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Summer Learning | Teaching Strategies | May 13, 2024

Accelerate Summer Break Learning

Make home an extension of the classroom this summer. This article offers a simple four-step learning practice that will empower parents to accelerate summer break learning at home. Quickly build a true home-to-school connection and involve parents in helping students maintain school practices over summer break.

The Challenges of Building a Home-School Connection

As an educator, I firmly believe that home can be an extension of the classroom. As a new teacher, I struggled to find ways to get parents to become active partners in their children's education. It's not that parents were unwilling, it was that they were not educators and had limited access to simple, practical strategies they could use at home to help deepen their children’s knowledge in all content areas. It was also a fact that my fellow teachers and I did not have the time, and most days the energy, to explain to parents or guardians what to do and to create activities to make the home an extension of the classroom.

It wasn't until I was a curriculum specialist, in a large school district with the responsibility of planning the instruction and curriculum for multiple summer school sessions that I struck what I perceived to be school-to-home connection gold!

I decided to take a step back so I could recount all the simple, practical, and effective strategies that I used in the classroom and make them accessible for parents, while also allowing students to take control of their own learning in the process.

TCM_HowToAccelerateLearningOverSummerBreak-650x520-2Making a True Home-School Connection

The first step in building a home-school connection is the acknowledgement that most parents and guardians did not train to become educators. If they are also educators and are also teaching summer programs, the last thing they may want to tackle is more instruction with their own children at the end of their day. I have a three-year-old son, and sometimes I just want to take a breath when I return home before bringing the books out to read with him.

The second step is providing these parents and guardians with a clear and simple strategy to support learning at home. The Big Four is a simple learning practice that can be shared with parents and implemented easily at home.

The Big Four

The Big Four is a simple learning practice that can happen anywhere. In most schools, it is innately taught to students of all ages. In the classroom, when we are reading with students, we teach them to predict, question, clarify, and summarize all the time.

To bring the Big Four into the living room or kitchen table is a really simple process; parents or guardians just need to follow four steps.


Primary grade students should be given accessible texts and then told to simply skim each text and anticipate the topic. Move beyond the front cover and title to predict the topic of each section or chapter. Look at the pictures and make connections with familiar words.

Intermediate students should skim the text, and anticipate the topic; in addition, they think about the author's purpose for writing and consider how the text is organized. We are really talking about story and informational text structure at this point.lets-talk

Now, it’s time to predict.

  • Ask students to discuss a bit about what they saw in the pages.
  • Ask them which words or phrases were repeated in the text.
  • Ask them to identify words that were tricky or difficult.
  • And finally, ask students to predict what this text will be about.


The protocol for having students generate questions at home can easily be sent via an email, handout, or even a sticky note before the summer break.

  • Before students read a text, have them write down three questions about the subject matter or story. They have already skimmed for predictions; the questioning process began during that time.
  • After reading, ask them to share two answers to their questions. Most of the time, not all questions generated by students are answered. We don't want to add frustration if the answer is not in the pages, which is why I like sticking to just two answers.
  • Finally, pose a very simple yet thought-provoking question: What is one thing that fascinated you?


When asking students to clarify at home, we simply need them to have access to different colored markers or pencils. They should then find the responses to three everyday questions that ask what? when? and why? Whether they are reading fiction or nonfiction, students can always locate in a text or section what happened, when it happened, and most importantly, why it happened. The answers to these questions also allow the students to craft a very succinct summary of what they read, rather than talking about everything that they remember from the text.


In my classroom, I like to make student objectives quantitative, and we can ask the same of summer learning at home. The Two-Dollar Summary is an easy activity for parents or guardians to facilitate at home and it incorporates mathematics into the equation. For this activity, we have students pretend that they have two dollars and are on a word budget. Each word that they will use in their summary is worth five cents. They cannot go over budget, just as we adults try to stay within budget in our lives. Here is an example of a student summary of a text about Little League baseball.

Little League baseball lets kids play baseball. It teaches kids to be good team members. It has changed over the years. Girls can play Little League baseball too. There are many Little League baseball teams today.

Practice to Accelerate Summer Break Learning

During the summer months, practicing what takes place in the school setting is also necessary. We want to make sure that we make it simple and practical for parents or guardians, as well.

In this example from a second-grade practice book titled Kids Learn! we asked the students to engage in only three areas of comprehension common in everyday instruction: quote the text, find the main idea, and word study skills.

word-study-skillsWe all know how important it is for students to maintain school practices during summer break learning and this was an easy and cost-effective way to make it happen.

Ideas for Involving Parents

The last idea that I want to leave you with is how we can involve parents. Up to this point, we have already involved them in preventing the summer slide at home, but we can also give them some insight into what their child needs to be prepared to learn in the grade they will enter after the summer break.

Have each grade level team of teachers in your school come up with a Top Ten List of specific areas of curriculum that students will need a basic understanding of to kick-start a new school year. Here is an example of a third-grade list.


As you will notice, this is not asking the parents to teach these concepts to their children directly, but instead to make sure they have a basic understanding. This understanding can then easily be applied into daily tasks in the home.

Provide parents with a basic understanding of the concepts needed to begin a new school year, equip them with simple learning practices to use at home, and involve them in strategies to practice skills at home. These efforts will accelerate summer break learning for your students.

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Author Bio:

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Alan Becker, Education Consultant

Alan Becker is TCM's Regional Vice President of the Northeast sales team. Prior to his current role, he worked as an Academic Officer for TCM, specializing in best practices for curriculum and instruction. He provided professional development and training in the content areas of math, ELA, and social studies using TCM curriculum materials and Shell Education professional resources for school districts, teachers, and educational trainers. Before joining TCM, Mr. Becker served as a District...

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