One of my professor friends posted this picture on facebook the other day with the caption: “For my friends in academe.”
Every teacher I know feels the same way about the summer “decline.” Once the fourth of July comes around it seems like the first day of school is around the corner, which means all of my grand ideas for working with J hit a reality check. I realize that I haven’t come even close to doing all of the “catch up” things I’ve planned with him. This time around, I haven’t been close to even starting half of the things on my list: summer running, J’s weight training class, and J’s visual therapy take up the majority of his day. We haven’t had the time to squeeze in the reading practice and Algebra 1 review I had in mind.
But with J’s days being consumed with mostly physical activities (in a lot of ways, these physical activities are essentially forms of occupational therapy or physical therapy), I’ve had to be creative in how I squeeze the “academic” reinforcement because J has worked his tail off every summer since he was 3 years old (going to summer school, working with me, extra speech therapy, etc), and at this point he just really wants to have a summer “off” like every other kid his age. I want to have a fun summer for once too.
So I’ve let the dreams (or nightmares depending on how you look at it) of reliving Algebra 1 and implementing an hour or two of Lindamood Bell reading practice go. We’ve just been fitting in whatever we can, whenever we can. And that pretty much boils down to reading a few pages out of To Kill A Mockingbird or “making pictures with graphs” (a euphemism for practicing graphing). And by disguising the “work” as a more relaxed activity, J’s been actually enjoying his reading and writing. J absolutely loves sitting down with me and listen to me read about Scout and Boo Radley. He’s flying through graphing—within a week of “graphing pictures” J has been able to plot points on a graph ALL ON HIS OWN, without having to draw “crutch lines” to help him find his spot and having to erase his “crutch lines” afterwards. In fact, he uses one finger now to locate the spot and makes the mark with his pencil! If you’ve ever seen him try to graph the last few years, this is nothing short of a miracle.
I don’t know if it’s the visual therapy that’s helped. I don’t know if disguising “math” as something more fun has helped. Maybe it’s both. The exciting thing is that he’s struggled with this for so long—it’s been such a hang up this past year for math, that to be able to just sit down and graph without even thinking about it is pretty amazing.
In all my years of pushing J to be better, to get him to “catch up” with his peers, I get really caught up in the “drilling” part of learning and I forget that learning can be fun and creative too. J’s brain works like a computer and I feel like I’m constantly “programming” it or “training” it to learn new skills so he can regurgitate it later because it seems to work. I’ve failed to realize that J can “learn for fun” like his peers. That if he understands a skill in different contexts, he just might end up learning it better in the end.
And I can’t believe we’re almost a month away from school again. It seems like we’ve just started the summer!
Here are some links to some coordinate graphing pictures if you’re interested 🙂
Of course, there’s always great options through Teachers Pay Teachers and Amazon too (I am not sponsored by either site). I went through these channels because we were running out of free sheets 🙂
Minion from Despicable Me (there are also more options when you search the site)