Empowering students with language-based learning differences
The Siena School Blog
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Welcome to Siena's blog, your source for helpful, cutting-edge resources tailored to teachers, parents, and other advocates in the learning differences community. We are dedicated to providing a wealth of curated knowledge spanning various topics, ranging from dyslexia advocacy and awareness to classroom teaching strategies, heritage month profiles, and social and emotional health.
Fun Summer Activities for Students
Another summer is here, and parents might be looking for good activities to both engage their children and give a little bit of structure to the days and weeks ahead.
Ideal summer activities for school-age children often entail movement, creativity, and interactivity; they might also be multisensory and tactile to further engage children’s brains and alleviate boredom.
Scheduling some regular activities has the dual benefit of keeping children active and giving their summer days some structure. Many studies have shown the benefits of structure for children, especially those with ADHD. ADDitude has some good resources for daily schedules for parents and children to adapt for the summer.
Ideas for Indoor Activities
- Take a trip to your local library and get a bunch of books—mix in some old favorites with new ones to keep children reading
- Pick a book or two to write or imagine a prequel, sequel, or other extension of the story as a creative exercise
- Take on some Lego challenges inspired by Lego Masters builds (see also their Lego YouTube Channel)
- Make fidgets from Lego or other materials (these can also help with focus and anxiety management throughout the year)
- Try some fun DIY crafts, repurposing, and upcycling of various materials around the house
- Enjoy some age-appropriate baking or cooking projects and turn your kitchen into a Mini Master Chef
- Have a family dinner and a movie marathon—maybe with food from your Mini Master Chef kitchen
- Try some at-home science experiments, such as these suggestions from Good Housekeeping, Tinybeans, and SplashLearn
- Make slime or homemade play dough
- Create some DIY board games, paper airplanes, musical instruments, and more
- Design a puzzle scavenger hunt with clues to find certain pieces—parents and children can even take turns!
Ideas for Outdoor Activities
- Let children practice outdoor art with some sidewalk chalk, finger painting, fence painting, or tie-dyeing
- Plan a backyard camping night
- Cool off and engage the senses with outdoor water fun
- Experiment with some backyard science—see Steam Powered Family and Childhood 101 for good ideas
- Have children design a DIY scavenger hunt or obstacle course to exercise their creativity and their bodies
- Make (or expand) a backyard garden
- Build a birdhouse or bird feeder and keep a list of which kinds of birds visit
- Take regular walks and create nature collages based on what children see and find
Whether they’re happening indoors, outdoors, or in both places, hands-on activities like these provide opportunities for creativity, imagination, and exploration. They not only keep kids occupied but also allow them to develop various skills while having a great time with their families and/or friends.
Resources for Fun Summer Activities
See these resources for additional activities and ideas to keep school-age children engaged this summer:
- Ann Dolin of Educational Connections recently shared this post with 10 Writing Activities for Kids This Summer, which includes suggestions for elementary, middle, and high school ages.
- 100 Summer Fun Ideas for Kids and Parents (Very Well Family)
- 24 Low-Cost Summer Activities for Kids (Parents)
- 20 New Ideas and Activities to Try This Summer (PBS KIDS for Parents)
- Get Ready for Summer! Ideas for Teachers to Share with Families (Reading Rockets)
Benefits of Summer Reading
Summer reading is important for students’ academic and social-emotional development, but how can they find age-appropriate books that are also interesting and relatable to their experiences?
As this 2021 post from Scholastic points out, “Summer reading is critical, not only for helping kids maintain learning while school is out, but also for fostering social–emotional development, discovering the joy of stories, and elevating the importance of lifelong learning.”
Summer reading—even 15-20 minutes a day—helps students with dyslexia and other language-based learning differences: it will keep their reading, retention, and decoding skills sharp in preparation for the coming school year. Regular reading also helps students’ social–emotional skills by sharpening their awareness of the world, as well as increasing their empathy and ability to understand various points of view.
Getting students to read over the summer can be a challenge. But knowing what their peers have read and enjoyed can help, especially when students have diverse stories, characters, identities, and genres to choose from.
Summer Reading Recommendations for Teens and Tweens
At the end of the school year, Siena teachers shared summer reading packets, which included recommendations and class readings for students across all grade levels. Teachers typically assemble their own reading lists to share with students, and they always choose a variety of books that reflect Siena’s diverse community and curriculum. Here are some of the books Siena’s students have been reading this summer:
To further help students and parents, Siena Humanities chair and middle school English teacher Beth Fabijanic shared that the Young Adult Library Services Association (a division of ALA) offers ample recommendations for teen/tween readers, including:
- Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
- Best Fiction for Young Adults
- Great Graphic Novels for Teens
Students who prefer to listen to books—or who perhaps want to read along while listening—should also explore the audiobook selections on Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults, Learning Ally, Audible, and Audiobook Sync (which updates free audiobooks for teens every week).
Resources for Summer Reading
“Children often react very differently when a parent or teacher tells them to do something compared to when they make a decision on their own,” this Dyslexia Resource post from 2020 observes. “When age-appropriate, encourage growing readers to develop their independence by allowing them to create their own summer reading schedule. While beginner readers should read around 20 minutes each day, leave the rest up to your student.”
Choosing their own daily reading time can give students a sense of control over the process, while the routine of summer reading can prepare them for the more structured days of the school year.
Here are some additional resources to help students with summer reading:
- Education consultant Ann Dolin recently wrote about engaging reluctant readers over the summer, including a handful of recommendations for different ages and suggestions for reading as a family.
- Fairfax County Public Library Teen Events and Resources and Montgomery County Public Library For Teens offer recommendations, events, programs, and more. Check public libraries in your area for similar summer reading services for young people.
- The National Education Association offers ample resources, activity ideas, and links for students to Get Serious About Summer Reading.
- The New York Public Library’s Staff Picks for Teen Readers goes back to Spring 2019 and lists English- and Spanish-language books.