How do we engage families over the summer?

Testing is Over - What Now?

Congratulations, you've either just made it through testing season or it's almost over. 

Even without test results in, you've spent an entire school year doing the very best possible for your students, their families, and your school.

How well did your year go? The assessment results will give you a clue, but you and I both know you put in more experience, expertise, and energy into this year and each year. Nice work!

There's one part of the 'school year' I want to touch on, because how we handle this part can determine the entire next year of school: the summer.

One of the great things we can do as teachers (and administrators who support teachers) is help parents with activities and a perspective that summer learning is important. 

And, because summer learning usually happens at home while kids are out of school, summer learning is a BIG part of family engagement.

Early in my career as a special education teacher, I learned how impactful summer learning could be on future years.

The three month summer break for students often meant we had to go back three months to re-gain material and comprehension, and we also had to re-gain the momentum of learning. 

Sometimes, we'd have to go back six months to start with what each child could remember! That's hard on the child, and on me as I witnessed their struggle.

My student Ricky's transition each year was especially difficult.

Because I taught Special Ed, I'd have the same students for several years. Ricky was a neat kid and enjoyed school, but for the first couple of years I had Ricky in my class it seemed his "summer back slide" was more dramatic than most.

When Ricky would return in August he was eight months behind where he left off in May... or more! It often seemed like we'd be starting over again. What was going on over the summer with him?

I finally figured it out. It seems every summer Ricky would visit Mexico and stay with his abuelita (grandmother) and spent almost the entire summer watching T.V.

Coming back to school, so much time in front of the T.V. and without learning was a problem.

Before the third summer I had Ricky, his Dad and I talked about his learning and activities or approaches they could take on at home. 

That summer, Ricky stayed home and he came back to school a changed boy! The next August, Ricky not only hadn't lost skills from May, he was ready to take on the year. It even became possible to put him back into the regular classroom!

A simple set of conversations with Ricky's dad, a few suggested activities, and a joint plan with his family completely changed this student's next academic year.

Ricky is the reason I absolutely believe that helping parents find something to do during the summer is essential for continuous learning - regardless of what grade or class their student is in.

Here are some examples:

  • Reading: What can you read (insert their favorite topic)?

  • Math & Sports: Who's batting average can you calculate?

  • Geography, Math, & Research Skills: What kind of trip will you take? How much will it cost? Where will you go?

As teachers, you are the best person to start this conversation with families. 

We have several activity books in our shop for all grades in reading and math, but my experience says that ideas shared in a conversation between you and your students' parents are the strongest and best source of activities.

Again, if you need ideas I have hundreds to share, but let any ideas be shared from you and through your relationship with parents.

Let's make every child's next year one like Ricky's! 

Committed to your success,

Dr. Joni Samples


P.S. If you are a district looking for training, workshops, or other resources for your entire district, request a free consult from Family Friendly Schools