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Purposeful Summer Reading: Setting the Stage for the Next Year

reading summer reading May 09, 2019

Summer reading is a requirement at many schools around the country. While I'm not a fan of checklists and reading logs, I am fan of reading.

So many students have wonderful teachers who've matched them with books and made reading purposeful and exciting. Their students have learned to search for good books and to love books. You've have caught their hearts, and they will be readers for life. 

 Let’s see if we can catch some more hearts this summer.

Here's a few ideas for making summer reading purposeful for students and have it flow right into lessons for the first weeks of school. 

 Entering Kindergarten

Order caterpillars for September. Perhaps the summer read for incoming kindergarteners is the Very Hungry Caterpillar and as many Eric Carle books as they can get their hands on over the summer (parents can read to them aloud). 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 a nearby zoo, butterfly sanctuary or nursery now and see about an early field trip - end of September. 

Art: Caterpillar dot art. Students can work on drawing or cutting out circles for each dot. Butterfly symmetry art using pair and paper folding. 

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

Science: Life cycle of a caterpillar

Religion (for faith based schools): God’s wonderful creation

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

Field Trip: zoo, butterfly sanctuary, botanical gardens or nursery

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. Have someone from a local nursery or garden club come talk about soil and worms. You could create a small wormery and then send home soil and worms in baggies for kids to dump out in their gardens when you are done with it.

Science: Do plants or insects

Art: Draw a plan for a secret garden. Make paper flowers. 

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

Religion (for faith based schools): God’s wonderful creation

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

Field Trip: Botanic Gardens or local forestry

NOTE: Parents could sign the permission slips for the field trip and pay for the field trip at the meet and greet before school starts or the first week of school. Students would be thrilled 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 (perhaps 2nd does fairy tales and 3rd  does tall tales and fables). Read various versions of a story - The Three Little Pigs, Cinderella or other classic stories.

 Have them create a shadow box of their favorite scene from one of the stories they read and be ready to present the first week of school. Post a rubric for each with the summer assignment so they know what to be ready with.

 Start school with an animal unit and read/write about animals in stories vs. real animals. Compare and contrast the habitats of real vs. imaginary and animal to animal as well.

Read aloud a group of stories about the same tale from different points of view and cultures. Compare and contrast the stories. Discuss point of view. Talk about exaggeration, personification and onomotopia.

 Try writing about an event in their own lives from various family members point of view. Try writing about an event and exaggerate it to epic proportions. Create a family “legend”. Talk with family members about family stories. Are there family legends where no one quite knows how much if fact or fiction?

 Invite a local storyteller, local theatre group, puppet show or symphony to come to school in early October or late September. Go to the zoo or other wildlife place.

 Have books about how to draw animals ready for students to explore. Have a picture of an animal with a grid over it to give to students. Give them some different sizes of blank grids to use when (scaling) copying the picture to enlarge or shrink the same picture. Have them calculate out the difference they want to use - half size, double size…. (scale). And the size of the grid they will need in order to do that.

 Art: Animals in art, picture book illustrators (see if there is a local one that will come to speak). Draw your own animals. Origami animals. 

Math: scale

Music: Peter and the Wolf

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

Science: animals, habitats, adaptations

Field Trip: zoo or natural history museum or ?

 Entering Fourth and Fifth Graders

Have the students pick a historical fiction novel to read. (Dear America Series and My America Series or other books like George Washington’s Socks, The Sign of the Beaver, Johnny Tremain, Little House on the Prairie Series, Sophie's War…) There are so many and they could pick a time period that they are interested in.

 Challenge students 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. Have students present them and match them up by dates/time periods in order around the room.

 Consider reading a prairie story or one set during the westward movement or other historical fiction that will go with your social studies curriculum to the class when school starts. Find poetry or a picture book about that time period to pair with it.

 Schedule a field trip to a local history museum, historic farm or local historic site tour for the fall.

 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; look for inspiration from art done at the time period and places that you are studying.

Music: Look for songs or even instruments from the time period being studied.

Speakers: Have a speaker that will come and do a presentation on the American Revolution, local history and another one on the U.S. or state flag. Schedule them now! Watch an episode of Liberty’s Kids or Little House on the Prairie.

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. Timelines. Research important things that were happening in other parts of the country or world during the time period you read about.

P.E: Plan a game hour- games from the time period (board games, outdoor games…) 

One last thought... as a fun extra, send your students on a scavenger hunt this summer for little libraries wherever they go. Some areas have listings of them online. Have families take pictures of them and bring them to school in the fall. 

Happy reading! 


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