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Promoting Summer Learning for Students
with Learning Disabilities

By Becky Rizoli
Parent Training and Information Project

two boys playing with a starfishFor students with learning disabilities, school can be extremely stressful. While they are just as capable of learning and succeeding academically as other students are, they often take longer to process information and arrive at the correct answers. As a result, they may feel frustrated, and even intimidated by other students. They may falsely believe that they arenít as smart as their peers.

Imagine if your daughter or son were the first student in class to raise her or his hand on the first day of school. Just think about how great that would be for your childís self esteem! Here are some fun ideas to help your child learn over the summer and provide a head start for the next school year.

Review the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Curriculum Frameworks at www.doe.mass.edu/frameworks/current.html. This is a listing of what schools will be teaching in each subject area in every grade. You can also call your school district and request a copy of the curriculum. During the summer, you can use the framework as a guide to ďpre-teachĒ the lessons your child will be studying in school.

You may worry that your child will protest. Summertime learning does not have to be boring. In fact, it can be interesting and fun, because you can take learning out of the classroom, let your children pursue their interests at their own pace, and tailor material to your childís learning style. Summer learning is also a chance to explore the many fun and interactive museums all around the state. Many libraries loan museum and aquarium passes to families, and many of these destinations relate to topics that your child will study in school. For instance, if your child is going into third grade in the fall, he will learn about the Pilgrims in social studies. A day trip to Plymouth, where you can visit Plimoth Plantation and the Mayflower, will be a fun and exciting adventure for your child. If you have time afterwards, take a walk along the jetty or the harbor, browse the many gift shops, or get an ice cream cone. Your children will have so much fun; they wonít even realize itís educational! On the way home, talk about the things you saw and learned.

Are you the parent of a soon-to-be fifth grader? Fifth graders learn about the American Revolution. Give your student a head start with a visit to Concord and Lexington, where you can visit the battlefields and walk the path that Paul Revere rode on his horse. Concord is also a great location for older children who will be studying the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne in English classes. Take them on a tour of the Old Manse and Emersonís house, where they can learn about these authors and the Transcendentalist movement. Top off the day with a hike around Walden Pond, where Thoreau lived and wrote Walden.

Incoming seventh graders can prepare for Ancient History by visiting the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman galleries at Bostonís Museum of Fine Arts, which is also a fun and helpful museum for students who will be taking art or art history.

Fourth graders will be studying whales in science class, and high school juniors will be reading Moby Dick. Visit the Whaling Museum in New Bedford. Is The Crucible, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, or The House of The Seven Gables on your childís reading list? A trip to Salem is a great idea. If your child will be studying the solar system, go to the Hayden Planetarium at Bostonís Museum of Science.

If you canít make it to any of these museums this summer, there are still plenty of fun and interesting ways to pre-teach your child before school starts. Visit your public library and borrow books, audio books, or DVDís on the subjects your children will be studying in school. Students with IEP services are eligible for books on tape or in digital formats that can be played on a computer or an MP3 player. This is a service of the Talking Books Library (learn more at http://mblc.state.ma.us/libraries/braille/index.php) or Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic (learn more at www.rfbd.org). Many students listen to books downloaded from www.audible.com or www.bookshare.org on their iPod or computer.

Another great resource is the American Library Association. Visit www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/alsc/index.cfm for a list of ďGreat Web sites for Kids.Ē There, you will find a wide variety of Web sites listed by subject and topic. Check out the ones that are related to the subjects your children will be studying in school. These Web sites are a fun and interactive way to promote learning over the summer.

Remember, even though school is out for the summer, you can still promote learning outside of the classroom, and it can be fun!