As a past teacher and curriculum director, my least favorite time of the year was when we started planning for summer school. Trying to find curriculum that was condensed enough for the short six weeks of summer school yet robust and coherent enough to meet the needs of a wide variety of learners was always a challenge. Getting teachers to give additional summer hours to collect materials or browse the web for ideas meant they spent more time finding and collecting and less time planning how to bring math to life for students. What my more than 20 years of experience has taught me is that there are some keys to ensuring a successful summer school experience for both teachers and students.
1. Curriculum choice matters.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. This is especially true when it comes to a summer school curriculum. We knew that if we wanted to move the needle of achievement for students attending summer school, we had to provide learning experiences that were not more of the same.
We wanted to give students more opportunities to explore mathematical ideas using tools, visual models, and language to help them make sense of the math we needed them to learn. We also knew students needed support in connecting conceptual understanding to more abstract representations. Our challenge was to find a way for students to see the math unfold in a coherent way so that they could continue to connect one mathematical idea to the next, rather than see math as set of individual skills.
Why does this matter? Choosing the right resources helps ensure that students have opportunities to get just-in-time support with needed concepts and skills. Summer school teachers are dedicated. Those teachers who volunteer or those who are “volentold” to teach summer school take on a huge time commitment. To honor their time, choosing a resource that includes all of the needed materials, tools, and instructional supports allows them to focus on purposeful planning rather than resource gathering.