Despite a year filled with unprecedented challenges, our emergent learners have overcome a learning year like no other to become beginning readers and writers—and every gain has been hard earned! Enter the dilemma. On one hand your students need this summer break as much as you do to decompress, relax, recharge, and play after a year like no other. On the other hand, you know if your students don’t practice their newly acquired literacy skills, they face the dreaded “summer slide." So how can you encourage your students to do both?
Just like you, we have been pondering this question as we wrap up our year. We want our students to continue to read, write and explore words but we want this to be engaging, playful and fun so students WANT to practice every day. With this in mind, we’ve gathered ideas, materials and websites that support this goal and share a few here so you can, in turn, share with your students’ parents.
As teachers, we all understand the benefits of reading to children every day. For parents, daily reading is more likely to happen if we help them understand why. Access to books can also be a barrier, so we like to show parents how they can access digital books in addition to the books in their local library. Here are a couple of helpful links.
- This short article from PBS.org explains the cognitive and social/emotional benefits of reading to children. Why Reading Aloud to Children Helps Them Thrive
- Epic is a popular site that provides thousands of books and audiobooks. Children can access some of these books for free for 2 hours per week all summer if their teacher registers their class by June 30, 2021. The site can be found here at GetEpic.com and here are the directions for signing up your class for EpicFree summer access.
Beginning readers are so excited to read books on their own. At school, we are able to provide books with just the right scaffolds for early readers, but access to these books for parents is difficult. Here are a few sites that provide digital books that children will love to read.
- TextProject.org: We learned about this site when Nell Duke recommended it. This site provides parents and teachers with a wide variety of resources! One resource (found in this link) is Beginning Reads for early readers. These little books are organized by increasing complexity with decodable words and high frequency words. Each level of books also includes writing and word work activities.
- Pioneer Valley: In the midst of the pandemic, Pioneer Valley worked diligently to get a digital reader (Literacy Footprints) in the hands of teachers to use in a virtual setting. Now they have an opportunity for families to purchase a family subscription. The subscription gives up to five family members access to 260 books that increase in text complexity as well as tips and videos for parents to use to help support their reader at home.
If your students are like ours, they don’t need much to be writers. Crayons, pencils, markers, and reams of blank paper are the only tools needed to encourage the writing juices to begin to flow. Below are some specific activities to encourage authentic writing.
- Summer Journaling: The season of summer is packed with little moments and big moments to write about. Just staple some blank pages together or purchase a blank book and, voila, a child has a space to write and illustrate those moments.
- Story Writing: Students love to tell true stories about their lives as well as made up stories filled with characters of their choosing. After listening to those stories, a nudge to write them down may be all a child needs to compose a page turner.
- High Interest Topic Writing: Every child has something they are passionate about or a topic they want to learn more and more about. Summer is the perfect time to encourage children to follow their interests and personalize their learning. Making posters, writing books, creating and labeling projects, etc. are perfect ways to share their passion.
- Useful Writing: This type of writing is spontaneous and usually evolves from a need: a letter to a grandparent, a to-do list, a grocery list, a birthday card for a friend, a menu for a pretend restaurant. The possibilities are endless!
PLAYING WITH LETTERS AND WORDS
Our early readers also feel great pride in everything they know about letters and words. Continuing to explore with letters and words can be fun while helping to maintain and extend all they have learned. The key is to keep summer activities fun and engaging, while offering children choices. Here are some great resources.
- University of Florida’s Virtual Teaching Hub: This site is worth exploring! Children can make high frequency words, build words with phonics principles they’ve learned, or try out words they want to use in their writing on this virtual blending board (and here is an advanced version) This word card generator can be used for word sort games.
- WordWall.net: This fun site provides countless games and activities, created by users, and allows you to create your own. Use the search bar on the site to search for fun games with letters, sounds and words. Here is an example of a CVC picture wheel.
- Magnetic Letters: BigBrownBear.co.uk/letters/ provides digital “magnetic letters” for children to have fun using in their word and letter explorations. If they are attempting a word in writing, they can try it first with these letters. They can also sort letters or think of their own activities.
Summer is for playing! And as children play throughout the summer, we can merge this excitement with literacy learning, one of life’s greatest pleasures. As you work to support families with summer literacy, we hope you’ll find these resources and ideas helpful!