by Steve Reifman, Monthly Columnist
Fox television’s “24” is one of my favorite shows of all time. Its fast-paced, non-stop action inspired me several years ago to create my Chase Manning Mystery Series for children 8-12 years of age, and it also provides the launching point for this month’s article. During one of the show’s thrilling season finales, President David Palmer is at an outdoor event shaking hands with a line of citizens. After shaking hands with one seemingly well-meaning woman, Palmer develops a pain in his hand, and though the episode effectively ties up all the loose ends from that season, the handshake also plants the seed for the storyline of the following season.
Summer Learning Fun
In the classroom I believe that we, as teachers, can accomplish something similar as we end each school year. We can end all our units and achieve a sense of closure with our students, but we can also encourage kids to make productive use of their summer vacations so that their skills remain sharp and they are ready to hit the ground running when they return the following year. In short, we can plant the seeds for summer learning.
In this article I share how I plant the seeds for summer learning in the area of writing. (You can follow a similar procedure for any subject area.) This process takes place approximately a week before the end of the year when I give everyone time to brainstorm plans for the summer. Specifically, I ask the kids to choose from among the following ideas to come up with their own specific topics. Many of these ideas build on projects we have done in our Writing Workshop. These ideas include:
• Write a fiction story, such as a mystery or adventure story. (These pieces can feature new ideas or be sequels to projects done during the year.)
• Write letters to family and friends.
• Create a variety of rhyming and non-rhyming poems.
• Keep a daily or weekly journal or diary.
• Write a comic book.
• Do research and write a non-fiction or “All About” book.
After presenting these options to my students, I share my own plans for the summer. I will describe the new Chase Manning Mystery I may be writing, as well as non-fiction projects that including writing blog posts, creating teacher resource materials, and adding features to my website. I believe sharing my plans to be powerful modeling, and I hope that it builds student motivation to follow through on their projects.
Once the kids have had time to brainstorm their specific ideas, I give everyone a few days to begin these projects in class with the hope and expectation that these instructional periods can act as a springboard to a productive summer of writing. When the kids have significant class time to start their summer projects, they are well prepared when summer begins to continue them. They have momentum. Even just a couple days spent on these writing plans facilitates a smooth transition into summer learning because kids no longer think about their plans as something they might do, but as something they will do because they have already starting doing it. Communicating with parents about this process also increases the chances of summer success. Consider ending each school year by planting the seeds for summer learning.
About the Author
Steve Reifman is a National Board Certified elementary school teacher, author, and speaker in Santa Monica, CA. He has written several books for educators and parents, including Changing Kids’ Lives One Quote at a Time andEight Essentials for Empowered Teaching and Learning, K-8. Steve is also the creator of the Chase Manning Mystery Series for kids 8-12. Each book in the series features a single-day, real-time thriller that occurs on an elementary school campus. For weekly Teaching Tips, blog posts, and other valuable resources and strategies on teaching the whole child, visit stevereifman.com. You can also follow Steve on Twitter.