As students, teachers, and families are beginning their summer vacation, it’s important to remember that the learning process doesn’t take a break during the months of June, July, and (some of) August. While most students don’t see the inside of a traditional classroom in summer, there are many opportunities to continue to improve Math fluency and Reading Comprehension, as well as develop skills that may lead to discovering new career paths. Adventures await around the Bay Area! Here are 4 free or low cost activities that will keep your learner motivated and engaged this summer.
Discover and Go is a partnership between public libraries in Northern California and local museums and community centers that offer free and discounted tickets for students and their families. It’s absolutely free to sign up; all you need is a public library card from one of the fifteen participating Northern California counties. Members enter the Discover and Go portal through their library site, and can select tickets by date availability. Participating museums and attractions include: Bay Area Discovery Museum, California Academy of Sciences, Children’s Creativity Museum, CuriOdyssey, Exploratorium, and the Pacific Pinball Museum. Each member may have up to two outstanding reservations at a time.
This is a fantastic way to expose children to the wonderful cultural institutions the Bay Area has to offer. It’s difficult to budget for multiple family outings during the summer without breaking the bank. Discover and Go offers this to all members, regardless of income. I have already used two Discover and Go passes to play pinball and visit the Museum of the African Diaspora.
Take action: Dig up your library card (or register for one!), sign up at www.discoverandgo.org, and plan an outing for the first week of summer vacation! See how many new and exciting places you can visit this summer, and have your children journal about what they saw and experienced! Discover and Go memberships are FREE.
Learning how to code may be one of the most enjoyable activities your students or children can do during their summer break. I engage my students in a coding activity in my Math class on a monthly basis. During this session, we put the prescribed curriculum on the back burner for a day, and I give them the opportunity to go to Code.org’s Code Studio and work on their course. As 6th graders, they were able to complete Course 2 of the Computer Science Fundamentals series, and are now equipped with the tools necessary to create their own games, mostly on MIT’s Scratch site. Coding can expose students to new job possibilities, and new skills that they can use to be successful in school and beyond.
Students who have struggled in traditional Math classrooms have taken to coding very quickly. There are no prerequisites to learn how to Code. At our annual Hour of Code event, we had kindergarteners working with their parents and completing strings of code on their own. As MIT Professor Mitchel Resnick says: “Learn to Code, Code to Learn”.
Take action: Browse the Code.org Course Studio and choose the best starter course. Determine how long you will take to complete the 20 hour course. Set a timeline. If you finish faster, start the next level course! All courses are FREE.
IXL is a site and app based program that provides support, learning, and practice in Math for all grades K-12 with problems based on the Common Core Standards. The math problems have a wide variety of question types, from word problems to interactive graphing. IXL explains the process for solving a question correctly if a student answers it wrong, and keeps track of how long you spend on each section. I use IXL in my classroom for basic multiplication and division practice, as well as a supplement to the Math curriculum. It’s an engaging program for students; they get to pick their avatar and work towards earning prizes on each grade level game board. It’s also easy to differentiate instruction with IXL. While students work on grade level problems, they also have the opportunity to work above and below their particular grade.
One word of caution for teachers and parents: while the program awards anywhere from 3 to 5 points for each correct answer, incorrect answers are docked 7 to 10 points. This is a teachable moment for students; if they get an answer wrong it’s important to work through the process of correcting it so they don’t repeat the error. I encourage my students to stop their assignment if they get stuck or answer a few incorrectly in a row. For students who have anxiety, or are easily frustrated, taking a break is an important lesson in self-management.
Take action: The IXL app is available for free in the Apple App Store, as well as Google Play for Android. Memberships are $9.95 per month, or $79 per year. IXL also offers programs in Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies, for an additional membership price.
Technology is an part of everyday life for our students. Many can text faster with than the average adult can type with a full blown keyboard. This usually doesn’t cross over into having effective typing skills. Upon entering the 6th grade, many of my students still use the “pecking” technique when it comes to typing, as opposed to using the home row. Teaching typing by itself can be a painful and arduous task (believe me, I have tried). There are some sites out there that focus primarily on typing skills, but my favorite of the bunch is Nitro Type.
MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) are one of the popular trends as of late, with the majority of my students playing such games as slither.io and agar.io whenever they have the chance. Nitro Type builds on this desire to play with (and against) strangers on the Internet, but without the chat boxes (and possible inappropriate language). Your typing speed and accuracy will determine how fast your car goes in a race against four other players. You can create an account by logging into Facebook, Google+, Clever, or you can choose to play as a guest.
Before you begin to race you’ll go through a “test run” to get an idea of your typing baseline. This will help determine your placement in the first series of games. You can earn money by placing high in a race, and use that money to customize your car. A confession: this educator also plays Nitro Type every now and then to brush up on her skills.
Take action: Register for an account and take your test run to see your current WPM accuracy. Chart your progress over the summer. Accounts for Nitro Type are FREE.
These are only four of the free and low cost resources to keep our students engaged and learning throughout the summer! Do you have any suggestions to share with others? Please share them in the comments below!