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The Secret to Making Summer Reading Fun

summer homework teaching May 10, 2017

The Secret to Making Summer Reading Fun

A Few Tips for Summer Homework

1. Summer homework should not be so cumbersome that kids feel like they never got a break from school. They will just come back resentful. Family vacations and togetherness come first.

2. The point of summer reading should be to get kids to read, but more importantly, to help them love to read. (If reading becomes a punishment or a chore, we have just shot ourselves in the foot.)

3. Be creative. Summer reading should mesh with your curriculum for the beginning of the year, not be an extra that is out of place. (I know I am successful if kids are excited, plotting and planning for the beginning of the year.)

Here's how to make summer reading meaningful and fun.


Entering Kindergarten

Summer reading for incoming kindergarteners is a family affair. Parents need to participate by reading to their child. Start with the Very Hungry Caterpillar and as many other Eric Carle books as they can get their hands on over the summer (and parents will read to them).

Then, you can start September with these and an author study on Eric Carle. Read a bunch of his books, talk about him, find a video online, write a class book or dictated stories…. (If I were a caterpillar…) The kids could do the pictures (focused on beginning, middle and end) and have a volunteer write their dictated story on their page for them. Call the zoo, or other local butterfly exhibit (if you have one) now and see about an early field trip for the end of September. Or.. see if there is someone from a local nursery that would come out and talk about/bring some beneficial insects.

Writing: What sounds/letters does each item he eats start with?Beginning, middle and end of the story in 3 pictures.  Write a class book: The Very Hungry Kindergartener            

Art: Work with the art teacher to come up with a project to go with this unit.

Foreign Language (if your school teaches one): Learn words that go with this unit.

Science: Life cycle of a caterpillar. Order caterpillars for September. Social Studies: Communities. Compare how we live in communities to various insects.                      

Video: Magic School Bus Butterfly and the Bog Beast (butterfly life cycle)                          

Field Trip: Buttterfly exhibit or zoo


Entering First Graders

Read Diary of a Worm with a parent and as many insect books as they can over the summer (with parent help).  They can keep their own diaries over the summer, too. You can start school with a bug unit/gardening unit and a study on insects. Discuss nonfiction vs. fiction. I’m sure a local nursery or garden club would love to come talk about soil and worms. You could create a small wormory and then send home soil and worms in baggies for kids to dump out in their gardens when you are done with it. Here's a link on how to set that up.

Writing: Create and write in your own diary for a week.                                                         

Art: Symmetry or camouflage art or garden/insect art

Foreign Language (if your school teaches one): learn words that go with this unit.

Science: Insects and plants

Video: Magic School Bus Meets the Rot Squad (decomposition)                                        

Field Trip: local nursery or botanic gardens

NOTE: Parents could sign the permission slips for the field tip and pay at the meet and greet before school starts or the first week of school. Your students will be super excited to take home a field trip permission form the first day of school.


Entering Second and Third Graders

Have the kids read fairy tales, fables and tall tales over the summer. Read various versions of a story- The Three Little Pigs, Cinderella or other classic story. The first week of school, have them create a shadow box of their favorite scene from one of the stories they read and present it to their group or the class. I do a shadowbox museum. Students all stand by their box ready to answer questions and discuss their scene as another class (or the office staff) goes around to view them. Post a rubric with the summer assignment so they know what to be thinking about. Start school with an animal unit and read/write about animals in stories (fairy tales, fables or tall tales) vs. real animals. Go to a local farm in early October or late September. Or go to the zoo.

Writing: Create their own version of the same tale. (ex. The Three Little Students)

Art: Animals in art; how to draw animals; imaginary animals

Music: Peter and the Wolf

Foreign Language (if your school teaches one): animal names

Science: animals, habitats, adaptations   Send home a guide for tracks and scat of native animals. Encourage families to explore over the summer.                                                    

Social Studies: Talk about our judicial system and the law. Put a character on trial. What laws did they break? What are you accusing them of? Have a mock trial.                          

Video: Brain Pop- habitats, adaptations     Watch The Magic School Bus Hops Home        

Field Trip: Try connecting with a local illustrator or Skype with one.


Entering Fourth and Fifth Graders

Have the students pick an historical fiction novel to read. You can choose a specific time period for students to choose books around or not. (Dear America Series and My America Series or other books ex. George Washington’s Socks, The Sign of the Beaver, Johnny Tremain, Lewis and Clark, Little House on the Prairie Series,…) There are so many and students could pick a time period that they are interested in. Challenge them to read as many books as they can- each set in a different time period or all set in the same time period. Have them create a timeline of events as they read. Use the timelines they create the first week of school- present and match them up by dates/time periods in order around the room.

Writing: After your visit, have students write about what would have been different if the people in this time had had one modern convenience (pick one).

Art: make paints from plants and create a piece for their book’s time period or dye yarn or fabric or make paper and ink

Music: songs from various time periods?                                                                              

Social Studies: Discuss the history of the time period. What was it like to live then? Compare the time periods that each person read about. Each student can research important things that were happening during the time period they read about.                      

Speakers: Have a speaker come and do a presentation on a time period event. Schedule them now! Or...  find an age appropriate documentary or history short.                                

Field Trip: Local history museum or historic farm or tour an historic site that goes with your curriculum.


 Middle School

Pick a genre and get a reading list together with books at various reading levels or for more buy-in let students pick their own books over the summer in that genre.  Have the kids annotate the book as they read over the summer. This can be done in a journal if their book is from the library or in the book's margins if it is their own book. Be specific about the types of information the kids need to look for and take note of. Then, read a complementary book or poem the first week of school and have the kids do a compare/contrast essay on the books to be finished by the second or third week of school.

Consider working together as a middle school team to create an integrated unit of learning around the genre the kids will read over the summer. Each grade can do a different genre or rotate genres over  a three year cycle.

Teach joyfully,



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