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Summer Classes Don't Have to Be Boring for You or Students - Use These Tips to Make Them Engaging

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As you might imagine, summer classes can present a unique challenge for both teachers and students. In this post, we'll explore some tips that can up the engagement level and reduce boredom as you teach summer classes.

Teaching Summer School

If you're gearing up to teach summer classes, you're probably well aware of their significance. One Brookings report indicates that over summer break, the average student's achievement levels decline by roughly a month's worth of regular school-year learning, with higher declines seen in math versus reading. That's where summer classes can come in handy; by bridging the gap, students can be better prepared for the start of the fall term.

That being said, however, teaching summer classes can often be a challenging task—kids tend to be less than enthused about being in ''school'' during their summer vacation; finding ways to make the material valuable yet interesting can be tricky. Thankfully there are several things you can do to help keep your students engaged and free from boredom as they complete their summertime curriculum. Let's take a look at some tips.

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1. Prepare Focused Lesson Plans in Advance

Depending on the district or institution, summer school typically lasts anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Regardless of your school's schedule, it's always a good idea to get your ducks in a row before classes begin so that no precious time is wasted.

Take the time to prepare your lesson plans in advance, and keep your students in mind when doing so. Many students who attend summer school are economically disadvantaged, so it's best to avoid cramming a year's worth (or even a semester's worth) of material into summer classes. Instead, try to focus on the most important objectives or key concepts of the class or subject you're teaching to prevent both you and your students from becoming overwhelmed and disengaged.

2. Break the Ice with a Positive Attitude

As we previously mentioned, students may not be overly excited about having to attend summer classes. This means a positive attitude and a solid introduction are key to your teaching success. On the first day of class, attempt to break the ice with a jolly introduction that includes some cool tidbits about yourself, and encourage students to do the same. Without being too intense or teacher-like, give your students a rundown of what they can expect from you and what you expect from them. Be honest and let them know that class can be a lot more enjoyable if everyone does his or her part and stays on task.

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3. Get to Know Your Students

It goes without saying that it'll be a lot easier to engage your students if you get to know them. After you've introduced yourself on the first day of class, consider working on a group activity that involves everyone in the classroom. This can give you an idea of students' different learning styles, attitudes, strengths, and weaknesses. Make it a point to talk to your students individually for at least a few minutes here and there, and let them know that you're available if they need you.

If you create a sense of unity and safety in your classroom, students will be more likely to be engaged and interested in learning. Additionally, by showing your students that you care about them and aren't just teaching to teach, they'll be more likely to respect you.

4. Integrate Real-World Examples

Summer classes can get very boring if they mimic the traditional school year. Rather than having students complete stacks of ho-hum worksheets, try to integrate engaging, real-world examples that relate to and enhance the concepts being covered in class.

For example, if you're teaching an elementary math class, bring in takeout menus from area restaurants and have students practice figuring out how much their favorite order would cost (complete with sales tax). This could potentially sharpen both addition and multiplication skills and make math concepts easier to grasp and retain. Obviously the menu idea will not work for every class, and that's fine. Use your own knowledge and creativity to think of innovative yet relevant ways to teach concepts, or browse the Internet for ideas that relate to the subject you're teaching.

5. Use the Summer Weather to Your Benefit

We all know that kids can get antsy if they're stuck inside for too long, especially during the summer months. If possible, try to incorporate activities into your curriculum that get kids outdoors (e.g., read a book outside or arrange a class scavenger hunt). If outdoor learning isn't an option, encourage your students to get up and move in the classroom every so often to prevent a build-up of energy that can often lead to disruptions.

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6. Encourage Collaboration

It's long been said that there's strength in numbers, and this can also be true when it comes to learning. Rather than having your students focus strictly on individual seatwork, which can get monotonous, encourage them to collaborate with their fellow summer school students. Collaboration can make it easier and more enjoyable when it comes time to brainstorm and solve problems. It allows different ideas to come together and differences in opinion to be considered. While these aspects of collaboration can be very beneficial to all students, students who are having trouble may find them especially helpful and engaging.

Last Thoughts

Now that we've covered some tips that can help make your summer classes more engaging, you should have a pretty good starting point for your class preparation. One last piece of advice: try to maintain a positive attitude and sense of humor at all times while teaching your summer classes. Most kids, regardless of age or socioeconomic background, can benefit from having someone with a bright outlook and cheery demeanor to look up to.

By Erin Riskey
February 2018
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