+ Tips for Setting Summer Goals

 by Dr. Pamela Hill

[O-G Tutoring in Columbus OH: see below]

For many, just a few days remain in the current school year.  Some educators are making final lesson plans for the school year, others are developing summer school lesson plans, and parents are making plans to fill the months of summer with activities.

For many, just a few days remain in the current school year. Some educators are making final lesson plans for the school year, others are developing summer school lesson plans, and parents are making plans to fill the months of summer with activities.

Just as students with Individual Educational Plans should be involved in meeting their school year goals, they should also be involved in setting their summer goals.

Many research articles have been published that explain the importance of educational activities for the purpose of avoiding the “summer slide.” Most research and informative articles are written from the viewpoint of educators, administrators and parents. Few are written from the viewpoint of the student.

Along with engaging in activities to avoid the summer slide, many students who receive special education during the school year are most contented with structure and knowing what to expect in a day. For this reason, it is best to attempt to keep a schedule similar to a school day during the summer, whether at summer school or at home.

However, filling the day with educational activities chosen by a student will be empowering and motivating, giving the student many accomplishments to look forward to. The student who has a choice in his summer educational activities will connect back into school learning in the fall more effortlessly.

Students know what they enjoy learning and also may have some ideas about something new they would like to try during the summer while the pressure of school responsibilities do not take precedence. For this reason, a teacher or parent should ask the student what summer goals she would like to set. Goals give the student a common language and procedure to what she is used to doing during the school year.

Goals for the summer can be explained using a diagram of a pyramid, similar to a food pyramid, to show the importance of how to plan for summer learning (see below). Reading, math and writing are the most important areas to engage in, followed by hobbies, outside play, sports and museums, and lastly electronic time.

There are no percentages included in the pyramid, because each student is different, and each family will need to decide what is appropriate for their child. When explaining each category, it is important for students to think about how to engage in each category with purpose that includes fun.

There are many readily available resources in the form of websites, magazines and books to help incorporate fun into summer learning. Asking students to brainstorm ways to make each category fun and then developing goals for each category will help students have a healthy educational balance in the summer.

Teachers and parents who want to engage in summer goal planning can begin by asking students to make a list of what they would like to do during the summer, using the pyramid for reference. If the students cannot think of their own list, be prepared with a list of activities from which to choose.

Many everyday leisure activities contain an educational component. After brainstorming, have each child choose two or three from each category to use to write summer goals. Using a graphic organizer, have each student write a SMART goal:

  • Specific: Who, what, when, where and how you will meet the goal?
  • Measurable: Include a numeric or descriptive measurement (e.g., I will read four books).
  • Achievable: Be sure the goal that is set can be met.
  • Relevant: Make sure the goal is important for summer learning.
  • Time-bound: Set a realistic deadline — needs to be complete by the end of summer.

Encourage students to share their goals with family and friends. They could even plan to complete the goal with family members or friends. When returning to school in the fall, be sure to have a celebration to discuss how the goals were met.

Teachers can send encouraging postcards or emails to inspire students to keep up with their goals. Parents can reward children who are working toward their goals periodically to encourage them to persevere.

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy learning in new ways. Setting and meeting goals teaches the importance of individual learning, determination and developing life-long skills.

About the Author

Pamela Hill

Dr. Pamela Hill has been a special educator for more than 30 years. She is a public school resource teacher at an elementary school in a Chicago suburb. She also is a special education adjunct professor at two local universities. Pamela believes in the importance of teaching students to self-advocate, become involved in their own IEP development and understand their own learning differences, as early as in the elementary school grades. She presents at national and local educational conferences.

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

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