There can be so much variation in summer school programs, but in my experience, the class sessions tend to be longer, class sizes tend to be a little smaller, and most students tend to be a little less motivated, especially if they are retaking a class that they failed. With budget cuts, I’ve also experienced a tendency toward combo classes like English 9 and 10. While these factors can be barriers to engagement, I think there are a few things we can do to spice things up in the summer (and during the school year too!). I’m sharing my 5 tips for spicing up summer school and I’d love to hear your questions. comments, and suggestions in the comment section below!
1. Quiz-Quiz-Trade: I learned this strategy at a Kagan workshop during my first year teaching in junior high. Although Kagan structures are geared toward younger students, many of them still work like a charm in secondary English. You can check out the Kagan website here. To use quiz-quiz-trade, you have students create flashcards with vocabulary, literary devices, or other terms. Then students mingle around the room creating temporary pairs. When they pair up, they quiz each other on one card each, trade and then mingle to new partners. It doesn’t take very long, but it gets students up, moving, and studying. I’ve had so many students tell me that it helped them remember vocab. If you have a combo class, you can create mingling areas for students with like words.
2. Showdown: Showdown is another Kagan structure in which students work independently on an exercise. When “Showdown!” is called, students show teammates their work, and they begin the process of checking, coaching, and celebrating. You can read more about it here.
3. Literature Circles: Literature circles are ideal for motivation, especially if you can incorporate student choice in books and roles. It is also easy to manage with multiple grade levels. Here is a link to my post all about literature circles.
4. Socratic Seminar: Socratic Seminar is my favorite way to get all students involved in a discussion, even when some are more reluctant. If your summer school class is made up of students repeating a class, chances are they did not get to show off their literary analysis skills during the regular school year for whatever reason. Socratic Seminar can offer a nonthreatening way to feel personal and peer success. Here is a link to my post with more information about the logistics.
5. Engaging Informational Texts: We need to incorporate more informational texts in our classrooms, but it is hard to find the time to go through all of the options. If you have more freedom in summer school curriculum, it is a great time to try out a few new reads. A few summers ago, my class did Nickel and Dimed one session and The Tipping Point another session. Students were interested in the reading and I was able to pull out excerpts to use during the regular school year. Depending on the level, I’d also recommend Blink, Freakonomics, and Fast Food Nation.
What do you do to spice up your summer school sessions? We’d love to hear your questions. comments, and suggestions below!