Five End-of-Year Activities for Your Elementary Students

As the school year begins to quieten down, your students may become a little more distracted. It can be challenging to keep their attention when the summer break is getting closer. But, there are a few ways you can weave in some reflection, forecasting, and fun into the end of the school year (even if you’re virtual)! Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Encourage time for reflection

The end of the school year brings about reflection, so be sure to spend some time looking back at all the fun (and learning) that happened over the year. There are plenty of ways to make reflection fun – you can have your students journal, play charades or Pictionary to reminisce their favorite memories, or create a “look how I’ve grown” flower for a fun take-home project. Is there a lesson or activity that went over really well with your students during the year? You could consider reteaching that lesson again for a fun refresher.

2. Lead a field trip to the next grade

Many elementary students don’t realize that the next grade level could be very different from the one they’re in, so organize a field trip to the next grade to help calm their nerves. Coordinate with a teacher from the next grade level, and take a walk down to where the next-grade classrooms are so that students explore them. If your school participates in looping, prepare an introduction to the exciting things you’ll go over in next year’s class. See what kind of predictions students come up with about what the next grade is like, and spend time answering any questions they may have. If you’re teaching remotely, you could set up a virtual meeting instead.

3. Recruit students for classroom clean up

You already have to deconstruct your classroom at the end of the year, so why not ask your students to help? Children often enjoy helping take apart the classroom, so utilize your helpers, and take this task off your own to-do list. You could use deconstruction tasks to encourage good behavior, such as creating an assembly line of students to pass supplies down the line and organizing a hunt to collect different items and box them up. Consider even using some of your existing supplies as little rewards for students to take home.

4. Enjoy being outdoors

There are many benefits for your students spending time outdoors. Students are eager to get outside and play, so take the learning outdoors for a few hours! Create a scavenger hunt for students to look for different shapes or colors, measure things on the playground, or study plant life. Learning and taking advantage of the fresh air outside will do wonders for keeping your students engaged.

5. Set summer learning goals

Talk with your students about how summer is the perfect time to set a learning goal for themselves and ask them to pick out a skill or subject that interests them and that they might want to explore on their own. Maybe they want to learn more about volcanoes, or learn all their multiplication tables, or read some books before school starts again. Whatever that goal may be, help your students work out a set of actionable steps to achieve it. If you’re a user of Edmentum programs, be sure to find out how your students can use them all summer long, and send out parent letters to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

Parents and Caregivers: Six Tips for Summer Planning

As planning for the summer begins, it’s a good time to begin thinking about how to keep your child learning over break in the midst of fun activities that you may have planned. We compiled a list of some tips for you to keep in mind as the summer approaches!

1. Communicate with your child’s teacher

Before the school year ends, check in with your child’s teacher to see how they’re getting on academically. There may be skills that your child has not quite mastered or areas of weaknesses that could be further strengthened. Ask your child’s teachers what they’d recommend doing to work on those skills over the summer months.

2. Keep a schedule

One of the more difficult aspects of the summer months is the lack of a schedule that the school day provides. If your child is not enrolled in a summer program during the day, it can be easy for them to fall out of a normal routine. Sit down with your child before the summer begins to set clear expectations of how their days should look. Help your child make a clear schedule of what they will do throughout the day and when to wake up and go to bed. While the schedule doesn’t need to be elaborate or finely detailed, it can at least establish some clear expectations of what your child should do each day. 

3. Keep up the learning

Going along with the schedule idea, set clear times within the day when there can be learning and review. Online courses, like Exact Path (K-12), can provide quality, age-appropriate content for your child that can match what he or she learns during the school year. Within the schedule that you set up, creating 15- to 30-minute blocks of time where your child has focused learning will make a difference in the long run if done consistently! Check out our Marzano-validated best practices for online learning blog.

4. Go on educational outings and explore

Learning doesn’t have to be restricted to the home! Take educational outings to destinations such as your local history, science, or art museum and let your child explore different areas. Learn something new and let your child delve into a topic of interest. Vacations and trips are a great way to cultivate learning; engage your child by asking them to research the area you will be visiting and its local history.

5. Encourage you child to keep reading

Cultivate a love of reading by taking regular trips to the library. Let your child choose books and get recommendations from the children’s or youth librarian. Read alongside your child and encourage a love of reading by exposing him or her to many great books. Reading a lot of books can also help your child avoid the summer slideOne psychology study has shown that children who are given access to books over the summer perform 35–40% better on reading achievement tests than those without access to books. 

6. Have fun together!

Lastly, have fun together! It is summer, after all. There are all sorts of amazing benefits to playtime that your children can gain from, so be sure to let those summer days be filled with fun in the sun.

Play-Based Learning: Here’s Why It Should Be a Part of Every Classroom

Renowned psychologist and child development theorist Jean Piaget was quoted as saying “Our real problem is – what is the goal of education? Are we forming children that are only capable of learning what is already known? Or should we try developing creative and innovative minds, capable of discovery from the preschool age on, throughout life?”

Of course, Piaget didn’t have to consider standardized assessment—and he would be at odds with those officials who prioritize high test results and good grades as the primary goals of education. Instead, Piaget would advocate for helping students understand learning as a lifelong process of discovery and joy.

We see the signature of early childhood experience literally in people’s bodies. This study from the Harvard Center on the Developing Child shows that positive early experiences lead to longer life expectancy, better overall health, and improved ability to manage stress. Plus, long-term social-emotional capabilities are more robust when children have a chance to learn through play; form deep relationships; and when their developing brains are given the chance to grow in a nurturing, language-rich, and relatively unhurried environment.

This is something that as teachers, we understand, but often find it difficult to implement given the restraints and restrictions of the modern classroom. But, it’s critical to address this disconnect directly in order to make progress. So, let’s talk about why students need play and how we can bring it into our own classrooms.

What is a Play-Based Approach to Learning?

Play is the defining feature of human development: the impulse is hardwired into us and can’t be suppressed. It’s crucial that we recognize that while the play impulse is one thing, understanding the nuts and bolts of actually playing is not always so natural, and may require careful cultivation.

That’s why a play-based approach involves both child-initiated and teacher-supported learning. The teacher encourages children’s learning and inquiry through interactions that aim to stretch their thinking to higher levels. There are other foundational thinkers who have built from Piaget’s theories that support this. Educators like Montessori and Stanley Greenspan have recognized that the way to teach a child is through their own interests and have developed fixed strategies to do so.

For example, while children are playing with blocks, a teacher can pose questions that encourage problem solving, prediction, and hypothesizing. The teacher can also bring the child’s awareness towards mathematics, science, and literacy concepts. How tall can this get? How many blocks do you need? These straightforward questions elevate the simple stacking of blocks to the application of learning. Through play like this, children can develop social and cognitive skills, mature emotionally, and gain the self-confidence required to engage in new experiences and environments.

Understanding the Benefits of Play

When children engage in real‐life and imaginary activities, play can challenge children’s thinking. 

Children learn best through first-hand experiences. Play motivates, stimulates, and supports children in their development of skills, concepts, language acquisition, communication skills, and concentration. During play, children use all of their senses, must convey their thoughts and emotions, explore their environment, and connect what they already know with new knowledge, skills, and attitudes. 

It is in the context of play that children test out new knowledge and theories. They reenact experiences to solidify understanding. And it is here where children first learn and express symbolic thought, a necessary precursor to literacy. Play is the earliest form of storytelling. And, it is how children learn how to negotiate with peers, problem-solve, and improvise.

It is in play that basic social skills—like sharing and taking turns—are learned and practiced. Children also bring their own language, customs, and culture into play. As an added benefit, they learn about their peers’ in the process.

Involvement in play stimulates a child’s drive for exploration and discovery. This motivates the child to gain mastery over their environment, promoting focus and concentration. It also enables the child to engage in the flexible and higher-level thinking processes deemed essential for the 21st-century learner. These include inquiry processes of problem-solving, analyzing, evaluating, applying knowledge, and creativity.

Finally, play supports positive attitudes toward learning. These include imagination, curiosity, enthusiasm, and persistence. The type of learning processes and skills fostered in play cannot be replicated through traditional rote learning, where the emphasis is on remembering facts.

Play-Based Learning and Executive Function

Children are naturally motivated to play. A play-based program builds on this motivation, using it as a context for learning. In this framework, children can explore, experiment, discover, and solve problems in imaginative and playful ways. They also expand their executive function skills by practicing their ability to retain information—like where a particular animal was in the spread of memory cards and what color card they have and need to win in UNO.

When students play games that involve strategy, they have an opportunity to make plans, and then to adjust those plans in response to what happens during gameplay. This engages other critical executive function skills like inhibitory control, cognitive flexibility, and working memory. Examples include battleship, checkers, noughts and crosses, or hide-and-seek. These games teach children to develop a plan and adjust quickly in response to the other player.

Teachers can provide opportunities for students to build their executive function skills through meaningful social interactions and fun games—including activities as common as checkers, Simon Says, and I Spy. Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child offers lots of great ideas for children of different ages.

The Value of Active Learning

Play-based learning is an important way to develop active learning. Active learning means using your brain in lots of ways. When children play, they explore the world—and build on their understanding of the natural and social environments around them.

On the physical level, kids work on both gross and fine motor development through play. Students working in a play-based classroom explore spatial relationships and hone these important motor capabilities. In fact, it is before the age of 7 years—traditionally known as “pre-academic” age—when children desperately need to have a multitude of whole-body sensory experiences daily in order to develop strong bodies and minds. This is best done outside where the senses can be fully engaged, and children are challenged by the uneven and unpredictable, ever-changing terrain—but a well-equipped, thoughtfully set-up classroom can be just as effective.

Developing Soft Skills Through Cooperative Play

Children build language skills while developing content knowledge. Plus, cooperative experiences provide children the opportunity to cultivate social skills, competencies, and a disposition to learn.

Play also builds self-esteem. Children are most receptive to learning during play and exploration and are generally willing to persist in order to learn something new or solve a problem. The experience of successfully working through something new or challenging helps kids gain the self-confidence required to engage in new experiences and environments.   

And a big winner in play is social development. Interpersonal skills like listening, negotiating, and compromising are challenging for children. Through play, children get to practice social and language skills, think creatively, and gather information about the world through their senses. Think about the games that students come up with on their own—they are creative, often intricate, and their “rules” always have to be negotiated.

Games and Gamification

Some educators regard the time kids spend socializing with their friends while gaming online as the salvation during the COVID-19 pandemic, or in any scenario where a child might experience barriers to in-person socialization. In addition to the social connections, there is an increased understanding that video games can actually improve kids’ remote learning.  As educators, we know that using student’s passions to engage them in learning is critical and kids love games. If it’s done correctly, gaming and gamification of games can engage both intrinsic (pleasure and fulfillment) and extrinsic (recognition and rewards) motivation. 

How Can Teachers Encourage Play-Based Learning?

Teachers help enhance play-based learning by creating environments in which rich play experiences are available. The act of being a teacher is recognizing the goals of education, understanding how learning works, and figuring out how to apply all this to each student, one at a time. Teaching children how to learn is a strong basis for every grade level.

It is pretty clear that students learn through play. Some use play to explore their world, others to gain language, and the list goes on. In fact, we have also seen that it is a natural impulse—like getting hungry, or crying when upset. Try to find ways to increase the time spent on play in your class. Whether you create centers for dramatic play, bring in costume boxes, explore problem-solving with board games, or design your own multiplication board game. Use what is part of a child’s fabric to enhance instruction and learning.

Four Ways You Can Support Struggling Middle and High School Students

When students start middle or high school with gaps in learning, developing a strategy to intervene is paramount and can be challenging. There are many extra factors to consider that don’t apply to elementary intervention. You might find yourself asking: When in the school day will these students get the focused instruction they require? How far back does intervention need to go? Are secondary teachers equipped to deliver foundational instruction? Educators are grappling with these questions and seeking solutions to help students prepare for what’s next—be it course readiness, graduation, or career plans. After reflecting on many conversations with Edmentum customers who use Exact Path, we’ve compiled four of those best practices and considerations to help support your struggling middle and high school students.

1. Make Dedicated Time in the Schedule

The elementary school day lends itself to dedicated intervention blocks and pull-out programs in ways that secondary schedules simply don’t. In K–5 classrooms, teachers have fewer students to support, often more time to work with them, and additional access to foundational strategies that, together, make the intervention process more manageable. However, once students hit middle or high school and are met with a packed schedule of individual courses (all taught by different instructors), where is there room and time for intervention? And, when there is time for intervention, who is skilled to deliver it (sometimes at a foundational elementary level)?

Middle and high schools are finding success in a host of ways, including:

  • Tutorials before/after school.
  • I.N. (or “What I Need”) time, scheduled in designated remediation periods.
  • Remedial subject-specific classes that split time between on-grade instruction and academic gap closure.

2. Ensure You Spot Any Gaps

Often, students are missing one or two critical skills that will block them from making any meaningful progress. This can be incredibly frustrating, particularly for the student who feels like they have a mountain too steep to climb. It may also be challenging for the teacher who might have trouble identifying exactly what these gaps are and accessing resources to help close them. This is where a digital program can really make a difference.

With Exact Path, the diagnostic assessment looks across all K–12 curriculum to understand exactly what skill gaps are keeping students from making progress. And, when the assessment determines a 9th grader has 4th grade skills that need to be strengthened, it doesn’t mean that student has to review all 4th grade material—rather, the program delivers a targeted playlist of lessons that represent exactly what the student needs to work on to help get back to grade level. This targeted approach yields powerful information for the instructor and helps students make significant gains in the most efficient way possible.

3. Set Secondary Teachers Up for Success

When teachers are forced to teach skills and standards that are on grade level because that’s what the country-specific scope and sequence require, they are doing struggling students a disservice. But, can we expect all secondary teachers to be experts in teaching fundamental math concepts and essential comprehension skills that students should have picked up years earlier? Classroom teachers are experts in their craft, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t also human, and we all have limitations. Allow technology to help extend the academic reach and capture additional insights that will guide instructional approaches.

With Exact Path, instructors no longer have to guess if students have mastered something or don’t have the capacity to approach a skill. Instead, they receive real-time notifications while students engage in targeted intervention in an online environment. When gaps are wide and it’s “all hands on deck” to meet the need, school leaders can feel confident that the personnel or staff can successfully support students, even outside of their chosen content area.

4. Give Students Ownership in the Process

Students at the secondary level who are struggling don’t suddenly start experiencing these struggles overnight. Likely, the struggles have followed students throughout their academic career which, in turn, leaves them to believe that school will always be hard for them and that there’s just no way around it. This fixed mindset is tough to overcome.

For these students, quantifiable data reports that expose gaps, highlight strengths, and accompany a path forward can break down these overwhelming feelings, into manageable steps that students can actively pursue. The Exact Path Student Summary Report and Knowledge Map data views can be critical for forward planning, which is critical to keeping students engaged.

This sort of data analysis also fosters conversations that connect these ideas back to larger academic goals. For example, if in 10th grade geometry you see that students are still struggling with certain skills in the domain of measurement, data, and statistics, you can highlight that domain and target particular skills that are connected to the on-grade-level standards or concepts you know that students need to understand. This powerful, big-picture style of thinking encourages students to persist, even when things get hard.

Interested in learning more about how Exact Path, our K–12 assessment-driven, individualized learning program, can support secondary intervention?

Tiered Intervention: Supporting Tier 1, 2, and 3 Students with Successful Programs

Across the globe, educators are committed to providing early intervention to address deficits in student learning before they ever have a chance to widen. Whether your school subscribes to one of the more common response to intervention (RTI) models or multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) models or finds one of the many other types of intervention to be the right fit, there are some common factors to consider that will ensure a successful program. When thinking about a new school year, it’s important that you are well equipped with proven program options to help meet the level of support each tier requires.

A typical tiered intervention model break down looks like this:

Tiered Intervention Table

Specifically, each instructional tier also includes a more nuanced set of expectations and procedures that are often required to meet student needs. Let’s dig into some of the additional characteristics of each tier and evaluate aligned program qualities you should be looking for to drive your success in your intervention program.

Tier 1 Instruction

Expectations:

  • Is suitable for the entire range of learners—including students identified with disabilities, students identified as gifted, and English learners—and ensures that students are active participants.
  • Provides a scaffolded model of grade-level rigor aligned to standards, taught in a balanced and integrated manner that emphasizes the interconnectedness of the strands, and students should be given regular opportunities to apply and connect standards in a range of ways.
  • Reteaches and remediates standards to any and all students who are struggling with core concepts
  • Includes instruction in both whole-group and small-group settings, and educators make decisions about instructional groupings strategically.
  • Is focused on advancing student learning through differentiation: educators should avoid giving one-size-fits-all assignments and giving students tasks they’ve already mastered.
  • Utilizes ongoing assessments of student learning from multiple sources that help track both individual and group performance to support differentiated tier 1 instruction.

Identify a Program Partner That Can Offer:

  • An initial screener or benchmark assessment to help quickly inform instructional investments.
  • Standards-based curriculum built specifically for state standards.
  • Rigorous skills-based curriculum to support remediation and reteaching.
  • Flexible grouping options to support quicker, easier creation of similar-ability groups for more targeted instruction.
  • Formative assessment options to support data-driven instructional best practices.
  • Standards and skills-based reporting to track progress day-to-day.

Tier 2 and Tier 3 Intervention

Expectations:

There are many similar themes for both tier 2 and tier 3 interventions.

  • Offers scientifically research-based interventions that produce reliable and valid results.
  • Is provided by highly trained personnel—when possible, qualified, certified teachers.
  • Must show a rate of improvement greater than that of a typical student in order to “close the gap” and return to grade-level academic performance.
  • Should administer progress monitoring, in the form of regular probes, at a student’s skill or instructional level at least every other week (computer-based assessments are appropriate).

Subtle differences within each of these instructional tiers are noted in the table below.

Tier 2 and 3 Intervention Table

Identify a Program Partner That Can Offer:

  • Adaptive diagnostic assessments that pinpoint strengths and weaknesses down to the discrete skill level.
  • Valid measures of academic growth between each assessment administration to effectively track performance.
  • Rigorous skills-based curriculum to close underlying foundational gaps in learning.
  • Dynamic instructional support that includes automated building blocks to help struggling learners as needed.
  • Real-time teacher notifications when students require additional support or intervention.
  • Detailed student summary reports to monitor the entire academic experience and effectively relay information to stakeholders and parents.
  • Readily available supplementary resources to augment small-group and 1:1 intervention.

Navigating the tiered intervention process can be time-intensive and at times, challenging. Ensure that you have a program partner in place who provides trusted options, coupled with quality consulting, to work alongside you on your path toward intervention success. At Edmentum, we believe in supporting every student on their individual learning journey. Interested in finding out more about our digital curriculum and high-quality assessments?

See what Edmentum International can provide for your school.

Marzano-Validated Best Practices for Online Learning

Are your students getting the most out of their online practice? This question is as important as ever, and our research team at Edmentum was honored to have Marzano Research peer review a research project that our US team conducted for our classroom practice and assessment program, Study Island. Through that review, Marzano confirmed our findings surrounding the effectiveness of Study Island, and we also uncovered four significant best practices to help students get the most out of online practice.

Best Practice 1: Students should practice for at least 30 minutes per week in online programs.

In our research, we learned that students who spent at least 30 minutes per week practicing online experienced significantly more growth than those who did not. This finding is backed up by the results of the meta-analysis on the effectiveness of educational technology applications published by Cheung and Slavin in 2013.

Implementation Tip:

Online practice can be incorporated into the classroom (both in-person and virtually) in several ways. Consider what activities you are currently doing that could be replaced with online practice. For instance:

  • Bell Ringers – 10 minutes/day, 50 minutes/week
  • Independent Practice – 15 minutes a day, 75 minutes/week
  • Formative Assessment – 15–20 minutes a day, 75–100 minutes a week
  • Stations/Centers – 15 minutes every other day, 30–45 minutes/week
  • Homework – 20 minutes/day, 100 minutes/week
  • Exit Tickets – 5 minutes/day, 25 minutes/week 

If you pull together a combination of the activities above, you’ll have no trouble fitting in 30 minutes of practice each week.

Best Practice 2: Distribute practice over several sessions, and include at least one session of 15 minutes or longer.

In our study validated by Marzano Research, we noticed that students who had at least one session of 15 minutes or longer as a part of their 30 minutes of practice each week achieved the best results. Longer sessions allowed students to build their stamina and focus their efforts on a single topic for a longer period. The shorter practice sessions are effective as well; in fact, distributed practice—short practice sessions spaced out over time—is one of the highest-utility learning techniques according to leading research.

Implementation Tip:

When choosing how to incorporate online practice into what you are already doing, choose a minimum of one method that involves sessions of at least 15 minutes.

Best Practice 3: Encourage students to set goals.

Setting a goal and writing it down is widely known as one of the best ways to motivate ourselves to do something. This also holds true for online practice. In our study, we learned that students who set goals, such as earning a set number of Blue Ribbons each week or getting 80 percent correct overall, progressed more reliably than those who did not.

Implementation Tip:

Kick things off by having students write down one or two specific learning goals for online practice that week. Limit the goals to one or two so that students can remember their goals and focus their efforts. Make sure to have the data available for students to easily track their own progress toward the goals that they have set.

Best Practice 4: Allocate a specific time for self-reflection.

School can often move at a frenetic pace, and students may be engaged in practice without ever taking the time to understand why they are doing what they are doing and how it helps them. Encourage students to reflect on their own learning needs. Taking time to self-reflect on their learning allows students to contemplate and internalize what they know and what they still need to work on.

Implementation Tip:

Give students five minutes to reflect on their learning and practice for the day. In that reflection time, encourage them to use these sentence starters to begin their reflection: “One thing I did well today was …,” and “One thing I need to improve is….” Encourage students to revisit the goals that they set in their reflection and guide them to use the reflections to set the next week’s goals.

6 Planning Tips for Effective Intervention Programs

A successful intervention program can make a big difference for struggling students and help them get back on track. With so much research on student intervention as well as changing trends, it can be challenging to determine what truly makes an intervention program effective. While you’re working on improving or tweaking your intervention program for the upcoming school year, explore these six tips that may help with your planning.

1. Leverage data

Leveraging data is the key to understanding where your students are struggling in a particular objective, and it can be a regular and consistent way to determine their level of understanding. Aligning data with your instructional goals or intervention objectives can help you take your students to the next level.

2. Utilize assessments effectively

Assessments typically serve two different purposes: to monitor student progress and to identify students who are at risk. Performance on various assessments should be used to identify targeted interventions for different student groups and to determine if students in those groups are making the expected progress. Programs can be used to help prescribe content for your students so that you can spend more time working directly with them in subjects they are struggling with.

3. Maintain consistency with processes and communication

One of the most important aspects of any intervention program is consistency. Making sure that teachers, administrators, and parents are all on the same page can help provide a great experience for all involved. In a successful intervention program, all students are part of a single, research-based instructional system.

4. Identify special populations and intervene early

When you notice that a student is struggling, early intervention is crucial. In order to identify these students, you have to have the appropriate procedures, training, and assessments in place. Without properly equipped staff, it can be easier for a student to fall through the cracks. For example, continual absenteeism can be a contributing factor to a student’s success in school. As students reach the later grade levels, intervention programs can also be a critical dropout prevention strategy. By identifying struggling students early on, you can keep them engaged and motivated to stay on track to graduate.

5. Encourage professional development

Well-prepared staff can be the key to a successful intervention program. What’s the best way to ensure this? Professional development is, of course! Make regular training sessions on instructional best practices a priority, offer your educators plenty of opportunities for collaboration, and ensure that all of your staff are well-trained in all technology resources available to them.

6. Listen to the research

Every successful intervention program has, at the core, scientific, evidence-based curriculum and instructional practices. Allow some time to vet any new tool, approach, or online program before implementation to make sure that it’s backed by strong research. For instance, many of our own programs have undergone an extensive research and approval process through Marzano Research.

Four Instructional Techniques to Support Credit Recovery

While many students utilize summer school as an opportunity to accelerate their path to a diploma, the majority attend to recover previously missed or failed credits. Summer learning programs offer an opportunity to intervene before missed credits accumulate and to get at-risk students back on track to graduate with their cohort.

The importance of summer programs is clear, but the reality is that some students may have not had positive experiences throughout their academic careers. The likelihood of a student dropping out increases exponentially with every failed credit. The responsibility for individual student persistence falls to many different stakeholders—administrators, guidance counselors, educators, parents and guardians, students themselves, and of course, summer school teachers. In many cases, it is an individual teacher who holds the key to finding meaningful ways for students to reengage, persevere, and achieve success.

Here are four instructional best practices for administrators and teachers to consider when getting ready for summer school classes.

1. Acknowledge that adolescence is challenging

There is no way around this truth. High school presents an ongoing series of social and emotional challenges for every student, even under the best of circumstances. Students in summer school programs have possibly faced more than their fair share of these challenges. They need to know that you acknowledge this and are more than happy to listen to their concerns. Remind your students that if they are struggling, you are there to help. Prioritize social and emotional learning (SEL) concepts like building strong relationships, and intentionally make your classroom space a place for respectful conversation, both inside and outside of class time. 

2. Remember that confusion is the first step to learning

This is one of the hardest lessons for any person—educators included—to truly digest. Coming to a place of confusion is a prerequisite to learning anything new because it provides the impetus and motivation to get started. After that, it’s all about embracing the journey. Individual learners are only likely to persevere if they feel safe and supported and are encouraged to take risks. Strive to make your classroom a place where asking questions, making mistakes, and attempting new things is the norm, not the exception. It’s OK for you to not have all the answers or make mistakes in front of your students—doing so offers profound teachable moments as students watch you own your confusion and move forward.

3. Vary instructional approaches to cater to different learning styles

Most educators are familiar with Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, and many have been trained to play to students’ strengths in terms of visual, audial, kinesthetic, and other learning models. However, to be truly effective teachers need to extend this approach beyond the initial instructional phase, especially when working with students who may have already struggled with the material. If students are unlikely to grasp what’s being presented on the first try, then other formats must be leveraged for them to approach the material again. Providing resources in various modalities that students can review independently, such as lecture notes, PowerPoint presentations, and Khan Academy videos, is one way to support different learning styles and help students learn to “teach” themselves—a skill that translates far beyond the classroom. Doing so also frees up class time for meaningful, active, “sticky” learning that incorporates questioning, dialogue, and interactive group sessions.

Effective teachers also use formative assessments consistently to check for understanding—highly effective teachers have a strategy for reteaching the same material in a different format whenever students haven’t fully grasped a subject. From the outset of your summer program, make sure that students understand their individual learning styles and preferences, encourage them to request and find materials that meet their needs, and always remain open and ready to make adjustments.

4. Provide opportunities for unit recovery

Summer programs are all about helping students get back on track for graduation, so it’s critical to stay intentional about finding creative ways for students to avoid falling behind in the first place. A good place to start is to consider options for unit recovery. If a student fails a unit test or other summative assessment, are there ways for that student to reclaim that specific material and demonstrate mastery before being assigned a failing grade for the entire class?

Online programs can offer resources to make unit recovery feasible. In Courseware, the Flex Assignments feature allows educators to assign tailored lessons and create specific recovery assignments that will give students an opportunity to get back on track individually or as a group. Or, for students simply in need of additional practice to achieve real comprehension, Study Island can provide targeted assignments organized by individual curricular strands and offer students the chance to work through these sets multiple times if needed. In the process, both of these Edmentum International solutions provide teachers with detailed data to drive in-person instruction, including the amount of working time spent by individual students, attempts made, concepts mastered, and areas where they are still struggling.   

Four Ways to Encourage Students to Keep Learning This Summer with Study Island

This summer continued learning is going to be more critical than ever. With varied school closures, virtual and hybrid learning, and frequently changing classroom environments, it’s difficult to say how catching up with learning will be looking at this year. Although it’s good to remember that each summer, learning loss occurs. Most students lose two months of math skills every summer, and two-thirds of the achievement gap in reading between low-income students and their middle-income peers can be attributed to summer learning loss in elementary school. Due to this, 9 in 10 teachers spend at least three weeks re-teaching lessons when school begins again. Why accept summer learning loss when you can fight it? With Study Island, you can run a summer learning program, virtually or in-person, consisting of skills practice in all core content areas, as well as additional activities in writing and reading.

Explore our four tips to keep students learning over the summer.

1. Skills Practice

Skills practice is a great way to ensure that students continue learning all summer long. Why not give it a shot this summer by running your own summer skills practice program with Study Island? You can get students to earn Blue Ribbons throughout the vacation months by asking them to demonstrate mastery in Study Island topics. Here are a couple of ways to get started:

  • Assign students specific topics through the class manager.
  • Ask students to work directly from the Study Island topics page, promoting consistent practice by creating a calendar that explains which topics to work on each day.
  • If you will be actively monitoring Study Island over the summer, you can also respond to student questions through the Study Island Message Center.

2. Summer Writing

Summer writing activities give students the opportunity to practice different types of writing, including skills-based writing, creative writing, and reflective writing (where students respond to a current event, linked news story, or piece of literature). Study Island Writing Assignments give you the flexibility to either assign one of our prebuilt writing prompts or create your own. As an added benefit, students’ writing portfolios will give their new teachers valuable insights into students’ writing styles, interests, strengths, and weaknesses.

Summer Writing Practice Tips

  • Create assignments ahead of time and provide clear due dates. Make sure that all assignments are active at the end of the school year.
  • Give feedback on students’ writing submissions to provide encouragement and help them improve.
  • Ask students to print out and turn in their writing portfolios at the end of the summer to earn a reward or entrance into a summer learning celebration. 

3. Summer Reading

Reading over the summer is one of the simplest ways for students to combat boredom; increase vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension skills; and explore books that they don’t have time to read during the school year. Two effective ways that you can reinforce summer reading are to create a summer reading program in which students read self-selected books and to launch a book study program where students all read the same book.

Tips for a Self-Selected Reading Program

  • Assign a specific amount of reading time each day. If you’re also launching a skills practice program, this can be added to the same calendar.
  • Use Study Island Writing Assignments to create weekly open-ended reading reflection prompts. Prompts should be general enough to apply to any book.

Ensure that your students have access to a variety of books at their reading levels by offering addresses to local libraries, helping students obtain library cards, and teaching students strategies for selecting books at an appropriate level for them.

Tips for Summer Book Study

  • Select specific books for students to read over the summer. Select several options for students to choose from, and give students the freedom to pick which book study to participate in. This way, they are more likely to begin reading a book that they will enjoy.
  • Use Study Island Writing Assignments to assign open-ended questions for students to respond to each week.
  • Use Study Island Custom Material to create custom quizzes containing multiple-choice, short-answer, and true-false questions. These quizzes can be assigned to students with specific due dates that align with the pace at which students should be reading.

4. Run a Summer Blue Ribbon or Questions Contest

Want to keep students working over the summer without running a full program? Not a problem! You can quickly and easily run a simple Study Island Blue Ribbon or questions contest. All you need is internet access, student logins, and some prizes, and then you’re all set.

Summer Virtual Learning Program Tips for Success

If your school isn’t holding summer school in person this year, you can still run multiple programs this summer virtually. Whether you decide to implement skills practice, summer writing, summer reading, or a Blue Ribbon contest, it’s key to ensure that students are engaged, expectations are clear, and parents are bought in. Here are some tips for enhancing the overall success of your summer program:

  • Set clear expectations. Be sure that students know what to do and how to access the program.
  • Ensure that all students have access to a computer or mobile device and the Internet. All of your students may not have home Internet access, so it will be helpful to provide a list of places in the community, like public libraries and recreation centers, where students can use a public computer and access a free Internet connection if you plan to implement your program virtually.
  • Involve parents. Because this program will be taking place away from school, parental support is critical to the program’s success. Host a parent night before the school year ends to fully explain expectations and gain buy-in. Be sure to provide student logins and collect email addresses from parents. This will help as you set up Study Island Parent Notifications.

Five Brain-Based Learning Approaches to Improve Learning, Retention, and Focus

What is brain-based learning?

According to The Glossary of Education Reform, the definition of brain-based learning ”refers to teaching methods, lesson designs, and school programs that are based on the latest scientific research about how the brain learns, including such factors as cognitive development—how students learn differently as they age, grow, and mature socially, emotionally, and cognitively.”

A key element of brain-based learning is that educational strategies are based on findings from neuroscience research. Of course, each student is different in the way that they learn, so it’s important to use different brain-based learning strategies in your teaching practice to appeal to a wide variety of learners and their needs.

Easy tips for implementing brain-based learning into the classroom

The International Journal of Innovative Research & Studies lays out a great set of brain-based learning strategies to implement into the classroom to improve your students’ performance and increase their chances of success. Here are five strategies to get you started:

1. Create a positive atmosphere from the beginning

Normally, students must feel physically and emotionally safe in the classroom for real learning to take place. By creating a positive classroom environment where students feel supported and encouraged, you’ll enable your students to learn the best.

Welcoming your students into the classroom each day creates a positive learning environment from the start. A study published by Sage Journals —comprising 203 students in 10 classrooms—found that greeting students at the door sets a positive tone and can increase student engagement and reduce disruptive behavior. Spending a few moments welcoming students promotes a sense of belonging, giving them the social and emotional support that encourages them to feel invested in their learning.

2. Establish “turn and talk” time

When students talk about concepts they’ve learned, they’re more likely to retain the information. Implementing “turn and talk” time into your lessons can help students process and retain what they’ve just read, discuss ideas before sharing them with the class, and clarify problems they may have had while completing homework. This strategy can be implemented as a warm-up activity, during class discussions, or as a closing activity towards the end of the school day. Watch the video below to see how one middle school science teacher uses “turn and talk” time to help his students discuss their ideas.

By letting your students discuss their ideas, you’re giving them a chance to describe what they’ve learned in their own words and helping them explain their thoughts to their classmates. The Teacher Toolkit has great resources on this practice to help you get started. Utilizing the raise hand feature in most video conferencing platforms to make this more organized if you’re teaching virtually.

3. Incorporate visual elements

Many people are visual learners who absorb and recall information best by seeing. You probably already have posters and visuals in your classroom or in your background if you are teaching remotely, but are they helping your learners? These eight strategies from TeachThought are designed to help you optimize the visuals in your classroom to appeal to your students.

In a virtual setting, providing additional context to lessons with visual elements, such as breaking up your slides with a GIF that calls students’ attention back during a class or finding a quick video of the science concepts you are discussing, are simple ways to hold student interest remotely. Changing out your remote learning video tool background to align with the theme of your lesson or wearing a silly hat or decorative necktie are other fun ways to incorporate visual elements into your teaching. Check out these fun virtual backgrounds from We Are Teachers.

4. Break learning into chunks

Chunking, or breaking down difficult or large pieces of text or information into smaller pieces, has been proven to help students identify keywords and phrases, paraphrase, and understand the text in their own words. By breaking down a large piece of text into more manageable pieces, students are able to better understand and comprehend the material.

Chunking can also be used to break down pieces of your instruction into smaller, manageable pieces. Work through lengthy instructions step by step with your students to help them understand each piece of what is being asked of them.

5. Do some physical activity

Brain breaks are a great way to get your students up and moving, and they have been shown to increase brain activity. You’re probably already familiar with how fidgety your students can get when sitting at their desks for long periods, so incorporating some movement into the day can help. Luckily, brain breaks are easy to implement in any classroom setting, and they require almost no setup.

We Are Teachers have created a list of some great brain break activities to try, most of which can be done virtually.