Education, learning, Literacy

Free, Easy, & Fun Summer Learning (Sangria Not Included)

One of the aspects I like best about being a teacher is the freedom we educators have during the summer. Not in the sense of having our summers “off”–because who, among us, truly do nothing work-related over the summer?–but in the sense of having the space and the time to reflect, to learn, and to dream about all of the wonderful things we plan to implement over the next school year.


However, let’s face it–some of us have to work other jobs over the summer, or tend to our perfect-yet-somewhat-neglected children, or work on our tan as we nurse a Sam Summer and savor the latest Stephen King novel, the cool ocean breeze caressing our–oh, hey, I’m sorry. Got a little off track there. *sighs dreamily*

In short, some of us are not completely obsessed with our work and feel the need to balance our summer learning along with our summer living. I get it. In that spirit, then, I thought I would recommend some low-risk, high-interest, not-too-time-consuming ways to increase your literacy learning this summer while still being able to toss back an acceptable number of Long Island iced teas while burying your toes in the sand. (BONUS: They’re all free!)

1. Join the Teachers Write! virtual summer writing camp

Launched in 2012 by author Kate Messner and her “co-conspirators” Jen Vincent and Gae Polisner, Teachers Write! is an online writing camp designed exclusively for teachers and librarians. Although you are encouraged to sign up, usually via a Google doc (the latest one for 2015 has not yet been posted as of the writing of this post), you can control how much (or how little) you participate. You can find more details about this fantastic digital community of writers on Kate Messner’s blog, on the Teachers Write! Facebook page, or by following the hashtag #TeachersWrite on Twitter.

2. Follow the Sharing Our Notebooks blog

If the posts and photos that children’s book author and teacher Amy Ludwig VanDerwater shares on her blog don’t inspire you, then her page devoted to Summer Notebooking is sure to. (And I’m not just saying that because I’ve posted there. Bible!) Like the Tuesday/Thursday quick writes over at Teachers Write!, the Try This! ideas that many contributors have shared on Amy’s blog are easy, fun ways to get that pen moving across the page. (And OMG the BEST one is #3!!!*)

3. Plan a #FirstDateWithABook

Are you #nerdy? If so, you’re likely familiar with the Nerdy Book Club’s annual #bookaday challenge, which encourages members (and their non-member friends, students, patrons, and/or family members) to keep their reading lives going strong all summer long by reading one book a day–on average–and sharing about it regularly. (You can find Nerdy Book Club co-founder Donalyn Miller’s lovely 2014 post about it here.) Although it’s not a competition, some #bookaday fans feel disappointment when they aren’t able to keep up with the challenge. So why not try a virtual #FirstDateWithABook? Instead of reading one book a day, embrace your promiscuous side and read one book sample a day on your digital reading device. Not only might you be more likely to live up to the challenge, but reading a wide variety of book samples throughout the summer can help you plan which ones you want to read entirely, which you want to add to your classroom library, which you might recommend to particular students, etc. without the pressure of feeling like you should be reading the books you “date” from beginning to end (unless you feel like there’s real romance potential there). 😉

4. Take advantage of the generosity of publishers

Two of my favorite publishers of the majority of the professional books I read, Stenhouse Publishers and Heinemann, offer potential buyers free samples of the books they feature on their web sites. At Stenhouse, click on the book you are interested in reading, find the “Table of Contents” tab, and click on any hyperlinks to download and read a sample chapter of the book. On the Heinemann website, look for the “New and Featured Titles” on their home page, click on the book you want, and go to the “Samples” tab to do the same. What a great way to get a “flavor” for a professional book you’re interested in before you spend your hard-earned money–or better yet, before you ask your fabulous literacy specialist to plan a book study around that title (wink, wink)!

5. Experience #TheEdCollabGathering’s awesome workshop sessions (and more!)

If you don’t know about The Educator Collaborative, you should. The organization, founded by author/educator Christopher Lehman, describes itself as a “think tank and educational consulting organization working to innovate the ways educators learn together,” and its live online “gatherings,” held in the fall and the spring, are not to be missed. Even if you did, no worries! You can head over to their YouTube channel and view every session and keynote for free–on your own time, at your own pace. From sessions on becoming an engaging educational leader to effectively using social media with students, most educators–but especially literacy educators–are sure to find something that will not only teach, but inspire them as well.

6. Become a faithful member of the Twitterverse

It’s no secret to people who know and work with me that I LOVE Twitter. As many teachers and librarians have proclaimed, if used artfully, Twitter is the source of the best free professional learning you will ever get. Heinemann offers a free course for educators that you can use to get you started, or you can start even more simply by following your favorite educators, authors, and illustrators, checking out who they follow, and begin building your digital PLC (professional learning community for you newbies) from there. Be sure to check out some of the most popular Twitter chats for educators as well by following the hashtags #titletalk, #engchat, #edchat, #satchat, and more (look here for further recommendations).

There it is–my top recommendations for literacy educators for engaging, free, and easy summer learning. I have no doubt that there is even more out there than I could ever imagine. If you know of some, please “pay it forward” and share your recommendations below so we can all grow our PLC. Happy summer!



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