Are you drowning in paperwork with the school year ending? If you're like me, then in addition to the overwhelming paperwork, you're beginning to get sentimental about the year ending and worry how your kids will do over the summer. Never fear, today's post will ease your mind and your workload.
Today, I'm going to share with you several options you might find easy enough to implement without loads of stress on any one person and without adding to your to-do list.
Summer Reading Camp
As a reading specialist, one of my biggest worries with struggling readers is summer learning loss, otherwise known as, "Summer Slide". We know from research that children lose about six week's of instruction when they go through the summer without picking up a book. For years, our leadership team has observed this and tried sending the kids to summer school or sending home books, but for our students, we just did not see the benefit. A few years ago, we heard about another division offering a "Summer Reading Camp", and this idea just meshed with what we felt our kids needed. Then, our school was lucky enough to partner with a local college that needed to offer a summer reading clinic for a small group of graduate students. Ah ha! The perfect match! We had a few staff members willing to come in for a few weeks with the relaxed atmosphere, and what we found is that our kids enjoyed it so much that they could not wait to come each day. Many would have been at home doing nothing, so getting books in their hands, experimenting, working on math, and other literature based activities was not "school" to them, but fun for them. To pay for it, we used Title 1 funding to provide the bus and pay for the personnel that's helped out, and overall, the cost has not kept us from being able to offer it. The other great thing is that it's helped us keep our library open for check out for others too. For more information on the camp, you can check out [THIS POST] over on Virginia is for Teachers as well as some of the posts I wrote up last summer about the themes we chose.
Online Book Club
This summer, one new idea I am looking forward to trying is an online book club for fourth and fifth graders which I think will be lots of fun too. I am hosting it on a "sister blog" called, "Where Wild Readers Roam" which I had originally designed for classroom blogging. There are several wonderful titles that are being considered for use with the book club, and if you happen to teach in an upper elementary grade level, you might help me with making the best choice. Just click on the image below to put in your vote. I will announce on the blog which three titles I plan to use this summer on May 15th. In my posts, I will share discussion questions, a few project or journaling ideas, as well as other points that tie in with the chapters. All comments will be moderated, so there will be no worries of inappropriate comments going up.
If I don't choose a book you think your students will enjoy, no problem. Feel free to organize a book club for them with a different choice. :-) Won't this be fun?
Recommended Reading List and Parent Tips
In addition to summer programming, one thing many parents appreciate are summer reading lists. Last summer, I put together lists for second and third grade as part of a blog hop, but I decided to extend the lists to other grades too. This freebie should be quite helpful to classroom teachers even if you decide to make your own list. It may or may not match your students needs, but it at least gives you a starting point and guess what? It's ready to just print and use!
If you prefer a student formed list, you might check out THIS POST about making and using top 20 lists with your students. These lists are perfect for matching readers to the genres they prefer. There is a freebie included with that post to help you with student selected book lists too.
From these lists, I want to highlight a few of my favorites. I am sure you have favorites too, and certainly, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
For kindergarten students, we need to look at books that have controlled vocabulary and limited sentence length. Rhyme and repetition are important, and for that reason, I love Mo Willems. His books have all of these traits, and kids just can not get enough of them. I also love Dr. Seuss for kinders because of the rhyming. This is a must for emergent readers to master, so reviewing this through the summer is important. For those kinders who are reading a little, my go-to books are Biscuit, Puppy Mudge, Tiny, and Mittens books. Kids love animals, so these are great choices to reel them in!
For this grade level, you need to start with the books at or around the first grade level. Most first graders are reading Clifford and Little Critter books at the end, and these characters are so lovable that for summer reading, they are like comfort food. On that same line, but with a little more challenge, Henry and Mudge might work. They are written at a second grade level, and they are no problem for many rising second graders. For fragile students, I also use many of the Green Light Readers (level 1 and 2) and Rookie Readers. Rookie Readers are often nonfiction, and it's important to get variety.
For most rising third graders, there is a desire to move into chapter books. For kids reading a second grade to third grade level, I love Magic Treehouse and Junie B Jones books for starters. I also can not get enough of Mercy Watson and now, her newer series with Francine Poulet. I think it's the feel of the book pages. Do you love them too? (I am probably just weird about that!) For stronger students going into third grade, you might go with the Weird School Series by Gutman, Horrible Harry by Suzy Kline, and the Boxcar Children by Gertrude Warner.
As we move toward upper elementary, we get much deeper with the content. For struggling students, it is very important to not push them into advanced books faster than when they are ready. Certainly, they will prefer books with shorter chapters such as How to Eat Fried Worms or Stone Fox. For my fourth graders, the Captain Awesome series was a hit. They also loved the Heidi Hecklebeck series. Both of these are fairly new. For stronger rising fourth graders, I'd recommend Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Andrew Clements, Jeff Kinney, the Big Nate series, the American Girls, and 29 Clues.
We are getting into deeper literature with rising fifth graders because much of our content demands it. Certainly, students at this level have reading preferences, so it's important to match their interests. I love the Joey Pigza series, Because of Winn Dixie, Chocolate Touch, From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and anything by Dick King Smith for this level. This grade level might try books by EB White too.
For rising sixth graders, you might explore Gary Paulsen, the Percy Jackson series, Avi, all of Kate DiCamillo's books, the One and Only Ivan, Wonder, Holes, Esperanza Rising, Bud, Not Buddy, Sharon Creech and Roald Dahl. Wow, there are so many great choices!
Solutions for Your To-Do List
Well, I may not have all the answers, but I hope that the two freebies at least help you take care of a few things on your list. To download them, simply click the images below.
I hope the end of the year goes smoothly for you, and just think, you only have a few more weeks to go til we hit summer!