Design an Effective Summer school program for elementary students

Designing an Effective Summer School Program for Elementary Students

Learning gains are more important than ever before, and there are many reasons your district may be considering designing a summer school program.

Summer enrichment activities help students not only maintain, but also increase their academic skills, according to Miami Dade School District (2011). A Borman and Dowling study found that students from high-poverty schools who participated in a 3-year summer school program held advantages of 40-50% of one grade level above their peers.

These studies beg the question: what makes a strong summer school program? Just getting students who need learning growth in the door is hard enough, but of course it’s not enough to make that learning happen. You may also think you do not have time to design a great summer school program, but with a few key elements in place, you’ll be ready for summer learning gains.

Qualified Teachers

John Hattie’s ground-breaking study, Visible Learning (2017) found that effective teachers are one of the most important elements of improving student learning, even in summer. Engaging qualified teachers in summer isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it.

Have small class size for summer school program for elementary studentss

Class Size

To achieve the biggest gains and prevent learning loss, summer school is a time to really focus on each student. To do that, the class size has to shrink down from the 25-35 students common in public school. The Oregon Department of Education (2021) recommends intensive one-on-one tutoring or small group instruction. Researchers McEachin, Augustine, and McCombs (2018) reviewed studies that showed growth in both small groups of 3-5 students and medium-sized groups of 8-14 students but none in groups over 20.

When combined with Hattie’s (2017) research of small group size, one can infer that while there is no specific target-size for small groups, they allow students to get more focused attention from a teacher. And that makes all the difference.

High-Quality Curriculum

The curriculum chosen for summer school is also important. Typically, schools focus on reading and math instruction for the summer, but while making those plans, consider using content subjects as a vehicle for teaching reading and math. In 2020, Forbes published findings that teaching reading through social studies content is an excellent way to grow readers. And the Oregon Department of Education (2021) recommends summer school programs “meet the academic content standards in nontraditional ways such as through student-driven projects that honor student identity and context.”

Programs like Studies Weekly ELA/Summer School combine high-quality nonfiction reading, social studies and science content, and built-in project lesson plans so that teachers can provide those rich learning environments for summer school students without staying up all night planning or collecting hard-to-source materials.

Teacher involving parents in summer school program

Involve Families

Keeping families connected is more important for summer school learning gains than you might think. As stated by the Oregon Department of Education (2021) “strong family-school connection can shift learning patterns and create the conditions for learning to accelerate.” Consider programs that include easy ways for teachers to reinforce good learning at home, such as Studies Weekly ELA/Summer School where the newsprint format can go home each week without any extra monitoring or preparation on the part of the teacher.

Planning an effective summer school program doesn’t have to be an overwhelming project. With careful consideration of the elements, summer school can be a good experience for administrators, teachers, students – and learning outcomes.

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