Exercises For Summer Literacy Gains

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Written By Olga Shkolnikov

Summer comes with a beautiful energy of restoration and joy–one that we need now more than ever. With most attempting to compensate for 2020 this summer, it feels like the months are flying by even faster than usual. Before we know it, students will be back in school, attempting to catch up after at least a year of remote or hybrid learning. 

Even without disruptions in school structure, literacy skills tend to weaken over the summer. Consequently, this year’s unusual back-to-school transition will be especially challenging. Here are a few effective exercises to keep those literacy muscles strong and ready for whatever this school year brings. 

  1. Forget Vocab Lists – Try Kylene Beers’ Vocab Tree Instead

Any quick Google search will provide you with lists and quizlets galore for SAT or ACT vocab words. The research shows that studying lists upon lists is more likely to frustrate you than to actually build your vocabulary. A more effective method is to create etymology-based vocabulary trees, which focus on root words. 

This is especially helpful for those who learn best visually. First, draw a tree with branches. In the tree trunk, write the word you’d like to learn. For example, write “elucidate” and its definition (“to make clear”) in the middle of the tree trunk. At the bottom of the trunk, write the Latin root “lucidus” and its definition (“bright” or “clear”). Now, here’s a challenge for you to try: find 2 more words that share a similar Latin root and write their definition in the branches. Repeat this for 3-5 or more words per week. By focusing on root words, you can better understand the gist of several words without the pain of attempting to memorize a myriad of unrelated words. 

  1. Writing for Joy

For most students, the majority of writing is done through essay assignments and academic tests–high-stakes and high-pressure environments with topics that are typically of little relevance or interest to students. Over time, a negative association with writing can develop. 

When students then need to write their college application essays–which are all about themselves–they feel anxious and don’t know where to begin. To combat this anxiety, students can write more frequently on their own through creative prompts or even journaling for a few minutes to help release frustration. By changing the experience with writing and providing stress-free consistent practice, this strategy strengthens writing skills and sets students up for college application success. 

  1. Reading for Joy

Similar to most academic writing experiences, a lot of students have been reading topics of little interest to them. Many students tell me they used to like reading but that heavy school workloads have interfered. The summer is the perfect time to rediscover what you’re passionate about through reading! 

This can mean reading a fun, light article on a favorite celebrity, the lyrics of your favorite songs, or scripts of beloved movies or shows. Summer allows students to find out how reading is in every part of what they love, and that it can be an experience they enjoy while increasing comprehension skills.

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