What did you do this summer?
Wow! School is starting soon and the lazy-crazy days of summer are drawing to a close! My guess is we all had a season jam-packed with travel, family, learning, reading, recreation, mountain climbing, rebuilding, and (I hope) relaxing.
No matter what you did, as you return to school, you’re bound to hear that traditional phrase, “What did you do on your summer vacation?” Just like you, many of our kids have had some remarkable experiences this summer. Some have taken advantage of leadership opportunities, internships, travel and exploration, team events, books and literature, movies, and concerts. They’ve learned rules, refined lessons, conquered challenges, and oh, did I mention, read a few books?
Our students’ experiences demonstrate their knowledge and diversity, and it’s worth sharing. Get your “tech on” and you’ll learn that students’ ability to share this information using 21st-century skills is incredible.
Here are the top 10 ways to kick off the school year that will allow your students to share the richness of their summer experiences. These activities just might help teachers and classmates to better know, understand, and appreciate each other.
1) Use Instagram to create a collage of pictures with daily prizes. You might want to suggest themes such as:
○ Sports, books, travels, jobs, concerts, pets, family, friends, etc.
○ Post collages on your library web page or blog, display them in the library and online.
2) Start a contest where students vie for the most ‘Pinterest-ing’ summer.
○ Use Pinterest to post movies watched, food eaten, places traveled, books read, concerts attended, lessons learned, sports played, etc.
○ Award cheesy prizes to the best pages like this one.
○ Announce rules, select top-notch judges, and advertise prizes.
4) Post a “back-to-school” survey you create using Google Forms. Then compile the answers with hyperlinks and post on your website.
5) Use Socrative to help select a slogan or theme to encompass students’ summer experiences.
○ Set up Socrative’s short answer form so students can submit slogans and/or themes.
○ After several slogans have been submitted, initiate the voting feature and have students vote for the best slogan/theme.
6) Start a Twitter hashtag contest:
○ Solicit tweets to a common hashtag on twitter such as #mascotvacation
○ Have a daily theme for tweets such as best books read, hottest/coldest place traveled, highest elevation, farthest traveled, concerts attended, sports played, etc.
○ Display tweets and give daily cheesy prizes.
7) Have a summer photo contest:
○ Have students submit online and use Thinglink to provide links or videos to explain what it is about the photo or experience that stood out for them.
8) Have an essay contest using a theme such as something new tried, class taken, skill learned or job completed in 150 words or less. You can simply use GoogleDocs, or a site like Stage of Life, which features a free blogging community for teens.
9) Have students anonymously submit their best summer memory and make a game of trying to match the experience to the student.
10) Use Aurasma to showcase things that inspired your students over the summer.
You might be surprised how sharing these experiences can enhance your relationships with your students in the coming year. But what may really surprise you is how this may strengthen their relationships with each other. I think you’ll find that the combination of experiences your staff and students have accumulated over the past few weeks will astound you.
Phil Goerner is a teacher librarian at Silver Creek High School, Longmont, Colorado.
Krista Brakhage is a teacher librarian at Poudre High School, Fort Collins, Colorado.
This article was featured in School Library Journal's SLJTeen enewsletter. Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to you twice a month for free.