The final days of the school year are upon us. Some are just about to end the school year, while some have to wait until the end of June. Either way, you’re excited for summer break and ready to celebrate with your students. You’ve spent nights searching Pinterest and Instagram for fun and creative ideas. Let’s face it… it has been a long school year and you’re just ready to put away the lesson plans and hit the beach, or even take a road trip. You can barely contain you’re excitement and your ready to share that emotion!
But wait… not every student may share the same joy that you do.
You may be starting to notice behaviours that are popping up in your classroom. You may chalk it up to end of year exhaustion or excitement. But could there be another reason? Could your students have anxiety about summer break?
The answer is, yes.
Having worked with at-risk youth and inner-city schools, I have seen students “act up/out” as the last few weeks/days of school approach. This has happened before Christmas Break, too.
Two months of summer break can put the fear into these children.
Let’s be real – we have students that live in poverty (or close to it); students that do not live in the most ideal home environment, or are children in care. Some students fear the two month break because they may not have food every day to eat, they may have neglectful parents; or, parents may not have the money to help students participate in summer activities. Your classroom provides a safe and caring environment with a daily routine that they have become comfortable with, and look forward (even if they don’t say it) to being with you, their peers, and within the walls of the classroom.
It is their safe space.
I will admit. In my first year of student teaching, I did a Christmas break downtown. Then I began to notice behaviours – acting out, not wanting to complete work, spacing out mentally. Why were my students acting this way? Christmas is right around the corner and that means sleeping in and relaxing!! How could they possibly not enjoy this. That is when it hit me and I felt completely terrible for not thinking of it before. I grew up in the same area and saw it all the time – my students that were acting out were terrified to go home because of their home environment and not having guaranteed meals every day. That is when I sat down with each student individually to ask that question, and I received the answer I was looking for – going home means instability and the unknown. “Your countdown is making me nervous,” one student said. “It’s only my mom, me, and my other siblings. My mom doesn’t work, we don’t eat every day, and there’s nothing for us to do.” It is enough to make you heart shatter into a million pieces. Mine sure did.
Students are worrying about adult things – no food and no money to have fun. Having a countdown can look like the doomsday clock to them. Uncertainty. Hunger. Crime. Loneliness. Shame.
I no longer countdown to school breaks.
Instead, conduct fun summer like activities such as:
- Scavenger hunt (indoors or outdoors)
- “Beach” movie day – students dress up in beach wear (shorts, tank tops, sandals [according to your dress code], and bring in beach towels [if they have]). You provide the snacks and beach like decor [from a dollar store of course! Students LOVE leis!], and a fun summer themed movie
- Summer reading club in the last few weeks – choose a summer themed book for your students to read and have them complete reading comprehension and activities pertaining to the book
- Classroom Camp Out – create a camp theme with a fake campfire to tell stories around the fire, and make “s’mores” with a solar oven!!! (according to allergies). Read camping themed books.
- Organize a school wide summer fun day where students create game stations for everyone to try out. Some organizations will donate money to purchase games, or, companies will donate their fun games/bounce houses to the school
- Hot dog cook out! Have a cookout in your classroom, or outside if the weather permits
- Ice cream in a bag – a simple and fun activity that incorporates science and math
- Create a list of FREE things to do during the summer (this will help ease anxiety for those students whose parents cannot afford summer activities) – this will involve researching local activities
- Community Walk – promotes health/exercise and students can learn about the community that they live/go to school in!
- Water Balloon Toss/War – be sure to ask parent permission before throwing water balloons at eat other
- Diet Coke/Mentos experiment – must be completed outside, and includes science
- Make homemade bird feeders
- Take a virtual road trip using Google Maps
- Make a little goody bag for each student that includes a summer activity – bubbles, sidewalk chalk, activity books (dollar store is great for this)
- Nature walk (can be done with Community Walk) – have students find and identify the types of trees/birds found within the community; students can research their findings and then present to the class
As you can see, the ideas are endless. I understand. Your intentions are well and you truly do mean the best for your students. You want to share your excitement with your students and hope that they share the same feelings. I am not chiding you for your intentions. By no means. I am simply sharing the reasons why I do not conduct school break countdowns. If they work for you and for your students, continue doing what you do!
Do you conduct school break countdowns? If not, what summer-like activity/activities do you do to replace countdowns?