Five Tips to Keep Students On Track in Summer School
Whether they didn’t meet the desired achievement level on a state assessment, failed a class, or need intervention to address skill gaps, most students don’t attend summer school because they want to; they attend because they have to. Students in summer school may also face added pressure to stay on track because they know that failure could result in having to repeat a class or an entire grade level. Keeping students on track in summer school also comes with unique challenges related to keeping their attention when many of their friends might not be taking classes.
With the stakes being so high for these students, how can educators give them the best shot at success in the short time we have with them? Try these five classroom strategies to boost student achievement in summer school.
1. Address the Summer School Situation
If you are teaching in a mandatory summer school program, you probably have a room full of struggling learners who know they are struggling learners. This means that morale is probably low and that your students may not believe it’s possible for them to learn what they need to.
Consider addressing this situation head-on with your students on the first day. Try saying something like, "I know coming to school probably isn't how you wanted to spend your summer, but you are all here because there are some concepts you need some more time with in order to master. You are going to have to do the work, but I'll be here every step of the way to support you and help succeed. If you put in the effort this summer, it will pay off for you next year."
Being straightforward with students by addressing their challenges, fears, and possible negativity helps build essential trust. It will also remind them that everyone else in the room is likely feeling the same way that they are.
2. Individualize Summer School Instruction Through a Competency-Based Model
Summer school usually lasts four to eight weeks, which doesn’t often leave enough time to reteach a year's worth of curriculum. The best way to address the needs of every student is to individualize instruction through a competency-based model.
Start with a pre-assessment to identify what each student knows and needs to learn. Then, sit down with each student for a five-minute conference to review their results and set goals for the topics they need to master each week. Have students work only on their assigned topics and allow them to move on once they can demonstrate mastery.
Students will appreciate not having to re-learn concepts they already know. Having a manageable path laid out to master the concepts that they struggle with will motivate them to stay engaged.
3. Help Keep Summer School Students On Track in Summer School By Intervening Immediately
When students struggle during summer school, they need intervention even more urgently than during the school year due to the shortened timeline. Implementing competency-based learning will help you accurately track each student's progress, so as soon as you notice a student not moving forward as he or she should, make time for immediate intervention.
The student could be legitimately struggling with the concept or just starting to slow down because of a loss of engagement. Either way, your continued support and encouragement will help your students stay on track in summer school.
4. Involve Parents
Some parents are involved in every aspect of their child's education. Others defer the responsibility to schools, often because they don't feel they have the time or ability to help.
However, parents understand that if their child has to attend a mandatory academic summer school, their child has fallen behind in some way. Parents want their children to be successful, so capitalize on this heightened interest to get them involved.
Walk parents through their child’s goals and suggest specific things they can do to help. It’s also important to set expectations about how often you will communicate with parents about their child’s summer school progress and potential intervention steps.
5. Reward Students for Their Efforts
Tapping into students' intrinsic motivators is often the best way to keep them engaged in learning. Using a competency-based instruction model and having students work toward goals are powerful strategies to do just that. But there is no reason you can't sweeten the deal by offering some small communal rewards for achievement.
Try something simple, like giving students 30 minutes of free time on Friday. To make this work, perhaps compile all of your students' weekly goals into one weekly “topics mastered” goal for the class. Then, with the class, set a percentage of that total goal that must be met as a class to earn the prize. Use a visual chart to display the goal, and each time students master a topic, have them add it to the chart.
Students will love having the opportunity to show off their progress, and you'll notice their classmates will cheer for them because each student's achievement helps the whole class move toward the reward. An incentive like this can go a long way toward building the class community and a sense of accountability that will motivate all of your students and keep students on track in summer school to succeed.
Keep Students on Track in Summer School with Edmentum
Interested in learning about how Edmentum’s research-based solutions can provide you and your students with tools to make summer school successful? Check out our Summer Planning & Success Toolkit.