Now that summer is in full swing, I wanted to share simple ways to take everyday summer activities and give them an educational (standards-based) boost. Check out the links within each letter for more information about planning visits, directions for activities, and related online lessons/activities. Keep it lighthearted and enjoy going through the ABC’s of Summer. Let me know how it goes!
A – Airplanes. Kids of all ages like airplanes! Visit the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum for free events like story time and concerts. Check the website for info.
For a “Standards-Based boost” look for simple machines as you walk around the museum! Learn about simple machinesand play thisfun gameto prepare.
B – Beach. Big, busy beach or quiet, less-known beach? Whichever you chose, there is so much you can explore with your kids regarding a warm summer day at the beach.
For the younger kids – talk about seasonal change. What kinds of activities are people doing? What types of clothes are people wearing? What is happening with the weather? You can also discuss taking care of our earth if you see pollution on the beach. What would happen if the trash gets into the water? What can we do to help?
For older kids – explore the tides. What do they notice about the water throughout the day? Can they read atide table to determine the next high/low tide? What causes tides?
C – Crayons. Time to get crafty! Here’s a great rainy day activity. Do you have a bag full of broken crayons lying around? One year I took all of our broken classroom crayons, peeled them, and turned them into fun, homemade rainbow crayons. The kids LOVED them. I used a candy flex mold from Michael’s instead of a muffin tin and foil – but either way will work.
Younger kids – talk about colors/size. Sort by color/size before getting started.
Older kids – functional texts. Students need to be able to read and follow a recipe. After completing the activity, they should be able to write their own “How-to” with enough detail that someone else could correctly complete the activity.
D – D.C. I know that we sometimes take D.C. for granted living so close and that it’s an obvious learning zone, but did you know that even Kindergartners have major history standards to cover throughout the year? The Kindergarten SOL states:
“The student will recognize that history describes events and people of other times and places by:
a) identifying examples of past events in legends, stories, and historical accounts of Powhatan, Pocahontas, George Washington, Betsy Ross, and Abraham Lincoln;
b) identifying the people and events honored by the holidays of Thanksgiving Day; Martin
Luther King, Jr., Day; Presidents’ Day; and Independence Day (Fourth of July).
E – Exercise. We know how important it is to instill a love of exercise in our children from an early age. You can do this by making it fun to move around! There are several places in our area that can help us do that for free or a minimal fee. My Gym in Chantillyoffers classes for all ages and you can try them for free. They have Parents’ Night Out, too, which seems worth it for date night!
Pump it up offers Open Jumps in Leesburg and Manassas – Click on “Deals” in the Manassas page for some great coupons!
Want to move around in your own home? I’ve use Adventure to Fitness in my classroom when we’ve needed to move around during indoor recess or cancelled specials. They offer a free 7 day trial for parents, or if you’re a teacher, you get unlimited access to 5 of their most popular videos.
F – Farm.Farms can lead to some great learning for kids of all ages – specifically in the Science “Life Processes” SOLs.
Younger children need to be able to classify all things as living/non-living and then determine the characteristics of living things (what makes it living? How do you know it’s living? What’s the difference between a living and non-living thing?). They need to know the basic needs of plants and animals.
Older children need to be able to classify those living organisms by physical characteristics, body structures, and behaviors as well as identify what traits of an organism allow it to survive in its environment.
H – Hospital. As much as we try to avoid trips here over the summer, there are some children who don’t have a choice. Why not brighten up someone’s day with a handmade card?
Younger children can draw pictures, label those pictures, practice signing their name, or write a short letter with a few sentences.
Older children should be able to write friendly letters including the 5 parts of a letter – heading (date), greeting (Dear Friend at Fairfax Hospital), body, closing (Your Friend), and signature. Practice those letter-writing skills while showing compassion for others – it’s a win/win!
I – Internet. There are many great internet sites that are fun and educational. If you’re a FCPS family, check out the huge list of online resources and databasesthat FCPS students and staff have access to. There are online libraries with a ton of children’s books that can be read aloud – great when you don’t have a chance to pick up new books at the public library! Other great sites are included in this Really Good Stuff blog. Dove Whisper has links to educational computer games for all grade levels – broken down by subject and skill. I use this in my classroom all the time!
J – Journaling.Keeping a journal over the summer (anytime!) is a great way to teach kids to reflect on their day while practicing writing skills.
Younger kids can use blank paper (staple a bunch together, let them decorate the cover) to draw pictures of their day and label parts of their picture by sound spelling.
Older kids can use regular journals and write their highs/lows of the day. I’ve also done it where it’s an interactive journal between parents and child. Kids can write to parents in their journal before bed, parents pick up journal, reply, and kid wakes up with a new entry to read! This can be in letter form, too, to practice letter writing skills.
K – Kite Flying! What a perfect activity for a windy day! Take your kiddos out with a kite and get ready to chat about force and motion!
Younger kids - talk about the motions of the kite – straight, circular, back and forth. Discuss how the pushes of the wind and the pulls of the string impact the movement of the kite.
Older kids – This Scholastic Study Jams shows about Force and Motion. Have your older child apply what they know about force and motion to what they see happening with the kite.
L – Library. Not much to say here. Take your kids. Read lots of books. Sign up for the summer reading program and get free stuff. Reading success is linked to academic success. The more kids read the better they’ll do on all of those required, standardized tests. Read, read, read!
M – Movies. CHEAP movies! I love taking my family to the movies, but between tickets and snacks (let’s be honest, I usually fill my bag with snacks from home...but still...) we end up spending way too much! Take advantage of the summer movie programs hosted by most local Regal or Cinemark theaters.
Ask your kids their predictions for what the movie will be about, what they think would happen next if the movie continued after the ending, or how they might have changed the ending. Ask them to retell the movie, ask them about their favorite part of favorite characters and why. These are all things students need to be able to do before/during/after reading books, so why not practice at the movies?!
N – Nationals Game (or any sports game!) Summer time is a fun time to watch and play sports. Tickets to see the Nationals Play can be fairly inexpensive and an exciting experience for the whole family. When watching any sport, you can turn it into a quick and fun learning activity by discussing famous Americans who made a big impact on sports. Jackie Robinson is a famous American in our VA SOLs that students need to be familiar with. You can even bring in science and discuss what force is used in the sport you’re watching!
O – Outdoor markets. Summer time is a wonderful time to take advantage of all the Farmers Markets in the area. Chat with your kids about local buying and healthy eating – including eating a variety of foods from the different food groups. Students need to know that food choices contribute to a healthy lifestyle, how nutrients impact brain function, growth and development, and how carbohydrates, fat, and protein impact physical performance.
For younger kids, practice addition and subtraction skills. Talk about how many pieces total. How many pieces will you have if you made a 2nd pizza? How many pieces will you have when everyone in the family eats one? Etc.
For the older kids, here’s your chance to talk about fractions. The total number of pieces is the denominator (bottom number). The numerator is how many you’re talking about (top number). When 1 whole pizza is there you have 8/8. 3 people eat a slice (8/8 – 3/8 = 5/8 left) etc. What happens when you have more than 1 pizza? 16/8 = 2 whole pizzas. Have fun with it (and invite me over!) Practice more fraction skills online. Click on the grade level – math – fractions for a bunch of online activities.
Q – Quiet time. Starting in Kindergarten, we work on building “stamina” for independent work. Because teachers typically work in a classroom with 25+ students, but research (and common sense) tells us that students learn best in small groups, we have to have meaningful, independent activities for our students to work on while we’re teaching our small groups. During language arts, a big part of that independent work time is being able to sit and enjoy a good book. Students who love to read, read more often and tend to make the largest leaps in their reading skills. Go to the library, pick out some books at your child’s independent reading level (meaning they should be able to read and understand most of the story without any help) and practice building up that stamina. Even in my 1st grade classroom we worked our way up to 20 minutes of independent reading time each day. Please work on that with your kids and grab a good book yourself. Modeling a love of reading is priceless!
R – Restaurants. We enjoy going out to eat as a family every once in a while. There is so much you can do when heading to a restaurant! An important math skill that children are losing is using money and making change. It is still a math standard in elementary school, and I don’t see it going anywhere, so help a teacher out and give your child some real life experiences with money. Plan a dining night out with a cash budget. Have your child do as much or as little, depending on age, but have him/her somehow involved in the process. Pick out a restaurant the fits the budget, allow your child to add up prices as you decide what to order, making sure to stay within the budget. Can your child figure out how much change you’ll be getting back? Does the amount you got back match your math? How much tip should you leave?
Reading menus at a restaurant is also an important skill. A restaurant menu is called a functional text and we talk a lot about that in 3rd grade (although all students can work on this skill). Take the time to go through the menu and explain the different terms to your child. It’s surprising how much great reading and learning you can get out of a restaurant menu!
S – Smoothies. My 20 month old sees a blender anywhere and says, “mmm...smooooothie!” We love green smoothies in our house and it’s a delicious summer treat. This is a great time to talk about healthy choices and eating habits while making a yummy drink with your kids. Have them pick out fruits and veggies to go into your smoothie and blend away! Experiment with different add-ons and flavors. Yum!
T - Tornado in a bottle (and other weather talk/experiments). Students need to know about different types of weather/climates and how those impact people. Have fun making a tornado in a bottle and exploring the different types of weather on this weather for kids website. You can discuss your local weather and how it impacts what people wear and the activities people can do. Include information about the seasons and the water cycle.
U – Underwater adventures – National aquarium. Ok, this would be a splurge for us. Our most recent trip was a couple of years ago and it was amazing. The National Aquarium website has booklets you can download for kids of all ages to guide their learning as they’re walking around. Even without those booklets, this place will lend itself to talk about water animals & ecosystems, how these animals adapt to their living environments, etc.
V – Vacation Bible School – This is more of a personal idea instead of a standards based activity, but I’ve taught in VBS for the past several years and I love that week every summer! Check out your local churches for information about VBS, but you’ll have to hurry because a lot are already going on. VBS registration (free) for The Life Church in Manassas is going on right now! The dates for this summer are Aug. 4-8th.
W – Word games. Any type of word game is educational in itself! Pull out the scrabble or mad libs and have some fun. Mad libs are great for older children who are working on their parts of speech. Read them to the younger ones and you’ll be sure to get a good giggle out of them! We did these in my classroom and my 3rd graders had a blast!
X – eXplore the outdoors! Take your kids outside and get exploring! Have conversations about what you observe. Talk about the wildlife, the plants, even the pollution. Here is a great websitethat will help you find forests and parks near you!
Y – Youtube… well, actually Schooltube. If you ever want to know more about a specific topic or just browse the wide variety of videos and channels, check it out!
Z – Zoo. FREE and fun! Take your kids to the zoo on one of the cooler days this summer and talk about the animals, their habitat, their coverings, the foods they eat, their adaptations, etc.