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How to avoid summer ‘brain drain’ in your pupils

By Atom | Jun 9, 2023, 9:31 AM

Bored looking boy writing in notebook


Educational specialist Claire Roper shares her top tips for teachers.

After another busy year, the summer holidays are coming into view. The sun is shining, the weather is warming up, and everyone is ready for a break from the norm. While we heartily approve of a restful summer, here are a few suggestions on how to avoid the dreaded ‘brain drain’ in your pupils.

Make summer reading a focus

Summer is a great time for pupils to read and to build on skills they’ve accumulated across the school year. As well as bolstering English and literacy, this can also span other subjects, both by including non-fiction books or fiction in areas covered in other subjects.

For Reception and Key Stage 1, perhaps a book list for grown-ups that builds into topics in the following year, or a selection of audiobooks for listening to at home (there are many free options found online).

In Key Stage 2, a curated list of titles can really support carers in helping readers with selecting books. Broader challenges built around reading can also engage children. Example challenges include: read a book that takes place in another time, read a book in an unusual place, read a book you think your teacher would enjoy.

Setting summer homework? Make it work for you!

In the upper years of primary, summer homework is a great way to keep learners engaged and to consolidate learning that’s happened through the year. There are many ways to do this, from summer holiday ‘log books’ to project based learning, or even a ‘sneak peek’ of what’s ahead next year. If you opt to do projects or logs, add a session to your first week back for pupils to share their work. Children love to see their work given value, and for you as the teacher it’s a great opportunity to get to know your new class, too.

A favourite of mine is to set a homework word or theme, such as ‘What did you learn this summer?’ and to leave things broad for families and children. On that learning theme I had such a range of sharing coming back, from finger-knitting to baking, parkour to window cleaning. I learned a lot!

If you teach in Key Stage 2, you can also use online resources such as Atom School to set assignments, either for a whole class or for differentiated groups (setting up the latter can really help with extension and support). A huge benefit here is getting some useful data for the coming year… and Atom School’s automated marking feature will help you avoid reams of marking in the opening weeks of the new school year!

Encourage your pupils to get creative

A brilliant way to keep your pupils’ minds active over the summer holiday is to encourage them to embrace their creativity and imagination. This could include a fun story-making or creative writing activity where pupils are challenged to create their dream world or build an exciting new protagonist for a fantasy story.

If you’re looking for a more ready-made creative writing activity, Atom Learning is currently running a brand new, nation-wide competition: The Atom Learning Young Author Award. Your pupils can submit their own story, no longer than 500 words and based on the theme ‘If I were in charge for a day...’ for The Award, and could be in with a chance of winning a two night trip to Disneyland Paris for a family of four!

The deadline for entry is 10th September 2023, so why not encourage your pupils to write a story as a summer activity?

Remember that a break is important for your pupils (and you!)

It can be tempting to view the summer holidays as lost learning time, but in truth it is anything but. Young people need time away from the rigidity of school, and the learning that can take place away from the classroom can truly be a great complement to the work done within the school year.

With a little time and imagination, summer learning can be kept light and fun, but still offer children a way to keep their existing skills ticking over, and perhaps to build some new ones.

By adding a small dash of schoolwork to the summer holiday recipe, pupils will return in September feeling confident and competent, and ready for the challenges and opportunities before them.

Happy summer!


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