Summer Programming with PebbleGo and PebbleGo Next
It’s that time of year when school is out for summer! That is, unless you are teaching this summer. Many educators, myself included, teach some type of programming in the summertime. Whether you are providing academic services, Special Education extended school year (ESY), gifted & talented extensions, tutoring, education camps, or any other type of programming, PebbleGo and PebbleGo Next are two of the best tools to use. Below are some of my favorite tips for using PebbleGo and PebbleGo Next to help you and your students succeed this summer school season!
Set Up Fun and Engaging Activities
All educators know that so much of effective teaching happens even before students arrive. Setting up summer programming is no different. In fact, it can even be more crucial to your success. Many of us aren’t teaching in our own classrooms in the summer, while following a school day that is on a very modified schedule. Students are frequently in a new-to-them space and meeting many new classmates and teachers. That alone is a lot to prepare for! Then add to that the fact that many summer education programs don’t have a set curriculum and it can be extremely daunting for educators to set up.
This is why I start my planning based around tools that I know work and will engage my students. PebbleGo and PebbleGo Next can fit into any type of summer program. The wide selection of articles is a huge plus. The read aloud audio feature with text highlighting on all articles supports struggling readers, so I can feel confident that my lessons are equitable. I love a good themed summer school calendar, so knowing that my students can research everything from dinosaurs to inspirational biographies in an easy to access and use format means the world to me as a teacher. I start my summer school planning by mapping out my objectives and weekly themes for the program. I then build my activities based on the standards with a fun focus on the themes. Capstone Connect is another helpful tool I love to use for looking up standards based resources and lessons, especially if I am teaching a different grade level or content area than I do in the school year.
Structure Your Day Efficiently
For me, the easiest way to format my summer school classroom is in a workshop model. I often have limited technology available, so having students move through station rotations helps me keep group sizes small and material access fair. If you aren’t familiar with this type of set up and are wondering what is included in the stations, I typically have: a ‘Meet with the Teacher’ station where I focus on explicit skill instruction, a research station where students access PebbleGo and PebbleGo Next, a writing station for journaling/math work, a maker station where students can create, as well as other stations as needed depending on the program focus and size of the group. The age of the students and the length of our program day usually dictates how long we spend at each station, but I try to keep it between 10-15 minutes if possible. If it is a full day program we will repeat the rotation format twice, changing out the activities to match our academic focus. There is also a dedicated time when the whole group can come together, featuring activities like connected mini lessons, free play, read alouds, and, of course, snacks.
Support Student Choice
Student choice drives authentic learning. Students love to dive all in to topics that they can choose, so I try to provide as many opportunities for that during the summer as I can. PebbleGo and PebbleGo Next have an easy to use copy link feature that works great for creating student choice boards and activities. One of my favorite ways to do this is to copy a link to the themed topic or articles and post them into my Google Classroom or SeeSaw accounts. By keeping the format the same each week and just changing the content, it allows students to independently and successfully access the material. Sometimes summer programs don’t use individual student accounts, but no worries! In this case, I still use the copy link feature, but I put it into a Google Slides presentation, download it as a PDF to avoid students deleting items, and pull it up on the student devices before they arrive for the day. Then they just click and learn! I really appreciate that I can avoid the hassle of students trying to type in a log in username and password by using the copy link feature.
Encourage Creative Projects
I think it is important to sometimes let students just read the articles on PebbleGo and PebbleGo Next for fun, with no required student work. But when I want to see students apply the skills they are learning, I will have them complete a project connected to their readings. This can range from a graphic organizer to a 3D model (and everything in between!)
In the summer, I like to have students create something connected to their research at a maker station. Origami, guided drawings, and crafts are some of the most popular activities. To extend their learning, I will often have students take their projects and use an app to add their research to it. ChatterPix Kids, ARMakr, and Buncee are at the top of my favorites list! Flip (formerly Flipgrid) is another fun tool to have students share their learning, while providing a space for them to be creative and comment on each other's posts. You can get some more fun ideas for appsmashing PebbleGo and Flip in this blog post!
No matter what the type of summer programming you teach, there is always a place for great tools like PebbleGo and PebbleGo Next. If you haven’t yet, try them out this summer school season. I think they will help make this summer the best summer yet!