Stereotypes about summer school are everywhere, perpetuated in part by movies featuring an exasperated teacher trying desperately to engage a less-than-enthusiastic group of students. But teaching classes during the summer doesn’t have to feel like such a struggle. Sure, students might not be thrilled initially at the prospect of spending part of their summer indoors. But skilled and patient instructors can convey course material in a way that’s truly helpful and engaging. Thus, making the class a success for everyone involved. After all, the ultimate goal is helping students retain important course information, so they can thrive come fall and beyond.
Here are a few tips for making the most of teaching summer school.
Promote Cooperative Learning
Overseeing summer school classes provides an excellent opportunity to create a classroom community. Cooperative learning not only amplifies the social benefits of making social connections but also helps bring concepts to life from the page or screen. Prioritize group work, switching up the assignments periodically and holding groups accountable for presenting their ideas to the class at large from time to time.
Transform traditionally solo activities—like reading, writing and researching—into partner or group tasks regularly. This will help your summer school students develop a sense of camaraderie and approach these assignments in a more collaborative way.
Make Your Lessons Interactive
Students have the best chance of retaining course material if it’s engaging. Chances are a steady, one-way lecture will only cause your pupils to tune out after the first few minutes. So, what can you do to help students tune into your lessons? Utilize a student response system to make each lesson interactive. This tech tool allows teachers to solicit questions, freeform responses and multiple-choice answers from students in real time.
The potential benefits are numerous. For example, students can submit their most pressing questions anonymously instead of having to raise their hands—a hurdle that may have otherwise deterred them from asking.
Return to Basics: Reading and Writing
One of the biggest luxurious in summer school is simply time. Are you eager to help students discover or rediscover the many personal and academic benefits of simply sitting down and reading a good book? One teacher chronicles designated 45 minutes per day to silent reading time.
The result? “With no choice but to read, my students became absorbed by a book—some for the first time in their lives.”
The same principle applies to writing, creative or otherwise. Set aside quiet, structured time specifically for these staple activities each day. You may be surprised just how much students come to depend on this time; it can serve as an island in the large body of water that is an otherwise hectic day.
Don’t Forget to Have Fun
Yes, the primary goal of summer school is to help students meet certain educational goals. But forgetting fun will only heighten the chances of your pupils’ minds straying outside the walls of the classroom. Even small efforts like setting aside 10 minutes per day for snack time can help learners stay focused and positive. Incorporate learning games whenever possible. Allow for supervised outside time when the weather is nice. Incorporate arts and crafts into your lesson plans when it’s applicable.
What else can teachers do to make summer school more fun? There’s a way to do so for nearly any subject. Act out a play. Perform a hands-on experiment. Watch a video clip. Practice a new skill. Change up your classroom layout. Incentivize students with a reward system for good behavior. For a creative teacher, the options are nearly endless.
Teaching summer school successfully means engaging students and helping them rediscover how rewarding learning can be.