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May 17, 2022

How to Keep Students Engaged During Their Summer Break

Screencastify Squad

A school classroom plays a vital role in students' academic growth and personal development, and it's a place where teachers help their students grow through various activities using different tools.

But the summer break is equally essential for encouraging students to work their academic muscles.

In this episode of EdTech Heroes, host Nef Dukes welcomes Olivia Nelson, the Professional Development Lead at Screencastify. They chat about the importance of keeping students engaged during the summer, how to use video to spur students' creativity, and why balance is everything.


👋 Name: Olivia Nelson

👩‍🏫 What she does: She is the Professional Development Manager at Screencastify.

🎬 Company: Screencastify

✍️ Noteworthy: Olivia has contributed significantly to the Screencastify Resource Center, including an entire ebook around engagement. You can also check her out on the Screencastify YouTube channel, where she might be able to help you learn a bit more about how to put Screencastify and video into practice in your classroom.

📱 Where to find Olivia: LinkedIn

Key insights 

Videos can help to keep students engaged during the summer break. Students should remain academically minded even during the summer. With that said, they shouldn't have to spend their entire holiday doing school activities. Olivia says that video can help bridge that gap. 

She explains, "Video is the ideal way to do that, partly because we can dictate the amount of time that things take. When we're asking students to do a summer packet, we have no idea whether it's going to take them all day every day of their summer because they're struggling, because their parents have set certain standards for how the packet is completed, or because they can't find a quiet spot to do the work, whatever the case may be.

"We're just sort of throwing it out there and saying, 'Complete it, regardless of what that means about what else you can or can't do with your summer.'"

Summer packets allow students to work their academic muscles. The sole purpose of giving students summer packets is to allow them to work their academic muscles. Olivia explains, "I really liked the words ‘academic muscle.’ When we talk about that, it's not just written work or solving problems. It's also those communication skills and the ability to build dialogue and to express an opinion. 

So, I think creating videos over the summer about almost anything can be a really enriching activity for students and can provide an artifact that teachers can use the next year to get to know the students. Instead of just knowing how they do math or how they correct grammatical errors in sentences, now I can see something about what they're interested in and how they tell stories and that sort of thing."

Education is about balance. When it comes to summer packets, students should practice balance. Instead of completing all of their school activities in one sitting, they should learn to build schema on their own. 

Olivia explains, "Just thinking about how we can create some balance between the time that students spend working, and the time that they spend exploring as a kid, whether that means riding horses or watching TV, I'm not really concerned with that as much as I am with students having a world outside of education to sort of draw on."

Related episode

For more on student engagement from Nef and Olivia, check out this episode of EdTech Heroes!

Episode highlights 

Building academic muscles during the summer 📓

"One of the most exciting engagement activities that I've seen teachers assign and students engage in over the summer is journaling. I get feedback from teachers all the time about the quality of students’ writing and, more than quality, the amount that students are willing to write. You ask students to answer a question, and they answer it in one sentence, even if you've asked them to write a paragraph and provide evidence. The amount of written work that students are turning in has been difficult for teachers to tackle."

Video journals are a confidence builder 📽

"I've seen some really cool stuff done with pre-writes with video. So for those students who want to write a journal entry, but the sentence formation or whatever is not their strong suit, they can start with a video — record a video recapping what their journal will say. And then, whether you want to use just those video journal entries or have students sort of transcribe or work on translating that into a written piece is up to the teacher, but I've seen some students gain some really great confidence around writing, that they previously lacked, using video as sort of a pre-writing strategy."

How can parents help students during summer? 😎

"When we think about our job as educators, certainly it's to address all of these standards, but there's also a portion of it that's human development. We really want students to have a balance over the summer between these academic activities and whatever else it is that they're doing. My first thing to say to parents is, 'Don't be concerned if your child doesn't want to sit there and do the entire packet in one day. Give them some time. Create a balance there.' It'll pay off for everyone, including the parents who are not having to wrangle their kids in the long run. [...]

Tip number two is to be honest about what you know and what you don't know as a parent. When we think about student engagement and academic work over the summer, a lot of times, I'm like, 'Oh no, this is how you do that.' And I think just acknowledging that your students may have learned a different way to do things."

How teachers can prepare for next year 💻

"One thing that I would super recommend is taking a second and organizing any videos that you have into playlists or folders or something like that to get ready for the next year. I think those of you that have not used our 'My Videos' feature, now we can search — so you can hop in there, search for multiplication, and find all of the videos that you've created with titles around that, and bring those together."

Highly quotable

[8:13] "It's important that kids have that choice and freedom over the summer, but if we can provide them some options for the kinds of things they're engaging in over the summer, then that's a really important piece too because they're going to engage in something. So we want to have some say in [that] — what that might be over the summer and have it be something that might serve an educational purpose."

[18:16] "What we're doing when we assign these summer packets is creating more assessments. [...] And we had this really interesting conversation, and I left the conversation pretty convinced that we're not teaching anything with summer packets. We're not remediating any understanding. We're not helping kids learn things that they misunderstood during the year. We're helping them flex their academic muscles and stay in the game, so to speak."

[24:50] "A lot of times when we talk about summer slide or the purpose of academic engagement over the summer, we're thinking about it in terms of academic ability. And I think that being able to build those relationships from day one with those artifacts undergirds our ability to then make a lot of progress as teachers who have built strong relationships with our students from the start."

[26:07] "Part of how students learn is by building schema and just having experiences in their lives."

Screencastify Squad

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