10 ideas to support Play-Based Learning over the Summer

Lainey FranksBlog, Elementary / Primary, High School / Secondary, Higher Education, Remote Learning

Here are 10 ways you can engage your students in learning over the summer – without them even realizing they are learning!

Many students are just making their way back into schools. Teachers are working hard to re-engage them in school and reignite their enjoyment of learning, but in a few short weeks you’ll be packing them up and sending them home for summer vacation.

In any given year, teachers and school leaders worry about the summer slide, but this year you may be all the more concerned. You may be thinking of a number of ways to mitigate the impact of more time away from school: summer school, summer reading lists, math workbooks, and access to online learning platforms.

Read more: The key to learning recovery

As a former math teacher, I could always count on a handful of my students completing the entire math workbook we sent home in June. However, many of them would only do a few pages in the first week, or not even open the book at all.

But when I asked my students on the first day of school if they did any math over the summer, we could always find tons of examples: budgeting their pocket money to spent on ice cream; reading timetables to help plan which bus or ferry to take while traveling; splitting pizzas fairly between friends; playing board games; doing word searches, and engaging in any number of different examples of problem solving.

Play-based learning is boosted when children choose their own activities based on their interests and passions.

The importance of learning through play is well documented. Play-based learning is boosted when children choose their own activities based on their interests and passions, as they largely do in the home environment over the summer months. Furthermore, the benefits of play can be enhanced by teacher-designed activities, stretching children’s thinking to higher levels.

Two kids using a tablet in a field of grass

A tool to demonstrate learning

So how can teachers and school leaders build on child-initiated play, and consolidate the benefits learning through play? Let us help you.

Book Creator can be a powerful tool for children to showcase their explorations, their big questions, their performances, and their reflections. It’s a great way for children to demonstrate their learning over the summer, without thinking of it as a learning tool.

When I introduced my students to Book Creator during a lockdown lesson last year, I was delighted the next morning to see how many of the students created books well beyond the lesson time. It was as though they found an outlet for the many stories in their heads—I had opened the floodgates of creativity.

We hear this from teachers all the time. Children get hooked on the ability to record their creative ideas, film themselves acting out scenes, add their voice to their characters, take on the role of teacher, add drawings and emojis, and see their books published.

💡 10 ideas to get you started

Without losing the benefit of children choosing their own activities, here are 10 ideas that you could suggest your students consider trying out over the summer with Book Creator.

The aim of every item on this list is simply to add a learning activity to what children may already be doing this summer, and to frame it in a way that appeals to their desire to see their words, hear their voices, and see their actions displayed in a book.

Whatever you do, don’t suggest to your students that this is homework! The trick here is that children don’t think of this as learning, rather a fun activity to do during the summer break.

1. Keep a journal of all the movies and books you enjoy

Keep a record of all the books and/or movies that you read and watch over the summer. Record your reflections on the book or movie: why did you like it or not like it? Who was your favorite character and why? Act out your favorite scene with a friend or sibling. Can you imagine a different ending?

2. Showcase your photos or drawings in a Photo Book

Make a book of photos to remember your summer. Enhance it with captions and stories. Use audio to explain what was so funny in the photo of you and your friends laughing.

Pages from the Photobook template

3. Write a Fantasy Book

Get inspired by the stunning and inspiring imagery in our Fantasy Book template. You could create an amazing ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book that transports you to a galaxy far, far away, doing battle with orcs, ogres and other dangerous creatures!

You can now create with templates in Book Creator!

4. Keep a Digital Diary

Use text on some days, audio on others, video on some… and when you’re really tired, just use an emoji to record how your day went. 😍

5. Keep an Exercise Journal

Keep a journal of your daily or weekly activities: add videos of your workouts, include links to any videos you followed on YouTube, add your favorite songs, design your own workouts. Record how much energy you had and how much you enjoyed each workout!

6. Make a series of Top 10 Books

Write a 10-page book featuring your favorite fictional characters, favorite sports stars, favorite memes, favorite dances, top 10 jokes.

7. Record your journey to learning a new skill

Get inspired by Nike’s ‘Play New’ ad. Record each step in your journey to try something new. Add videos of other people who have mastered the skill, and analyze their approach. Laugh at your bloopers. You don’t have to master a new skill to achieve a great deal.

8. Make a Cookbook

If you love cooking, make a cookbook of all your favorite recipes, including the ones you create yourself. Record yourself and other people doing the taste test. 😋

9. Document a mini science experiment*

The next time you find yourself wondering what would happen if I…, come up with a hypothesis, take some photos or videos of the experiment and write up your conclusion.

*Make sure you check with parents before getting started on this one!

10. Design your own fashion magazine

Use our Magazine template to write stories about your favorite celebrities, feature your favorite memes, add photos of great outfits and write your own monthly horoscopes.

11. Anything else? 🤔

If you have any bonus ideas you think would work well, please add a comment below and let other teachers know!

Share and encourage

Ideally, you should encourage collaboration between your students where possible. Children can enjoy the camaraderie of working with a friend to produce something amazing. This would be particularly valuable for those children who have elected not to return to school and would benefit from re-connecting. This works for any of the projects above!

Best practice for collaborative projects

An added benefit to this is that you can share these books with your students’ teacher in the fall. It’s a great way for them to get to know the child in a very personal way, finding out what they really love and what they choose to do in their free time. The child will be so proud when their new teacher mentions how much they enjoyed their book about their favorite Marvel characters.

If you’d like to provide some extra motivation for your students to get creative, make a competition out of it. Promise the students a reward in the fall for the best books. If you’re on a district plan with Book Creator then we can provide swag for you (just speak to your Teacher Success Manager).

How to get started

  • If you’ve already introduced your students to Book Creator, they will already know and love it. You can just give them the great news that they can create their own books throughout the summer, and that you look forward to seeing them and sharing them with their new teacher in the fall. Share our list of 10 ideas with them.
  • If you haven’t introduced your students to Book Creator, I’d recommend using one of our self-guided SEL activity books in these last weeks of the school year. It’s also a great way for you to get to know Book Creator.
    Getting started with Book Creator.

Remember, you can create a free account in Book Creator and we’ll give you 1 library and 40 books. If you think you’ll need more than that, you can subscribe to our 1,000 books plan and get unlimited libraries (and other great features too). Here’s how to upgrade your account for just $10 per month.

You could also ask your school or district to get in touch with us to discuss a summer special offer for you and all your fellow teachers.

Happy book making and enjoy your summer! 😎☀️⛱

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