The Case For Bringing Library Time Back In The Middle School Schedule

Before the Common Core Standards were introduced across the states, Middle School English Language Arts classes still visited the school’s library each week as part of its ninety-minute block. During this time, students worked with the media center specialist and their teacher to do a number of short tasks. Schools differed, but the age of the “Accelerated Reader” program became a platform for quick check reading comprehension at the independent level of each child. Books were color-coded and labeled, students knew which books were at their “best fit” level and a comprehensive program with built-in rewards motivated every child during their school’s “Drop Everything And Read” time. Teachers watched students take their A.R. tests and get new books as they earned points and prizes.

The library also paved the way to engage children in their first research experience. The media specialist began to envelop skills that still demanded readers to find print books about their topics and look on the school’s portal to find multiple primary sources to develop their information center for creating a formal paper. The internet, while valuable, didn’t lose to the idea of a text-based project.

 Fast forward fifteen years and our Internet is now the research hub students use to gather information. Five and six-years-olds are unable to define an encyclopedia, atlas, or periodical. Upper elementary students rely on Wikipedia for their information and middle school students can pay for a written paper online, without ever having to research the topic. The middle school library has been forgotten as a hub for printed history, geography, and most importantly joy.

Public Library Programs Are Thriving

Summertime is a season for library specials, but it’s not the only time of year that public library programs are still booming with text-filled inspiration. Parents bring their infants, toddlers and pre-k children in for story hours, crafts, puppet shows, and plays. Alphabet letters, puzzles, and games are found all over the place. As the school year commences, reading programs pull in school-age children by offering incentives and activities each week. The older the child, the less demand and availability of the library program. Where is the disconnect between middle school readers, and middle school reading programs?

School Libraries Can Bring Back Text Joy

After the initiation of Common Core Standards, educators had the perfect opportunity to bring back the library time to the middle school student. Reading programs were substituted with Chromebooks, Ipads and other digital tools to increase “student engagement.” With this digital explosion, our libraries have become a WIFI hub, instead of a museum of text history. Teachers, media specialists, and administrators have all the power in the world to bring back library joy, so why don’t they? Why do schools move further away from books and reading books for research?

Libraries and media centers can serve as both collaborative zones for project-based learning and places for middle school students to employ text for tools of information, but stakeholders and patrons have to see the value. Educators can do this by bringing library time back once again. Spending two to three minutes with each student and helping them finding a novel or book that is on a topic they are interested in discovering is a great start. YouTube book reviews can take a book report and digitalize it into a project that students are geeked to record and produce. Teachers can assign projects that push students to use print books as a source, by making it a requirement in their research design. Students of all ages can compare and contrast the information that they find both online and in print while rediscovering what it is like to see topics presented in different ways.

The Gifts the Library Can Bring to A Middle School Student

Middle school libraries are the place that can provide exactly what the preteen and teenager need in terms of human development. Unfortunately, a lot of times, middle school students are expected to visit on their own time and it might just not be enough motive for the “on the fence” reader. The already engaged readers can tap into interests and find a secure spot with plenty of pieces of text to support what they want to learn about. Middle school media centers can also give students a safe space to explore independently on a campus that might be large, or intimidating to a new student. Spending time each week being present in the media center gives students who may never have the summer library opportunities a chance to go back to one of their favorite spaces from the elementary school. A media specialist can also take the time to dig into digital media, digital safety and the newest releases of books perfect for the ever-changing tween and teen. This is a twenty-minute segment that needs to be recharged and turned back into a school “special” so that we send the message into High School and beyond that libraries are so much more than a WIFI hub. We can build trust back in the system of literacy, research, and development, while also helping supplement our students with new things to see and explore.  Instead of trying to put more into our ‘Common Core’ Language Arts classes, we can revisit some of the best resources that will invitingly prepare our digitized learners for careers, college or beyond. 

How Teachers Can Help Parents with Reading in the Home Without Really Doing Anything At All

Since the early introduction of “ABCmouse.com,” parents have been given a handful of digital tools to help their children become early readers so that the adjustment to pre-k, t-k or kindergarten is a painless process for the newly schooled student. Various apps allow parents to have reading instruction instantly available on their phones for the perfect car ride or restaurant distraction. This seems like it is a great way for a child to independently engage in phonics and word study in a manner that is both convenient and cost-effective.

But could this screen time actually be doing more harm than good in terms of supporting parents at home with reading instruction and literacy development tools?  Is something better than nothing? What happens when children transition to the school setting and they begin using the various apps in classrooms and computer labs. Is this complimentary to parents’ digital support? Is it overkill? Is it teaching and reinforcing reading instruction at all? Real reading, with real books, is the best thing a parent can do to support any age of reading instruction.

Kindle VS Print

Teachers need to truly encourage parents to continue the reading of handheld books. This means handheld, paper-print books with pictures, words, and pages. Kindles are great for travel, and they do serve a purpose for students who need a different engagement strategy for reading, but when it comes to home reading practice, print books open up a different world for children. Many children need to feel the sense of actually turning the page as they read, it acts as a visual motivator when a child starts with one page and moves through a chapter or even an entire book. Print books also teach children to care for something. They understand how a book is bound and the importance and significance of the pieces that make up a book, ie, cover page, title page, glossary, spine, and actual binding.  

Print Books Encourage Reading Together

When a child holds a Kindle or IPad and works on various reading apps, they are doing it completely independently. A conversation between parent and child during this time usually involves a technology issue, and after the parent scrolls, clicks and corrects, the interaction ceases. Occasionally, a child may ask for help with a word if the app doesn’t have a pronunciation tool, but this interaction leads to a parent reading the word and the student continuing with his/her game. Print books are held together and parents can actually use tracking or tracing as they read, or have their child track/trace during oral reading. Reading is slowed down and true fluency can be identified as a parent can hear a child word for word as they work through the pages together.

When a parent sits with a child, it opens the child up to naturally asking questions about a story. Children want to know “why?” when it comes to things that fairy tale characters do or say and even if a parent doesn’t know the answer, a conversation about pictures, words, and story elements boosts a child’s overall engagement and understanding of a book.

Giving Parents Books to Do the Work

Parents of all socioeconomic statuses, races, and geographic areas want the same thing in terms of reading: they want their children to be good readers. If an app is convenient and available, then the parent will give it to their child because they believe it is helping do some of the leg work to support reading. What parents need to understand is that reading aloud with their mom or dad, by itself is more than any digital tool can give their child. Sending home weekly books that are easy, short and simple is the first thing that teachers can do. The only homework assignment is to read (or if your child can read to you) and talk about the books. This interaction opens up questions, conversations and a positive relationship between families and reading. If teachers want to add a bookmark with some talking stems, they can do this only to support but not regulate the “reading with each other” movement.

Age is Only a Number

This idea of reading together doesn’t have to end when a child hits novels or middle school-and it shouldn’t. One of the easiest ways to connect to an over-emotional preteen is to do an activity that is completely neutral, like reading. Having a child sit and take turns reading a non-fiction book that they are into, or a new graphic novel can build quality moments and minutes with no pressure. This is not a homework activity. This is a family activity. Both parties leave their phones for 20 minutes and read something together. It can be a cookbook, a manual, a sports magazine. The idea is print, language, and discussion.  

Teachers already have so many things on their to-do list, asking parents to help with reading and reading strategies don’t have to be one of those things. It is a simple as sending the message that parents can also be reading teachers if they read with their children and talk about what they are reading. Children will bring home the strategies that they use in class, they have plenty of questions that aren’t answered in class and they truly want that one-on-one time with an adult. A book is a bridge that a digital device can’t always provide. The book is the magic in the parent-child reading. The parent only needs to know this and they will be great reading support for the education system and the race to make sure that all of our children become great readers.

Back To School…Are You Ready?

Summer flew by and now you are wondering where the time went.  Are you ready to meet the demands of the new school year?  Read ahead and see if you have what it takes this upcoming school season.

Skills Review

Before you set foot in the door of your new classroom, ask yourself if you have read a book.  If the answer is NO, drive yourself to the nearest local library.  It’s never too late to get yourself a library card.  They are free and the benefits are amazing.  Look at the recommended book lists they have posted and grab yourself a copy.  A classic novel or read aloud will stimulate and recharge your mind.  While you’re at it, check out a skills review workbook, SAT or ACT prep, math review, or even phonics.  The library has FREE resources and who doesn’t love FREE?  It’s worth the time the drive to your local library today.

Routine Practice

Are the kids staying up late every night and sleeping in late every morning?  Get into the new school routine soon. Start re-implementing your regular routines gradually in August little by little.  If you strategize correctly, the children will be back to their nightly routine and rituals when the school year begins.  Some children have a hard time transitioning so it’s important that you “rehearse” the routine as you would like to experience it.  Practice making lunches the night before, be able to locate book bags and shoes in an available location, and know where your school bus stop is located.  These routines will save you time if they are practiced and ready to implement day 1. 

Get Organized

Has your child had all their immunizations?  Are their yearly check-ups all to date? Is all the necessary paperwork into the school?  If your child is playing athletics in school, have you signed all waivers?  Now is the time to make these appointments and start getting yourself physically ready for school.  Many districts across the country won’t allow kids to enroll without vaccinations being done.  Take a minute to investigate. 

Take some time to filter and organize your closets.  Throw out or donate old clothes, shoes and bags.  The close of the summer is the perfect time to start revamping the wardrobe and making room for new clothes and accessories this fall.  This is a great time to look at old jackets and sweaters that have been outgrown.  Sometimes the clothing is worth taking to a consignment shop.  If not, Goodwill is a great solution.  Either way, purging old clothing, shoes and bags is a great way to ready yourself for this school year.

Through preparation and organization, you can ensure that your child will have a smooth transition to the start of the new school year. By doing so, you and your child can enjoy the rest of your summer break and have a great start to the new school year.

The Best Way To Learn a Language

Language can best be viewed as a communication style. When asking ourselves how to approach a language we need to first understand how to communicate. The main areas of communication are speaking, listening, reading and writing. You likely already possess communication skills and now we will discuss how to take these skills and apply them to another language.

Speaking

Undeniably, speaking a new language is going to be a challenge for many reasons. Every new language has new sounds that your mouth is not familiar with. What should you do? The first thing is to identify all the foreign sounds. Use google and search “What sounds exist in (target language) that don’t exist in (native language)?” Once you have this list, practice making these sounds and have a native speaker listen to you and give you feedback. The second thing is to improve your listening skills. Why is that important?

Listening

The way you hear a language will influence your speech. This is why people have accents. Often a person learning a language will not be able to say a sound correctly because they are not hearing the sound correctly. You must listen until you can hear the correct sounds. A guitar player who has played long enough can hear when a string needs to be tuned. If you are saying a word that is “out of tune” and you don’t know why, the reason is because you can’t hear it. The more you listen to a language the easier it will become.

Reading

Reading in a foreign language can boost and destroy your confidence all at once. The best approach is to take the “Bedtime Story” approach. Just as a mother reads stories to her children in a clear and slow voice, you should find audiobooks that do the same. Over a few weeks you will find yourself recognizing words. It’s possible that you won’t understand much, but focus on what you do understand. Using your finger and following along with the narrator will help boost your reading tremendously. It’s okay to read the same passage more than once, but do not get stuck on catching the meaning of every single thing.

Writing

Keep it simple. The shorter your sentences are, the less likely you are to make a mistake. Another rule to follow is to only use words that you are comfortable with using. The benefit of living with the internet is that everything we write can be proofread by another person. Writing doesn’t have to be scary and you don’t have to tackle it alone. Find someone that is a native speaker that will correct your mistakes when writing. Once everything is corrected, you can go back and compare it in order to learn from your mistakes.

If you struggle in any of these areas in your native language that may come across in your target language. As you actively improve your foreign language, your mother tongue should also not be forgotten. Learning a language is strenuous but the joy of communication outweighs the learning process.

How Challenge and Failure Coexist in a Classroom and Make Our World Better?

As a teacher, we look at the word “challenge” through so many different lenses that it is hard to clearly define what failure is and is NOT in education. Some argue that you have to fail to learn, but any parent who has watched the soul of a sweet child crushed before their eyes when they witness the heartache of “not getting it right” over and over again might disagree. The implications of failure are far deeper than just an opportunity for learning or a challenging lesson that is received.

Failure

So how do parents weigh in when a teacher is rejecting the idea of failure, or in fact, celebrating a child that has not only failed at something but in fact, gained knowledge while doing so? Is challenge a sign of failure or a sign of learning? For generations, parents have frowned, punished and issued consequences for failing grades. In the last decade or so, the shift in grading has also shifted our thinking in passing, failing and mastering lessons in the classroom. The term “proficient” has been coined to casually imply that the child can understand and use most of the content. The phrase “College and Career Ready” is a step above proficient and its wordiness is enough to get parents buzzing about what their child’s educational goals may implore in the near future.

With the shift in mindset, grading, testing, and academic competition, there is a newly vocal group of parents expressing the need to authentically challenge their children. These parents truly want their children to be engaged in learning that is meaningful and asks youngsters to solve their own problems. The curriculum, test preparation, and textbooks are disconnected from the skill set that a young adult needs to be “College and Career Ready.” In the last two years, I have worked with parents of six, seven and eight-year-olds that are explicit in asking me, as the teacher,  to make things uncomfortable for their children when learning. Their motive is to ensure that their child not only knows what it feels like to make mistakes, challenge ideas and question presentation, but also how to solve their own problems when they do fail. They have repeatedly said that they want their child to feel “challenged.”  This idea is much different from telling a child that they did not spell a word correctly or followed the steps to a math equation incorrectly.

Inquiry

A challenging teacher springs inquiry. This teacher develops not only the questions that go beyond the surface to foster engagement but the questions that don’t have answers.  When teachers ask children challenging questions,  “I don’t know” is no longer an option for a response. Instead of yes, no, true or false, teachers probe with “why” or “why not” and the problem-solving unravels.

Parents want their children to question and problem-solve because it fosters independence, as well as open-mindedness. Our world is not one dimensioned, and neither should our education system. Technology integration has stupefied learning and parents don’t have the time or energy to enhance the minutes lost in a classroom where the child is showing proficiency, but capable of so much more. By pushing children, allowing them to fail and then helping them problem solve towards their own successes and answers, we move past proficient and onto a skill set that is needed for careers, parenthood and beyond. Google can give a one-line answer with YouTube video supports and visual aids, but what happens when we lose the WI-fi signal?

In our next set of college and career prep courses, students will have to be reconstructors and innovators. This generation is counting on the incoming to help solve technology problems today that they couldn’t have predicted by anyone twenty years ago. This gives the teaching job another unique dimension, but it also allows education to redefine failure, growth, and learning in a world that badly needs refining of all these factors as we walk today.  Parents are being challenged to problem solve on their own, they now want to plant the seeds for our future sowers.  The positive cycle of “challenge” will change and mold our next set of graduates, who are in turn our future parents, future teachers and in the end, future of the world, which is precisely what we want, since we are all seeking for that greatest ‘good.’

Tips on How to Get the Kids Ready for Back to School

The transition from summer to school could be a challenging process if not properly planned.  The change in routine for both the parent and children is a consuming process. It’s upon the parent to design a proper formula for the children to follow to make the imminent changes easier to bear. Here are a few proven techniques a parent can follow to make the back to school process as smooth as possible.

Find Out About the School

Find out about your kids’ school, ensure they are ready. During this period, you can decide whether your kids will be attending the same school or you have to find them a new one. Ensure you know the school leadership and some of its staff members. This way, you will know where to go or who to talk to when you have a problem.

Adjust Schedule in the Last few Weeks of the Summer

The last few weeks before school resumes are the most important for getting back to the rhythm. The last week before school opens is when you need to start making all the changes. You need to get back to the right sleeping routines…make sure everyone sleeps and wakes up early. This way, it will be easier for both you and the kids to adjust when school finally opens.

Secondly, there is a need for you to adjust the eating schedule. During summer, meals like breakfast are taken late because children sometimes sleep into the morning. To make sure this is not a problem, change the eating routine. Adopt a school-friendly eating schedule, one that will accommodate you and the children when school finally reopens.

Purchase What Is Required

Back to school comes with new and existing demands from the children and schools. The school has a set of resources they require from all the learners. As a parent, make sure you know about these resources in time. Talk to your children, confirm with the school, plan early and then buy them.

By buying these resources early, you help avoid the last-minute rush that comes with going back to school. It ensures you and your kids are ready for the new session.

Involve the Kids

Make sure your kids understand what is expected of them by you. Keep them informed about their routines. Let them know why they need to follow them. With this information, they will find it easy to adjust to school reopening.

As a parent, most responsibilities fall to you. Being organized will be a big plus for you. You can never be too prepared, keep yourself ready and flexible at all times. Have a plan, follow it and all will go well.

Blogging the Summer Days Away to Keep the Kids Busy

Summer is in full swing– kids are enjoying their newfound freedom while parents have started counting down the days until fall. Typically, children spend the first week of summer excitedly rushing from camp to the beach to sleepovers. After the honeymoon phase, however, they will inevitably slump on the couch and proclaim: I’m bored!

Instead of turning to Fortnight or another mindless movie, there are so many good reasons why kids should spend their free time blogging. A blog, for those who are unfamiliar, functions as a public or private online journal operated by a small group or individual. Most blogs have a niche or specialty, like gardening or cooking. They are usually conversational, but can be more formal depending on the purpose.

Blogging serves several purposes for young people and it is the perfect task to keep their minds buzzing in the leisure of summertime. Teachers can assign blogs as a creative summer task or parents can encourage them. Here are some reasons to encourage the young ones in your life to keep a summer blog:

Blogging encourages a passion or hobby

Since most blogs have a theme, the young people creating them will have the challenge of choosing a specific interest. Maybe she couldn’t get enough of that robotics club she joined last year. Or he loves painting and design. Whatever the topic, blogs encourage children to dive deeper into a particular passion and learn more about it.

It develops Language Arts skills

Regular reading and writing during summer ensures that students are practicing or enhancing what they learned the previous year. Since blogs focus on the individual’s interests, it will not seem like a chore and they will love writing about their chosen topic. Keep them challenged and growing in the summer.  

Blogs build self-esteem

Young people do not have the opportunity to be experts very often. Blogs allow them to take the wheel and share what they know about a topic, no matter how small. Explaining or teaching a concept to others reaffirms their understanding and also fosters pride and accomplishment. Encourage them to share their posts and expand on them.

It can turn into a lifelong venture

Often, exploring a passion at a young age ignites a career choice down the road. Getting a jumpstart on an interest could prove very beneficial. Even if blogging does not turn into a career venture, it is something children will have to look back on for years. Since all work is digital, it’s less likely to get lost in the chaos of everyday life.

If you are on board, here are some popular (and free) blog sites to explore:

If you do allow your child or student’s blog to be public, be sure to have a serious conversation about their digital footprint. Once the child hits the submit button, the information is always out there in some way or another. Explain boundaries like withholding all personal information. Stay involved so you know and see what they are writing.

If you are a parent who does not have access to technology at home, don’t worry. Students can still write down and sketch their ideas on paper. They could make a mini-magazine or take the pages to the computer lab once school starts up again. The important part is that they are exercising creativity, language skills, and getting some positive reinforcement along the way.

Happy blogging!

Virtual Summer Trip | One Day May Become a Reality

Vacation Planning

One of the best aspects of summer break is the chance to get away from home. Yet not everyone can afford to travel extensively or take big summer vacations. Instead of a disappointment, however, this can be an opportunity for kids to plan a virtual summer trip to anywhere on the globe and share their vision with the family.

Visiting other places is a chance to learn geography and culture. Travel is almost universally appealing, and with internet research almost any city or country can be virtually explored. Encouraging kids of all ages to expand their awareness of other places can inspire future travel goals and a sense of what it takes to go.

Planning a vacation has its own benefits and rewards, apart from taking the actual trip. It’s exciting to make decisions about where to go, how to get there, and what to see. Parents are often the planners when it comes to summer vacations. This is another reason to encourage students to spend part of their summer planning a virtual trip. They can be in charge of all the decisions and reveal everything to their family and friends through a presentation.

Choosing Location

The best way to begin a virtual summer trip is to select the location. Younger children can keep it simple by choosing a city they’ve heard about, or even a popular spot such as Hawaii or the Grand Canyon. Older kids might think of more exotic or remote locations, such as China or Egypt.

To keep these virtual planners from becoming overwhelmed, parents should encourage “limits” in either time or place. For example, if a high school student decides on Europe as a location, parents can narrow the virtual vacation to two weeks in order for the presentation to have focus and realistic material.

In addition to location, kids should incorporate means of travel in their planning and where to stay. This would help them understand geography (if planes, boats, trains, or cars are required) as well as travel economy. Older kids can work with an imaginary travel budget and learn the different (and many) costs of taking a vacation.

Exploring Culture

Every travel destination, no matter how close or far, is a chance to explore different culture. Planning a virtual summer trip is an excellent way for kids to learn about different regions and their people, languages, weather, food, music, landmarks, art, architecture and more.

For younger travelers, parents can help them find fun and educational activities in the location they choose. One example would be animal habitats in the area they would like to visit. For older kids, parents can suggest incorporating local museums, restaurants, and famous sights in their presentation.

Overall, planning a virtual trip is a chance for kids to learn about other places and people as well as what to see and do. This gives them a sense of wonder as part of a global community.

The Virtual Tour

The reward of planning a virtual summer trip and learning about travel, geography, and culture is sharing it with family and/or friends. Young children can draw pictures of their virtual vacation and explain their findings by describing the trip. Older kids can create a multi-media presentation, including maps, charts, pictures, and slides for others to learn and enjoy.

Parents can encourage their virtual vacation planners to incorporate regional music as part of the presentation, or even help make a food dish to represent the regional culture.

The overall result of this summer project is learning and enjoyment. Planning even a virtual vacation takes organizational skills, research, and attention to detail. Presenting the virtual vacation is a way for summer students to showcase their creativity and vision. And perhaps the virtual vacation will one day become a summer trip in reality.

Summer Clean-Out | Creating Memories that May Last Longer than Most Possessions

Pile Ups

Summertime can be a difficult balance for families between relaxation and activities. Most kids are resistant to doing work in favor of having fun, but boredom can quickly set in. And most parents want their kids to be somewhat productive in the summer, yet still enjoy the freedom of a long break.

One way to avoid these conflict pileups is to actually make some piles. Summer is an excellent time for family members to clean out some possessions that have lost their use or value and pile them up for re-purpose or donations. This is an opportunity to encourage a sense of community, volunteerism, and environmental awareness for everyone involved.

Getting Started

Beginning any project can be difficult, so it’s important to set goals and a timeline. Parents and kids can research community organizations, and which donated items they are seeking. For example, some police departments accept donations of gently used stuffed animals to give to children in high-stress situations. Other rescue groups may encourage donations of household goods or clothing.

Families can choose one or more “categories” of belongings to donate as a means and goal of community support, gather items to give, and then set a donation day to deliver and celebrate. This can be the start of a summer tradition of contribution and awareness of how much “stuff” people acquire that isn’t highly valued or used.

Tough Going

Getting rid of possessions may be challenging for people of all ages. Little ones may not understand the idea of donating to those less fortunate. Adolescents may be reluctant to give away their things, especially if they feel attached to them. Even adults can be overwhelmed with sentimentality or the idea that they “might need it later.”

This type of summer clean-out is a learning process for everyone. It’s important to start small and keep in mind the ripple effect of contribution. One way to make the tough decision of what to donate easier is to assign a “value” system. For each category of items, family members can assign a numerical value that reflects importance, necessity, or sentimentality. If the number value of an item is high, then it stays. If the number value of an item is low, then it goes.

For example, if a family wishes to clear out some board games for donation, they can take each game and value it with a number. If a game is played often and brings back fond memories, the number value would be high, and the game would stay. However, if a game has been outgrown and is rarely played with, the number value would be low, and the game could be passed on to another family rather than just taking up space in the home environment.

Big Reward

Hopefully, most family members will feel internal reward for giving to others and creating more breathing space in the home. However, like the value system for donations, it’s also important to have a tangible reward that everyone can remember and enjoy. This reward could be going out for pizza or ice cream on donation day, or even creating a small scrapbook page to mark the clean-out tradition. Family members could write their thoughts in a shared notebook about the experience of working together, helping the community, and reducing unneeded or unwanted possessions.

Recording and commemorating the summer clean-out will create memories that may last longer than most possessions, and hopefully inspire future community contributions and volunteerism.

Summer Card Sharks – Simple Games to Stop Brain Drain

Lazy, Hazy Days

Nearly everyone looks forward to summer, especially elementary school kids. For grades K-6, summer generally means splashing, swinging, and staying far away from academics. Though vacation is a healthy break, it can unfortunately cause what educators call “brain drain” or skill loss.

This skill loss means that on long breaks, most students lose or forget the skills and material they learned during the school year. As a result, they enter the next school year behind grade level and needing to catch up. Many elementary students are likely to read some books over the summer for enjoyment, yet few are eager to sit and do math problems for fun. Therefore, summer math skill loss is nearly double that of reading.

Parents who are motivated for their children to practice math skills over summer often go about it in ways that are expensive, uninspired, and ultimately ineffective. Math camps are costly and tend to undermine the academic freedom that summer brings. Typical summer workbooks mirror the drudgery of homework. And math video games, while fun, add to screen time while also teaching players more about how to “beat” the game rather than actual math skills.

However, the lazy summer days don’t have to make for hazy math with elementary school kids. A simple deck of cards can provide numerous opportunities for students to maintain their math skills and have fun doing so.

Card Games

Card games are an easy and enjoyable way for elementary school kids to enhance their math skills over summer. There are many card games for all ages to enjoy, and parents can incorporate these games during family time. Once kids get the hang of the games, they can play with siblings, friends, or even by themselves in some cases.

Here are some card game suggestions that incorporate math skills for almost all elementary learners to enjoy:

  1. Memory: Playing “Memory” with young children using a deck of cards helps them identify numbers as concrete representations. By matching number pairs, children practice number recognition and visual memory. This game can be single or multi-player and can be varied depending on players’ ages.
  2. War: Using a deck of cards to play “War” with elementary school children helps them retain number values, understand the concept of greater-than and less-than, and even presents an introduction to mathematical probability.
  3. Crazy Eights: “Crazy Eights” is a multi-player card game that encourages addition skills and mathematical critical thinking through strategy. Players try to eliminate their hand of cards by matching either the number or suit of the card on the table. The losing group of players must tally their remaining cards to give points to the winner of each round.

Card Activities

A deck of cards can inspire many activities for elementary school kids, not the least of which is card tricks. Many “magic” card tricks are based more on math principles than sleight-of-hand, which makes them fun and simple to perform if math skills are sharp.

One magic card trick that is easy to master and requires operational math skills is creating “tens.” With face cards and tens removed from the deck, an “audience” member chooses one card from those remaining. The “magician” then lays down the remainder of the cards and pairs them up to create values of ten: ace and nine, two and eight, etc. The one card remaining for the magician is the pair to the audience card to create ten. Therefore, the magician can subtract the value of the remaining card from 10 and “guess” the value of the audience card.

Many operational math skills can be practiced with a deck of cards. Parents can safely check the internet for tutorials and share them with their kids.

Card Sharks

A deck of cards is an easy, portable, fun, and almost unlimited way to encourage math retention and development in elementary school students during the summer. Whether playing card games or demonstrating magic tricks, a card deck fosters non-screen entertainment with family and friends. A deck of cards encourages creativity in kids as well as critical thinking, operational strategy, and math readiness for the new school year.