Last Updated On: May 5th, 2023
As we head into the summer months, time seems to stretch ahead without limit for our students. As we all know, however, the season will end, whether we plan for it or not. To make the most of the break, students can devise strategies to help them accomplish their goals over the summer months—maybe including sleeping in!
To help you and your student make summer everything you want it to be, try approaches that make summer projects efficient and effective, leaving more time for recharging and enrichment activities. Some of the most common academic goals are building on weak skills, getting ahead on material for the upcoming year, and developing new skills.
In order to promote family harmony, you and your child will want to identify your goals in advance. Having different summer goals can lead to frustration. It’s likely that you and your student each have your own underlying goals for the summer, even if you haven’t talked them out yet. A conversation or sharing brainstormed lists can help ensure that both of you agree upon a shared path and get the most out of your time. Let’s look at some starting points for summer projects that can boost your student’s confidence and ease in the upcoming academic year.
The first step to strengthening skills is identifying which topics would benefit from extra attention. During the year, there are often concepts that require more time to master than is available during the busy school year. To find areas that need strengthening, consider the following questions with your child:
Which topics were stressful during the last year? Which ideas or skills seemed to go too quickly? (These could have been challenging due to last year’s rush or could have built on previous units that were also difficult.) Which topics feel challenging every time they come back up? Which topics were associated with lower grades on tests, projects, or entire subjects? Which topics does your student feel “bad” at?
To strengthen skills:
- Make a list of skills.
- Decide which ones are essential or not. A teacher, tutor, mentor, or subject expert can help with this.
- Gather appropriate resources: a tutor, worksheets, videos, or books. If your student had difficulty with a certain topic, then other students certainly have had the same difficulties. At the same time, each student benefits from a different approach. An outside tutor or study group can keep self study from getting derailed by the temptations of summer. Plan a mix of materials to maintain your child’s interest and allow for peak comprehension.
- Plan to start with the most important topics. You might assign importance based on which skills are most used, which ones underlie the most concepts, or which ones will be used most in the upcoming year.
Getting Ahead for the Next Academic Year
Getting a head start on upcoming material can take the pressure off of an academic year, reducing stress, building confidence, and leaving time for additional activities. Your student will experience increased ease in completing assigned work and will understand material more readily if it is a review.
Start by gathering information about the classes or grade level material that will be covered in the next year. Some important sources to consider are:
- Teachers—Your child’s teacher(s) will be the best resource for guiding summer study if the resources are available. Find out who will be teaching your student and reach out to them for information and resources. The earlier you do this, the more likely you will be to get a thorough response, as many teachers have heavy administrative loads at the end of a school year and take on additional work during the summer months. A teacher knows not only which topics will be covered, but which ones can most easily and effectively be learned in advance.
- Syllabi—If a syllabus is available for the course(s) that your student is taking, it will give you an idea of which topics will be covered. If your student can familiarize themselves with certain skills ahead of time, it will take pressure off of the upcoming year. If the syllabus is from your student’s future teacher, then it will also contain information on how the course will work, which can help students feel more comfortable when the school year starts. You might even find a list of homework assignments, which will allow your student to get a head start on course material.
- Students who have taken the course before—Students who have already taken your child’s upcoming course or worked with its teacher can be great resources. These students can help you to understand which materials are important and which subjects can be particularly challenging. With this information, you and/or your student can set up a summer plan to address such topics in advance. This is also a great opportunity to discuss academic integrity with your student, as previous students may provide you with completed homework and tests. Learning the difference between understanding the material and memorizing answers can help students realize that grasping the material leads to deeper confidence and integrity than trying to memorize answers out of context.
- Textbook—If you can access your student’s textbooks early, then they can be a great source of study material. First, examine the table of contents. If the book has a review chapter, make sure that your student has a thorough understanding of the topics that the book’s authors believed would be useful in preparing for the course. Material that has been covered before is ideal for summer review because it builds on concepts with which your student is already familiar. Chapter reviews and summaries may be particularly useful in helping students focus on key concepts. Your child may also be helpful in identifying which topics feel redundant.
If materials are available, set a plan to spread self study throughout the summer. Make sure to keep the pace reasonable; summer is a fantastic time for students to recharge, and overscheduling self study can lead to resistance and stress. Remind your child that they can always jump ahead, but you may find that this is more likely if the pacing is moderately scheduled. Strategies that can help you decide what to include in your student’s self study program are:
- Developing a solid base of knowledge
- Getting a head start on topics that feel particularly challenging
- Exploring topics that are particularly interesting
If materials are not available for your student’s class, researching syllabi and other online materials, such as books, will give you an idea of which topics are core to the subject. Most subjects will have common themes regardless of who teaches them. Focus on these shared concepts.
Developing New Skills
Enrichment can include a language, a subject not covered in school, a sport, a craft, or another skill. You and/or your student can choose skills that they would like to have but don’t have time to initiate during the school year. You may find that your student’s skill is something they look into once, pick up each summer, or pursue on a regular basis. No matter how it works out, summer is a fantastic time to try out new interests, develop new skills, and satisfy curiosities. Here is a VERY short list of the virtually endless possibilities to get your brainstorming started:
- Computer programming
- American Sign Language (ASL)
- Mechanics or robotics
- Study Skills
- Relaxation techniques
- Standardized test taking
- Engine care
- Essay writing
- The solar system
- Test anxiety reduction strategies
With thoughtful planning, your student can enter the school year not only refreshed but academically stronger, armed with new skills designed to make their year easier.