Start with Building Connections, Community, and Engagement


Ideas for Summer Learning Programs

As we think about building inclusive and welcoming summer learning programs for our students, I believe there are two foundational ideas that must exist to help students move forward.

1. Make sure the time is of high interest and fun.

2. Focus on connection with and among students in spite of the fact that they’ll only be together for a short amount of time.

It has been my experience that engaging students in routine tasks that are about completing as many problems as possible is NOT the way to accelerate learning during the summer. Worksheets and computer programs that are based solely on completing as many problems as possible typically do not engage students in the work and do not push their learning forward.

High-interest Summer Learning Activities

From my perspective, we don’t want this work to be arduous and boring. Students (and teachers) are already giving up time during their summer. Therefore, this work should be as engaging as possible. Look for high-interest activities that can both build conceptual development and procedural fluency.

  • Three-act tasks (as seen in enVision Mathematics) are one way to engage even the most reluctant learners in important and foundational mathematical ideas. These tasks are of high interest and create a space where all students can engage in the work.

  • Consider leveraging short routines, such as number talks, “notice/wonder,” and which one doesn’t belong, as a way to begin a lesson that is fun and exciting for students.

Ultimately, we want to build summer programs that are enticing for students. This not only will help with buy-in but, more importantly, will help students accelerate their learning throughout the summer.

Building Connection and Community in Summer Learning Programs

No matter the format in which your students will be learning during the summer, I believe it is critically important to begin by building connection and community. No matter the duration, every successful learning experience begins with community, and each and every student regardless of their circumstances deserves to feel a part of the community.

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Quite simply, if we want students to be engaged in the content, then they need to feel connected to something. That something may be the teacher, their classmates, the content, or some combination of those. But connection is fundamental to content.

While the time that you may have during the summer may be brief, it is imperative to ensure that students feel connected and a part of the community at the forefront. While it can be tempting to jump right into the content to try and cover as much as possible, it is my belief that intentionally building community is time well spent.

Zachary About the Author: Zachary “Zak” Champagne is currently a lead elementary teacher and math specialist at The Discovery School in Jacksonville, Florida. He taught elementary math and science for 13 years and received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). He was also named the Duval County Teacher of the Year and a finalist for Florida Teacher of the Year. He is one of the authors of Savvas Learning Company’s enVision® Mathematics.

Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.
Zachary Champagne

About the Author

Zachary Champagne

Math Author, FCTMath Past-President, and Researcher