other information. Pier Cove, Westside County Park, Douglas Beach, and Laketown Beach are all free and close by.

5. Grow Something and Eat It. You might live on a big farm or you might live in a tiny apartment, but everyone has enough room for a flower pot or planter. Go big on a whole garden or just spend a buck or two on some green bean seeds and plant them in sturdy pot. Give them water and sun and soon you will have a beanstalk offering up a crisp healthy snack. Gardening Fundamentals  is a great place to start. Print out the journal to track your gardening.

6. Learn to Code. Why just play video games when you can learn an entire new language and build your own? Visit CODE.org and work on a couple of challenges like the Mindcraft, Star Wars or Frozen ones. If you get caught by the coding bug, keep going and try one of their 20 Hour Courses. There is something for every grade level from pre-school on up. Completing these courses will actually give you a nice boost on a career in computer science or set you up to build your own game.

7. Catch the Olympic Spirit. The world’s best athletes are headed to Rio de Janeiro in August for the 2016 summer Olympics. Sharpen your geography and boost your knowledge by digging into the history of the games, researching your favorite athletes, and making the flags you find most interesting. Teachervision.com has a great site for getting started. NBC will provide hundreds of hours of coverage but you don’t have to wait until August. Check out NBCOlympics.com now to learn all about what is coming up from Rio.
8. Play60. Just go outside and play. You don’t have to spend money going to a sports or summer camp. It doesn’t even matter if there are any other kids around either. Speaking of Olympics, set up your own events even if you just draw a line, pick up a rock, and jump as far as you can. Set the rock down next to where your back heel landed. Try to beat it. If you want to do some moving with a pro athlete, check out Washington Redskins’ Ryan Kerrigan leading some agility activities from Discovery Education and the NFL. Getting creative outside is great for mind and body.
9. Go new places. If you have opportunity to take a trip, understand how lucky you are to be getting out and experiencing new places. Just paying attention to how the scenery changes or the importance of physical and human-created landmarks is the best social studies lesson anybody can have. Even if it doesn’t work out for your family to embark on an epic journey just go somewhere different like a park you’ve never explored. Try to unplug as much as possible but if you are going to bring along a device use it to capture and then share the adventure. Here are some great apps for that.

10. Do Something For Someone Else. No matter what you do this summer, do something for someone else. The real reward is the feeling you get inside. I’ve always believed true friendship is true service so just randomly decide to help someone do something like empty the dishwasher or even clean your room without being told. The more you volunteer your time and talents, the more likely you will return to school in the fall ready to be the kind of kid that makes any school a better place to be.

Our summer vacation is something we can’t take for granted. Find a nice balance of recovering from this school year, resting up for the next one, and finding ways to keep your brain firing while you make it the best one ever!

Tackling Technical Text with Paper Airplanes at Instructables com

Tackling Technical Text with Paper Airplanes at Instructables.com 

 I was recently searching with my wife for go to technical texts that she could use with her fourth graders as they tackle how directions are written and strategies for comprehending them.

I decided to take a deeper look at Instructables.com. I’ve had the app for years but always thought of it as this way-out set of instructions for building things like charcoal powered generators or a suit of armor made from pop can tabs.

The site is actually loaded with easy to build, fun stuff like paper airplanes…some simple, some complex. Many of the instructions are written by kids too.

The second-graders dove right in to the many offerings. Some had to overcome the fact the task would take some thinking, trial and error, and perseverance. Overall, we ended up experiencing a lot of learning and having a lot of fun as this relentless winter raged on.

Thanks Flocabulary!

This year in Hamilton, building students’ academic vocabulary has been a primary focus.

Thanks to everyone at Flocabulary.com for your fabulous videos that have made learning so much fun. Here is a little remix of Double Trouble to show you just how much fun kids at Blue Star Elementary had rocking out during lunchtime.

Elementary Market Day: A great ‘maker’ experience

Two  of the really cool events that happen at the elementary school where I teach and the elementary school where my daughter attends are the student-led market days.  The two schools put their own spin on market day, but the premise is the same.

IMG_5017It is a mini maker faire, DIY entrepreneurial experience where students develop, market, and then sell handmade wares to classmates. My daughter used unwanted upholstery samples to create microfiber computer/smart phone screen cleaners and cloth book marks. Other projects kids made included root beer floats, pvc pipe marshmallow shooters, and laser cut metal letters painted in popular university colors glued on a magnet. I have even seen a massage booth and a miniature golf hole complete with volcano.

What an amazing outpouring of creativity was on display in those gymnasiums!

Products have to be pre-approved by staff but created primarily by the students themselves. Each school has students advertise during the days leading up to the big sales day either via poster or promotional spots they deliver live during morning announcements.

At Douglas Elementary, Market Day works as a fundraiser where proceeds go toward the end of the year 5th grade celebration at a local fun spot. Raising money this way gives the kids a stake in the efforts and builds a sense of giving and working toward a shared cause. Items are sold to other kids and nobody ends up with ugly wrapping paper and overpriced cheese logs like the average fund raiser.

At Blue Star Elementary, teachers use Market Day to build meaning around economic concepts like operating costs and profit. Students have to use their own money or seek a loan from family members. All costs have to be detailed and recorded. These students get to keep all of the money from their sales but must re-pay any loans immediately.

Talk about authentic assessment when it comes to whether kids developed and marketed a successful product.

The thing I like most about the Market Day concept is that it lets each kid develop something they enjoy from their own interests and background. These are just a couple of ways to hold Market Day. I am sure with a little more creativity, there are lots of other ways too.