Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #30 ~ Teaching

Teach someone something. If you ask any teacher, he or she will almost always tell you they learned more after they started teaching than in all their years of teacher training and education.

Why is this?

When you teach something, you have to understand it. You have to know it forward and backward. You have to do research. You have to practice. Once you're the expert, then you can present it to someone else.

So try teaching your little brother how to spell a new word.

Try teaching your mom how to do an algebra problem.

Teach your best friend about the scientific method.

Teach your dad about the battle at Gettysburg.

It's amazing what you'll learn in the process.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #29 ~ Language Arts

Play games. Some of the best for keeping up learning skills include Scrabble, crosswords, anagrams, Sudoku, cryptograms, and many others. They are amazing for helping your vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and thinking skills.

Even better, they're fun!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #28 ~ Health

Keep your body healthy by eating properly and exercising each day. During the school year, this is fairly easy because you're on a regular schedule. Unfortunately, that schedule gets disrupted during the summer.

That means you have to make a conscious effort to eat properly each day and at regular times. It also means that you have to get in that daily exercise. It's so easy to lay on the couch and watch TV, but there are so many fun things to do during the summer from bike rides to swimming pools. Whatever activity you decide on, try to do it for an hour each day.

When the school year comes, you'll be healthy, active, and ready for whatever the new year brings.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #27 ~ History

I just finished a college course about 1939 movies. 1939 is considered a pivotal year in film-making. Some of the films are just for fun, such as The Wizard of Oz. But others can give you an amazing amount of history. The ones we watched that can help you learn a little history include Stagecoach, Destry Rides Again, Young Mr. Lincoln, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Gone With the Wind. When you're finished watching them, write a short summary of the history you watched in each film.

If you're a teacher, I highly recommend you watch Goodbye, Mr. Chips. You might even consider it for an in-service at the beginning of the school year. It will inspire and help you remember why you became a teacher.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #26 ~ Memory

Memorize the words to a song. Most of the things you learn in school require memorization. If you think about it, much of learning is remembering.

So improve those skills by practicing things that will improve your memory. Learning the words to a new song can help. While you're learning that song, think about what you're doing. Are you listening to the song over and over? Did you look up the lyrics on the Internet and print them out so you can read them to learn them?

Aren't these the same skills you'll need in school when you're trying to learn something new? If not, they should be. When you're learning a new skill in math class, you have to practice it and may have to review the procedures in your textbook or on the Internet. If you're learning a new spelling word, you write it over and over.

The skills you use when memorizing the words to a new song may just help you when you're learning new things next school year.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #25 ~ Reading

Read a book and watch the movie.

Many books have been turned into movies. A few movies have been turned into books. Find one you like, read the book, then watch the movie.

For instance, I read the book Jurassic Park, then watched the movie. Much of the movie was identical to the book, but there were some differences. The same is true of most movie-book productions.

When done, compare the movie to the book. Did the film-maker make the film the way you imagined it while you were reading? Were the characters the same? Did you like some of the characters better in the book or in the movie? What parts of the book were left out? Was anything new included in the movie? Did the film-maker change anything from the way it was printed in the book? If there are differences between the book and the movie, why do you think the film-maker made these changes?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #24 ~ Writing

ScrapbookingImage via Wikipedia

Have you ever tried scrapbooking? Many stores have scrapbooking supplies and many are reasonably priced.

Take a few of your old photos, trim them, and paste them to your page. Use a few borders, trims, buttons, stickers, or whatever you have available, to decorate the page around your photos.

If you've left a few empty spaces, use them for journaling. In other words, write something about your photos. When were they taken? What were you doing at the time? How did you feel? If there are other people in the pictures, who are they, what were they doing then, what are they doing now?

Again, the writing process will help improve your writing skills. In addition, you've used your creativity and created a keepsake.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #23 ~ Bible School

If you're religious, you might want to try summer Bible School. Many churches offer one or two weeks of religious training in the summer. It's not formal study, but is usually quite informal and usually a lot of fun. You can keep up on your school skills because Bible School offers many of the same types of learning you get during the school year.

You will get to read stories and listen to them. You get to play games, do skits, sing songs, work on projects, and many other fun things that will help keep your brain active.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #22 ~ Writing

tourism map theatre symbolImage via Wikipedia

Become a critic.

Do you like to go to movies? If you spend a lot of time at the theater during the summer, try writing reviews of the movies you see. What did you like? How does it compare to other movies you've seen. Think of all the aspects of a movie such as directing, acting, editing, art direction, and special effects.

Perhaps you would rather rate music. Write a critique of the top 10 songs. Again, what did you like? Consider the lyrics, the style, melody, and the instrumentation. How does it compare to other songs by the same artist. If you get a chance to go to a concert, write a review of your experience.

Maybe food is more more to your liking. Whenever you eat at a restaurant, write about it. How was the quality of your meal? What about the service? Was the restaurant clean? Did they have a full menu or just a few offerings?

The writing experience helps you practice your written communication skills. It can also help with your vocabulary, spelling, punctuation, and grammar skills.

If you're really brave, submit your reviews to a local newspaper. You never know, they might publish them. If not, that's okay. The writing process will still help you maintain your skills for next school year.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #21 ~ General

Join a club. Because there are so many different clubs and organizations, there should be one that you would enjoy.

Around here there is an astronomy club, numerous book clubs, photography club, art groups, music groups, and many others.

If you can't find one you would enjoy, start one. Perhaps you love reading science fiction, but all the book clubs focus on current bestsellers or the classics. The perfect solution is to start your own science fiction book club. Tell your friends, put an ad in the paper, select your first book, read, and discuss.

Our local astronomy club started with the dream of three friends who shared a common interest in the stars. That was 25 years ago. The club still survives today, gives presentations and star parties, teaches an astronomy class at the community college, and supervises an observatory complex that now has three observatory buildings.

A club may just be the thing you need this summer.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #20 ~ Relaxation

Relax and spend time with family, especially on special occasions like Father's Day. It's surprising what you can learn from pleasant conversation and it's always fun to find out about relatives and ancestors. Dads can often tell amazing stories.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #19 ~ History

Take a drive and I'll bet that, without having to travel too far, you'll find an historical marker.

For instance, I can travel about 30 miles north and run into the Toolesboro Mounds, a national historic landmark. They are a group of Indian burial grounds built by the Havana Hopewell culture sometime between 200 BCE and 100 CE.

If I travel about 15 miles east, I'll come across Norma Jean's tombstone. Norma Jean was a circus elephant that was struck by lightening in 1972. A 12-foot monument has been erected on the spot where she died.

A few miles south is a marker that indicates the beginning of the Mormon Trail in 1847. A few miles further south is another plaque to show where the first Jewish Synagogue was located in Iowa. Between the two is Galland School, a replica of the first one-room school house in Iowa.

So take a little trip. I'm guessing you won't have to travel too far before you learn a little history.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #18 ~ Science & Nature

Today I needed to look something up on our county's conservation board website. While there, I found several newsletters with tons of information about the county.

I learned that a cave in one of the nature preserves has been closed due to cases of white-nose syndrome found in bats in a nearby state.

I learned that we have flying squirrels in Iowa, but that since they are nocturnal, we rarely see them. Most people don't even realize they live here.

I learned that the county provides hunter safety and shooting range courses, they have a rock wall for climbing, they have a "nature at night" program where you can experience nature's nightlife with a naturalist, and they have a fishing derby. There is also a parent-tot program with games, stories, crafts, and outdoor fun.

I learned how to troubleshoot tree health.

I learned about a wooded area park (actually a mix of prairie, forest, and wetland) that I didn't even know existed (and now will have to visit).

Go to your county's website and see what is available for you to learn. Once you see all that is available, find something you're interested in and participate. You'll be amazed at what you can learn.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #17 ~ Education

When I was in elementary school, the district always provided "summer school." Some of the classes were designed for students who needed extra practice, for those who had not done well during the school year and needed remediation during the summer so they could be ready for the next school year. My school district also offered classes called "enrichment" courses. These were the ones that students could take for fun, the ones that offered something new.

Every summer I took band lessons. I don't remember other classes that were offered, but I think they included music, art, and fun summer reading. These courses made learning fun, gave me something to do during the summer, and helped me keep up my skills (and my skills definitely needed improving).

Of course, in high school, I took Driver's Ed during the summer. And in college, summer courses allowed me to earn my B.S. degree in three years instead of four.

Today, school district budgets often prevent schools from offering summer courses, but if you look around, you might find as school that will have something for you. In some cases, community colleges provide a wide variety of courses for students who want to keep learning during the summer, and they provide courses for all levels, K-12.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #16 ~ Reading

Watch a movie on DVD, but turn on subtitles and turn off the sound. Just read the subtitles during the entire movie. If you do this several times during the summer, you'll find that it can improve your reading skills.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #15 ~ Reading

When someone asks me what I've read lately, I know they are referring to the books I've read. Well, the fact of the matter is that I haven't read any fiction for about a month. My answer to their question would most likely be "nothing."

But in reality, that's not true. I'm always reading. I read blogs, newspapers, signs, warranties, owner's manuals, magazines, documents, nutrition labels, ads, labels, recipes, emails, websites, instructions, and many other non-fiction items.

All reading is good for you. Every time you read, your reading skills improve a little. You don't have to read a novel, just read whatever is available. And keep reading and reading and reading.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #14 ~ Writing

One of my favorite poems is:
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Some poems rhyme,
Some don't.
I have no idea who the poet was, but every time I read it, it makes me smile.

Writing a poem can help you improve your vocabulary and your writing skills. So try writing one. It can rhyme, but doesn't have to. It can be short or epic. It can be funny or profound. Try a haiku or a limerick or maybe a rap song is more your style. Put your heart into it and make it your own.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #13 ~ Math

To keep up on your basic math skills over the summer, play a game where you have to keep score. Card games are especially good because on many, you lose points when you lose the game. This type of game will help improve your adding and subtracting and often times give you practice with negative numbers. Just make sure you keep score on your own. Don't use a calculator.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #12 ~ History

Every town has a history. Do a little research this summer and find out about yours. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Use your local libraries, museums, cemeteries, and senior citizens.
  1. Where did your town or city get its name?
  2. Who was the founder and when?
  3. Who were some of the original residents and what did they do?
  4. Are there any famous people from your town or city?
  5. How have most people made a living over the years?
  6. Why do you think people settled in this area?
  7. What was in this area before your town or city?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #11 ~ College Course

If you'd like to try your hand at a college course, without the pressure, grades, or cost, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers access to classes online. The website at MIT OpenCourseWare has 1900 courses and, depending on the course, provides lecture notes, online textbooks, examples, projects, multimedia, assignments, tests, and solutions.

The courses are college-level, but if you feel you're ready, this is the place to find out. If you're still in high school, these courses will give you an idea of what to expect for the future. They will also help you understand how important your high school courses are in preparing you for college.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #10 ~ Writing

WritingImage by Ed Yourdon via Flickr

This summer, spend a little time writing a short story. Be creative. Use your imagination. Don't worry about spelling or punctuation. Just write a story. Tell a tale.

Once you're done, read your story out loud to yourself. Does it sound right? Have you chosen the right words? Correct anything that you think needs to be changed. Re-word anything that seems awkward.

After the story sounds right, spend some time checking spelling and punctuation.

The last step is to have someone else read your story. Ask for their honest opinion. If they give you suggestions or corrections that will make your story better, make those changes.

At this point your story should be done, but it always helps to put it away for a week or so, then read it again. Sometimes, after a little time, you'll see other things that need to be changed.

So why do all this? The creative process of writing can carry over to other parts of life. Creativity is key in music, poetry, art, architecture, and mathematical and scientific discoveries. Writing also increases vocabulary and can improve your spelling, grammar, and punctuation skills.

If you think your story is good enough, you may be able to submit it to a magazine for publication or at least use it as an assignment for one of your classes next school year.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #9 ~ Maps

If you're planning a vacation or even a day trip, try doing some calculations before you go. It will improve your map skills and keep your math skills in shape.

First, get a road map for the area in which you'll be traveling. Trace out your route. Then using the map, figure how many miles to your destination. Calculate the amount of time it will take to get there by driving the speed limits. Figure how much gasoline it will take and how much that gasoline will cost.

As you're actually taking your trip, keep track of your mileage, time, gallons of gasoline, and costs. Compare them to your estimates. How did you do? If your calculations were correct, the actual amounts should be very close to your estimates.

Do this several times over the course of the summer. You should get better at it, while improving your map and math skills. And remember to enjoy yourself on your trip.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #8 ~ Math

Play with a calculator. What will it do? What are all those keys for?

Use your owner's manual and learn all you can about it. Some are simple and will only take a short amount of time. Others are very complex and will take much longer. Entire courses are offered for some of the scientific calculators. You may want to check to see if one is offered in your area.

Calculator skills are vital for many math classes. Even if you have teacher who won't let you use one in class, it can still help you check your work at home.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #7 ~ Health

One of the ways to stay healthy and use a few of your math skills is to be aware of how much sugar you eat each day. Most sources say that you should limit your intake of sugar to 100 to 300 calories per day or no more than 8 teaspoons per day. The problem is that all nutrition labels indicate amounts of sugar in grams instead of calories or teaspoons. So in order to know the amount of sugar in foods, you have to do a few calculations.

Let's assume 12 ounces of a cola drink has 100 calories. When reading the nutrition label, you find that it has 24 grams of sugar. To calculate the teaspoons of sugar, divide the number of grams by 4. So, 24 divided by 4 equals 6. That means this cola would contain 6 teaspoons of sugar. That's almost the daily limit.

Now, each teaspoon of sugar contains 16 calories. So if you multiply 6 times 16, you find that 96 of the calories in this cola come from sugar. That means 96% of the calories are nothing but sugar. Another way to calculate calories is to know that each gram of sugar contains 4 calories. Again, if you take 24 times 4, you get 96 calories of the 100 coming from sugar.

Sugar comes in many forms. Look for words like sucrose, fructose, corn syrup, lactose, and honey. But remember, not all of these are bad for you. Milk (lactose), fruit (fructose), and vegetables (glucose) all contain sugars, but also contain bulk and fiber as well as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #6 ~ Botany

Take a walk through the woods or a park. But this time, visit the library first. Choose one or two books about identification of plants. There will probably be several, so find one for your level. If you're a beginner, try to get a book that guides you through step-by-step. They are called "taxonomy guides" and are available for all types of plants.

My first college course was Botany. I took it the same summer I graduated from high school. I think the teacher wasn't quite as enthusiastic as he could have been, but we did get through all the material. The best part, however, was that he didn't want to be in the classroom on those beautiful summer days anymore than we did. So we would go for two hour walks through the amazing parks we have in our city. One is an arboretum that lends itself perfectly to this kind of hand-on learning. I may not remember the vascular structure of a plant, but to this day I can still identify an amazing number of trees, flowers, and even weeds.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #5 ~ Foreign Language

If you've taken a foreign language and want to practice what you've learned, here's one way to hone your skills.

First, you'll need Google Chrome as your browser. (Other browsers also have this feature.) Then install the translation bar extension. There are several translation extensions available. The one I've been using seems to work well. It is called Translation Bar by Tase.

Next, find a passage online and translate it to the foreign language you've been learning. Do this by hand using pencil and paper. Once done, you can check your translation by clicking on the translation bar icon. It will translate your passage for you and allow you to check your work. It is not perfect, but will give you a reasonable translation.

Just remember, you'll only hone your skills if you do the actual translation first, then check your work. You won't learn anything if you just let the Google extension do it for you.

You can also find passages online that are originally written in a foreign language. Try translating these back to English. Google Chrome will automatically detect web pages written in other languages and has an automatic translate feature for this. Again, you can do the translation by hand, then check your work.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #4 ~ Public Television

Choose one educational program each week on public television. Watch it and write a report. You'll learn something from watching the program and practice your summarizing and writing skills with the report. Save these reports because you may be able to use them during the next school year.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #3 ~ Keep a Journal

This summer, try keeping a journal. Write in it every day. Write about the things that happen during the day. Write about news events. Write about the weather. Write about the people you meet and the things you do. Write about the things for which you are grateful. What events make you happy and what events make you sad? Where did you go? If a story or poem comes to mind, write it down. Do you have a question about something? Make a note of it and then do some research to find the answer.

So why do this? The main reason is that every time you write, you improve your writing skills. Because writing is a major form of communication, it's one of those topics that's stressed in every subject you study. Most students are expected to write in language arts classes, social studies, science, foreign language, and possibly even math, art, and music.

When you get back to school in the fall and the teacher says, "Write a paper telling me what you did during the summer," you'll be prepared. In fact, your paper will almost write itself because you've already done all the hard work.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #2 ~ Math Skills

One of the ways to keep your math skills up during the summer is to make a recipe. However, you need to change it up a bit.

Find a recipe that serves four. Then increase each ingredient in order to turn it into a recipe for six. This means you'll need to multiply each ingredient by one-and-a-half.

There are several ways to do this, depending on the original value you're increasing. For instance, if the original amount is 3 tablespoons, it's probably easier to just multiply 3 times 1.5. But if the recipe calls for 2 teaspoons, it might be easier to just use one (2 teaspoons) and a half (1 teaspoon) and then add them together to get 3 teaspoons. Find a method that works best for you and your recipe.

Now enjoy what you've made. Next time, make it a little harder by increasing the recipe so it serves 5 people.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Prevent Summer Learning Loss ~ Tip #1 ~ Thinking Skills

I suppose this is actually tip number three, because I've already written about learning a new word every day and spending time at the library. But since those weren't specifically labeled, I'll just call this Tip #1.

For today's tip, I suggest you watch a documentary. Some award-winning films can be found on the Academy Award web page. Recent topics include environmental issues, health, immigration, the economy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, religion, historical events, culture, and education.

Most of these films are thinking films, meaning they will make you think. Over the summer, that's a good thing. I know that most of us want to get away from thinking during the summer, but if you want to be ready for school in the fall, you have to keep up your critical thinking skills.

So watch a documentary. When finished consider the following:
  • Identify your feelings and thoughts about the film
  • Is the information credible?
  • Evaluate the evidence and alleged facts
  • Evaluate the arguments, interpretations, beliefs, theories, and perceptions
  • Is the documentary a fair representation of the situation?
  • What conclusions do they come to and do you agree?
These and other critical thinking skills can be found at NCREL.

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