Over 45,000 Christian educators (yes, you read that right—45,000!) are on ACSI Community, an online platform for educators around the world to connect with each other. One of the things I appreciate about Community is the fact that discussions are centered around improvement. Whether educators are looking at broad-reaching topics that are site-focused, or teachers and support staff are looking for suggestions to improve their day-to-day work, conversations often go beyond just the sharing of documents and ideas to discussions about the “why’s and wherefores.” This includes participants questioning the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality that can be prevalent in education—with a mindset aimed at helping our students learn and grow.
Along these lines, here are two topics trending in Community discussions this past month:
Summer Reading: Help or Hurt?
In this thread, teachers and librarians are going beyond a conversation about how to implement summer reading and are questioning the reasons behind the process. For example, they are asking questions like, Why have educators for generations created summer reading programs? What is the desired outcome? Participants overwhelmingly agree that the goal is to help inspire a love of reading and learning in students—but too often in an attempt to make sure students actually follow through, expectations and requirements slide into the punitive (participants even shared the negative impact of summer reading requirements they themselves saw during their own school days).
To counteract this, many schools are moving away from a grade-based to an incentive-based program. For example, what about summer library hours with scheduled readings by teachers and administrators? This enables the school to bring kids on site over the summer and get to know the staff. Another great idea shared was a localized version of Amazon recommendations; students and staff would be asked to post a review of a book they have read so others can learn from their experience.
Without a doubt, encouraging students to read can have a definite impact on their future love of reading. The conversation on Community centers on how we can work to ensure that summer reading has a positive impact, which creates lifelong readers rather than a negative association with reading.
Movement in the Classroom
A discussion on Community about the unique learning needs of boys led to participants sharing research on the importance of incorporating movement into the classroom. Adding movement to learning activities seems to improve both students’ attention and retention. An article in Gryphon House outlines research that supports the necessity of being aware of the inborn need for our students to be active while learning. Community participants shared some great and easily replicable ideas on how to build action into lesson plans.
Movement can be easily added into a variety of activities for younger students, just by the very nature of the elementary classroom. However, adding movement to lessons can become more difficult as students age—even though the benefits of movement are still important. This great blog post suggests five different activities you can use to add movement to your lesson in a natural way for high school. These ideas, as well as the suggestions from the discussion thread in Community, could change the dynamics of your classroom by harnessing the power of movement for student learning.
Food for Thought
With the summer months upon us, you may want to spend some time exploring these two discussions—summer reading and movement in the classroom—to strategize for increasing student learning both during the break and when students return in the fall. The questions below, as well as the links to the Community platform, can help you do just that.
About the Author
Heather Wendt is the Content and Community manager at ACSI in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she has helped build and run a digital platform that allows educators from around the globe to collaborate and engage with each other. She has worked in education for 16 years: 11 as a high school chemistry teacher and three as a director of Education for a medical seminar company. One of her passions is innovation in education, and she was part of a small team that developed a course that blended science, technical writing, presentation skills, and project-based learning through a partnership with a local university while obtaining her master’s degree in corporate training and knowledge management. Her goal in life is to provide connections: whether person to person or person to ideas. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.