Reading Recovery: 5 Steps for Preventing My Own Summer Slide

Written by Gen

Oh, the summer slide is a serious concern for so many teachers who work in 10-month school year districts. For an 8-week long student hiatus, teachers are left wondering, are the students reading? Writing? Will eight weeks of video games impact where they left off at the end of last year?

I’m a firm believer that we cannot spend time thinking about what we cannot control as teachers. We make our best efforts to help families understand the importance of children reading and being read to every day, but once those precious little ones have left our classrooms, there is no use worrying about what the students are doing. In my mind, the best way to combat the students’ summer slide is to prevent my own summer slide by making sure I come back in the fall at the top of my game. Following is my summer process. In each section you will see that I include modifications to make it pertinent for any type of teacher:

1. Take a Break

Staying sharp must begin with rejuvenation. This will look different for every teacher depending on what you find relaxing and fun: family vacations, sitting pool-side, making s’mores around a campfire with your friends and family, taking the time to actually accomplish all those household projects that sat half-finished during the school year. Whatever it is that you find mentally recharging, do it, uninterrupted and without school stuff on your mind or in your hands, for a few weeks.

For literacy and classroom teachers: this advice needs no modification for you! Have some fun! 

2. Read and Write for Fun

To be good teachers of literacy, we must lead literate lives ourselves. We all usually have a list of books we want to read for fun, but if you don’t, make one! Look at best selling lists, gather recommendations from friends, join a book club.  I’m a mystery/psychological thriller type of reader myself, and my favorite pair of co-authors just published a new novel in the spring-I’ve been saving it just for this purpose! If you love mysteries and thrillers, check out their web page: Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child.

The same goes for writing. Be as ambitious as you like:

  • Journal about your feelings, life events, etc.
  • Keep a diary
  • Creating a memory book of your children’s year
  • Dabble in starting a fictional or non-fiction piece of writing
  • Start a blog about something that you know about (wink)

It doesn’t have to win a Pulitzer Prize, it just has to exercise your writing skill.

For literacy and classroom teachers: this applies to you, too! I can’t think of a single domain where being able to write isn’t important, so if you want your students to go through the writing process, then we must do it, too. 

3. Reflect and Set Goals

Reflect on what went well and what you think needs improvement. A few things I’m considering this summer are:

  • Maximizing Roaming Around the Known sessions
  • Getting more complex writing to happen during lessons.
  • Developing students’ agency early on in lessons.

Be careful to not select too many goals. Working to improve everything will lead to feeling overwhelmed and will diminish any measurable growth.

For literacy and classroom teachers: reflect and set goals according to your curriculum. This could also include time or behavior management, classroom set-up, creating smooth transitions, or promoting positive social emotional health. 

4. Read the Corresponding Professional Materials

Seek out or reread the materials that best fit your goals. For Reading Recovery teachers, this will include re-visiting the sections of Marie Clay’s Literacy Lessons Designed for Individuals (LLDI), second edition, that match the areas of your goals.

If you haven’t yet become a member of the Reading Recovery Council of North America (RRCNA) I would highly recommend that you do. It contains articles from The Journal of Reading Recovery, instructional videos, and other resources that are worth every penny of a subscription. It is here that you can find very specific information about the areas that you have decided to think more about.

Don’t forget to review your notes and resources from previous year’s Continuing Contact sessions. One goal area that I have for myself is creating agency early in lessons with my students. A resource that had been recommended to me during Continuing Contact was Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris’ text, Who’s Doing the Work?: How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More. I have this book on my “to read” list this summer specifically for the purpose of preparing myself to make changes in this area of my instruction.

For literacy and classroom teachers: You may want to revisit the pieces of your curricular materials and professional development sessions that apply to your goals or research articles regarding the areas you’d like to work on. Touch base with colleagues, literacy coaches, or find related research. (Please read my blog post entitled, Truth & Research: What to Consider Before Selecting Literacy Curriculum and Programs, for more information on how to detect trustworthy research. 

5. Make a Plan for Change

Consider each goal and the corresponding research and readings and decide what you’re going to do differently in each area. Perhaps you found something in LLDI that you hadn’t picked up on before, or perhaps you’ve found an article in The Journal of Reading Recovery and you’d like to try someone else’s take on Marie Clay’s concepts of teaching reading and writing.

For literacy & classroom teachers: simply use the reading and research you’ve done to decide how you will do things differently in each goal area. 

Following these 5 steps will help you to feel refreshed, prepared, and confident come the fall. Once the year starts, you can begin collecting data to determine if the changes you have made are successful- but that’s for another blog post!

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