by Helen Beyne
In the next few weeks, most schools will end for the year. During the summer, in the absence of opportunities to learn and practice essential skills, learning can decline. Many students regress over the summer months and return to school behind on measures of academic achievement. Research shows that students from all socioeconomic backgrounds lose about two months of mathematical computation skills over the summer months; however, in literacy, the achievement gap between students from high- and low-income families widens. New technology tools can drastically change the way learning takes place between June and September and can help fight the “summer slump.”
Online learning communities are expanding the ways students can interact with the world and are an engaging way to keep students reading and writing throughout the summer. When students use online learning communities to regularly connect and collaborate with their teachers and peers, they are able to maintain and sometimes even improve their skills over the summer. Additionally, they are building technology skills and learning media literacy.
There are myriad online learning communities, such as Edmodo, that make it easy for educators to connect with their students, allow for student collaboration, and enable teachers to share new resources with their students over the summer months. One way to start the “summer semester” is by asking students what they’re interested in learning. You can use the topics your students suggest to create interest-driven reading lists, book club groups, and project-based learning tasks on Edmodo that encourage students to read. You can also post writing prompts so that you can monitor students’ comprehension, evaluate students’ punctuation and grammar, and guide students as they read. To make sure your students are constantly reading and writing, consider posting links to current events, videos, and new scientific discoveries and ask students to reflect on what they learned.
Another effective way to maintain students’ literacy skills and have them develop new technology skills is to encourage students to go on a field trip in their communities or on a virtual field trip and blog about their experience. Make sure to communicate the objective and purpose of the project and post a list of field trip options on Edmodo. There are many different virtual field trips available, such as Google Lit Trips or the Louvre museum. Encourage students who elect to go on field trips in their communities to take photos so they have a visual record of their experience. Have students create blogs on Weebly to document their experience. Ask them to post photos they took or found online and reflect on what they learned during their visits.
In addition to online learning communities, literacy solutions, such as myOn, can help students improve their reading skills by recommending books that match their ability level and allow teachers to guide students and closely monitor their progress. myON is a literacy program that allows students to access more than 7,000 digital books. Students can access its expansive digital library online or via its iPad or Android apps. This literacy solution creates a profile for students based on their interests and reading level and uses the criteria to recommend books to them. myON’s features include spoken word audio, word or sentence highlighting, an embedded dictionary, and end-of-book quizzes. The program allows teachers to monitor each student’s progress through a dashboard, which collects data on the amount of time spent reading, number of books read, and assessment results and allows teachers to create a customized reading experience for their students. During the summer, teachers can use this Lexile-based program to assign summer readings and monitor student progress.
Online learning communities and literacy solutions provide opportunities for students to read and write over the summer months and allow students to create and share their work, collaborate with one another, build technology skills, and use digital books to enhance reading. Summer presents an opportunity for teachers to be more innovative and creative in their teaching and assessment.
How will you use technology to help students maintain or improve their literacy skills over the summer to help close the achievement gap?
Helen Beyne is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development. She has years of experience in creating innovative curriculum materials in reading, ESL, science, and social studies. She writes about IWBs and free online resources for teachers.