As summer rolls in, middle and high school students are often focused on sun, fun, and forgetting school even exists! That’s why summer school is a tough sell, even (and sometimes especially) for those students who must recover credits to graduate. So how do we get students excited about summer learning? Empower them with agency.
We know that summer school can get students back on track, maintain their momentum for fall, or get them ahead. Getting students to feel inspired by these possibilities requires them to feel a sense of responsibility for their own education. Here are four ways to give students ownership of their learning:
If students can understand why they’re there and how this will benefit them, it will help with their motivation. Students want to know why they are tasked with an assignment — so whether they’re there to recover credits they missed during the school year, work on challenging concepts, or just trying to get ahead, once they know the destination, they can focus on achieving their goals.
Once students understand their overall destination in summer school (credit recovery, concept recovery, getting ahead), they should set manageable goals that will be their roadmap to success. The key to this goal setting exercise is that they are easily attainable. For example, “I will work on my math course for two hours a day.” Once students begin to meet these goals, they will continue to be motivated and feel that their overall success is achievable.
Once goals are set, help students develop a system for checking in on their own progress. Help them understand the importance of checking in on their progress. This helps them establish ownership of their learning and ensure they are on track for course completion. Teachers and administrators often have their own goals for their students, but it is also important that students remain invested in their progress and learning as well.
Last, but most certainly not least, make sure to celebrate success along the way. While it is easy to celebrate the big milestones like completing a unit or course, those will be fewer and farther in between. If you wait for those big moments, students could begin to lose sight of the finish line. Making sure to celebrate things like completing a lesson or even just completing the time goal they set for that day can be a great way to ensure students celebrate themselves and feel that their effort is acknowledged.
From recovering last year’s English credits to revisiting algebra concepts in preparation for fall geometry, summer school success is going to look different for every student and classroom. But whatever the course, if students feel like they are the owners of their learning, that success will carry them through the academic year too.
Alyssa Osorio is the Product Marketing Manager for Courseware at Imagine Learning. Prior to joining Imagine Learning, she was a 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts teacher and Subject Area Leader. In her time as an educator, she also worked in summer school and credit recovery positions with the goal of motivating and empowering students to take pride and ownership of their learning and success.