Wednesday, July 13, 2016

DCPS Teacher Reflects on the Importance of Summer Learning for Kids and School Community

July 14 is National Summer Learning Day, an annual national advocacy day led by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) to highlight the importance of keeping kids learning, safe and healthy every summer. 

This week, in recognition of the day, we invited a DC Public Schools teacher to share about how learning in the summer months produces significant reading growth for kids at Garrison Elementary School.

With its longer days and more time to spend outside and in the community, summertime provides students and their families with a valuable time to play and learn outside of the classroom while experiencing new things together. At Garrison Elementary, a Title I school in the Logan Circle/Shaw neighborhood of Northwest DC, our goal is to provide all our students and families with both traditional and non-traditional opportunities for learning over the summer months.

We start planning for the summer with families before the school year ends. At our APTT (Academic Parent Teacher Team) meetings in May, families discuss opportunities to continue providing enrichment to their kids over the summer months, and set goals for their children’s learning. These may include goals such as “go to the library once a week” and “go to a museum every two weeks”, and the opportunities do not end there. During the last week of school, we hold a school-wide Reading Growth Celebration to recognize our students’ reading achievement and to equip families with tools to keep their children reading over the summer. Students leave the celebration with bags of free books, blended learning website log-ins, and colorful bookmarks with comprehension questions. At the early childhood level, our PTO has organized “playdates” throughout the summer for both new and enrolled families to connect and build a strong school community.

The learning that happens from June through August for our students is sustained by community partnerships. The DC Public Library holds regular events for students throughout the summer, and Garrison partners with Barnes and Noble to hold Summer Reading Nights. Twice this summer, families will visit the Barnes and Noble in Brookland to participate in reading-based activities. Many of our students also attend programming during the summer months (and school year) at the Kingman Boys & Girls Club, where our children participate in sports and activities including basketball, football and cheerleading.

Starting in August, our teachers will begin visiting families at their homes to get to know one another and begin forming trusting relationships. 87% of our kindergarten students ended the year reading at grade level or above, and 75% of our 5th graders ended the year reading at grade level or above. Communicating with families frequently throughout the summer and organizing school-wide community partnerships help us ensure that our students come back to school on August 22nd at or above the same reading level where they had left in June, ready and excited to keep reading and to keep learning.

DCAYA thanks Amy Tyburski for her contribution to our blog for this week. Ms. Tyburski is going into her fourth year as a teacher at Garrison Elementary School. She currently teaches 4th and 5th grade English Language Arts. She has previously served as a Family Engagement Leader for two years, and this year will work supporting other teachers in literacy instruction.

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