MAT Blog

5 Fun and Creative Ways to Stop Summer Slide

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jul 3, 2014 9:44:00 AM


As anti-boredom fighters and educational advocates, we’d like to offer 5
summer activities for students. Not only will they keep students entertained, they’ll also keep them from taking a ride down the summer slide.

5 Fun and Creative Ways to Stop Summer Slide

summer_slideBecome an abstract expressionist painter
Grab a few empty spray bottles, fill them with non-toxic paint, and add a little water to dilute the paint. Now set up an easel with paper—we recommend doing this outside!—and grab a few brushes for extra fun.

This activity might pair nicely with a lesson on abstract artists like Jackson Pollock. For further reading, check out Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan’s book, Action Jackson.

summer_slide_2Read a book and follow it for the rest of the summer
After you finish reading a book, head over to, register your book and get a unique BookCrossing ID.

Now pass your book on to a friend or find someone in the BookCrossing community who's looking for your book and make their day by sending it to them. Use your BCID number to follow your book wherever it goes. Think of it as a passport enabling your book to travel the world without getting lost!

summer slideBecome a Geocacher
If you’ve never heard of it, geocaching
is a free real-world outdoor treasure hunt. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using a smartphone or GPS and can then share their experiences online. To learn more about it, stop by

summer slideUse your math skills to create full-scale sidewalk drawings
Actual Size Books is one of our favorite book recommendations.
Inside, students will find complete, detailed, and accurate blueprints to create massive sidewalk drawings with chalk. Using these blueprints, students will be able to create full-scale drawings of anything from the Santa Maria’s deck and a prairie schooner to a Tyrannosaurus Rex or the Statue of Liberty’s Torch. Each lesson includes a complete lesson plan, vocabulary, and a detailed blueprint. What better way to kiss those summer learning losses goodbye?

glass_jarSelect a new word from the Word Jar every morning
This is an idea we borrowed from Erica over at Blog Her. Here’s how it works:

Write new vocabulary words on slips of paper and toss them into a glass jar. Every morning your child will choose a word. Throughout the day have a “good-sport” contest to see who can use the word in context the most.

Here are a few tips from Erica:

1. Keep it simple. Don’t start with SAT word lists! Flocabulary has a nice collection of vocabulary based on reading level.

2. Include some words with double meanings. A word like signal is both a noun and a verb. A word such as staple is a noun, verb and adjective and has a few completely different meanings.

3. Use words your child knows but may not regularly use.

4. Relax. Don’t make it a test. Some days you may use your word-of-the-day a lot…others you may not use it as much. That’s OK! This activity should be fun. As Erica reminds us, the real goal is simply to demonstrate the benefits and joys of having a large vocabulary, not to get your seven year old to use the word specious appropriately.

5. Use words from previous days.


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Tags: summer slide, summer vacation, summer break, summer learning losses

5 Things This Teacher Plans on Doing This Summer!

Posted by Marygrove MAT on May 22, 2014 11:34:32 AM

teacher_summer_vacation-1My students aren’t the only ones in countdown mode—but once I submit final grades and pack up, I’m always left with a mixed bag of emotions. Initially, it’s relief, but there’s always an adjustment period where I think to myself, “now what?”  This year, I’m starting to plan out my summer early. Sure, there will be lesson planning, studying, and meetings to attend, but in addition to these things, here’s a short list of activities on my to-do list.
  • Take advantage of the Educators Travel Network. I’ve written about this website before, but this will be the first time I’ve used it.

    ETN is sort of like a time-share, but for teachers. Membership (a mere $36 a year) grants you use of thousands of homestays throughout the country. Depending on the location and availability, you’ll either be hosted ($40/night) by another member or stay in the member’s home while s/he is away ($50/night).

    Click on the Destinations tab to view the ETN’s complete membership directory. This page introduces you to current ETN members, tells you a little bit about them and describes their accommodations.

  • Set up a personal blog and share it with my outgoing students. My students are always curious about my life outside of the classroom. They know that I play guitar and they’ve heard me talk about my family, friends, pets, and my travel experiences—but we mainly talk about these things in passing.

    I always like keeping in touch with former students, so I thought one of the best ways to do this would be through my blog. If you’re interested in doing this, check out Weebly: it’s free and one of the most user-friendly blogging platforms I’ve come across.

  • Create a bucket list based on the 52-week challenge. Do a quick Google search and you’ll find lots of blogs dedicated to the 52-week challenge (here’s the blog that inspired me).The idea is to compile a list of activities you’ve never tried before and take on one of these challenges every week. Instead of spreading out my challenges over an entire year, I plan on creating an abridged version for summer and documenting these experiences on my new blog.

  • Meet with a colleague(s) I don’t know very well. Something occurred to me recently: Although I’ve worked with a number of my colleagues for years, I know very little about many of them. This summer, I plan on asking some of these folks to meet for coffee and conversation. 

  • Join a community book club. This summer, I’m fully embracing guilty-pleasure books in the horror genre; since my local Barnes & Noble reading group doesn’t particularly share my enthusiasm for this genre, I turned to a couple communities on Goodreads. Whatever genre you love, Goodreads will connect you with likeminded readers, book challenges, and opportunities to chat with some of your favorite authors.

I’d love to hear what some of you are planning on doing this summer. Please feel free to share in the comments section!

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Tags: summer vacation, summer break

Fund for Teachers: Application Deadline is January 30!

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 16, 2014 1:58:00 PM

professional development for teachersWe love traveling, but like most teachers, we’re not made of money! But even if money’s tight during the summer, you may be pleasantly surprised to find out that you may still be able to design your own travel and professional-development opportunities and actually have them entirely funded by Fund for Teachers.  

Fund for Teachers: Application Deadline is January 30!

Since 2001, Fund for Teachers has invested $20 million in more than 5,500 teachers. What’s really cool about this organization is that it allows teachers to propose their own professional learning experiences.

To apply, you’ll need to meet the following criteria:

  • Employed full-time as a PreK-12th grade teacher and spends at least 50% of their work week in direct instruction with students in a classroom or classroom-like setting;
  • Intends to continue teaching in the consecutive school year; and
  • Has at least three years teaching experience as a PreK-12th grade teacher.

professional development for teachers 2Teachers may apply for up to $5,000 in grant rewards; if you and your colleagues apply as a team, you may be eligible for $10,000 in grants.

Here are a few more specifics:

All applicants must apply online before 5:00 p.m. on Jan. 30, 2014.

In addition to completing the online form, applicants must:

  • Create a 1-2 sentence project description (500 character limit), detailing What you are doing + Where you are going + Why.
  • Print the cover sheet, sign, and obtain your principal's signature (your principal's signature is only to verify the information you have included on your cover sheet).
  • Mail the original (the address is provided when you print) on or before Thursday, January 30, 2014

    Martin Luther King Jr Lesson Plans

Tags: Fund for Teachers, professional development for educators, summer vacation, summer break, professional development for teachers

Stop summer slide in its tracks with this summer reading challenge

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 15, 2013 6:00:00 AM

summer reading challengeWe’ve been writing a lot about summer slide the past couple of weeks, but we think there’s good reason for it:

  • In a 2011 analysis published by the RAND Corporation, McCombs reveals that elementary students' performance falls by about a month during the summer.
  • The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a collaborative effort among dozens of foundations, lists summer learning loss as one of the three major obstacles to reading proficiency at the end of 3rd grade (Gewertz, 2011). Other studies come to similar conclusions. 

We’ve been racking our brains for activities and summer reading strategies you can pass on to your students (and their parents) this summer. Thanks to Mrs. Phillips, the principal of Chets Creek Elementary School, we’re able to pass on one more called the Summer Reading Challenge.

Last week, Principal Phillips challenged the school to read 100 books this summer (for children reading chapter books, this means a chapter counts as a book). Each student received a reading chart and 100 stars. Children who return the competed chart will earn a special treat from the Principal when they return in the fall.  

Click on the picture below to download a copy of the reading-challenge chart. Please thank Principal Phillips for sharing this cool idea!

summer reading challenge chart2.jpg



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Tags: summer slide, summer vacation, summer break, summer learning losses, summer activities for kids, summer reads

5 ways to see the world: summer professional development for teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 13, 2013 1:52:00 PM

In our last blog post, we suggested 10 things every teacher should do this summer. Looking back on it, we noticed that we forgot something: travel. Even if money is tight during the summer, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out that many of the travel and professional-development opportunities you’ll find below are actually funded by the U.S. Government. While you may have missed the deadlines for this summer, you now have the time to prepare your applications for 2014. 

5 ways to see the world: summer professional development for teachers

professional development for teachers ACIEStop by the American Councils for International Education (ACIE) and you’ll find a list of State funded seminars and exchange programs for teachers and administrators. Here are two such examples:

  • The Greece Classics Program: a six-week intensive program with the American School of Classical Studies at Athens that introduces participants to Greece from antiquity through the modern period.
  • The India Summer Teacher Program: an opportunity for U.S. teachers to collaborate with and teach with an Indian counterpart for approximately five weeks in Kolkata, India.

Because most educators have commitments for most of the year, the exchanges are short term, taking place during the summer. While you won’t be able to take advantage of these opportunities this summer, make sure that you check the site often; the summer 2014 application deadlines will start to pop up in the early fall.

professional development for teachers BECA.jpgIf nothing on the ACIE piques your interest, browse the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Exchange Programs. As with ACIE, the exchange programs offered on this site are state funded. Applications are accepted year round and programs are anywhere from two weeks to a year.

professional development for teachers DiscoveryDiscovery Student Adventures
For those interested in seeing the world with your students, Discovery offers a range of FREE travel experiences for teachers: The Arctic, China, Australia, Costa Rica.

Leave the meals, hotel booking and planning to Discovery. With an experienced guide at your side, you can do what you do best: teach and inspire.

professional development for teachersMore than 100 Bed & Breakfast discounts for teachers
Follow the link above and you’ll find a list of bed and breakfasts participating in the Travel for Teachers program. Some B&Bs offer free nights while others offer teacher appreciation packages that include discounted rates (25% off), free massages, wine and other amenities.

professional development for teachersEducators Travel Network
How do we begin to explain ETN? It’s sort of like a time-share, but for teachers. Membership (a mere $36 a year) grants you use of thousands of homestays throughout the country. Depending on the location and availability, you’ll either be hosted ($40/night) by another member or stay in the member’s home while s/he is away ($50/night).

Click on the Destinations tab to view the ETN’s complete membership directory. This page introduces you to current ETN members, tells you a little bit about them and describes their accommodations.


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Tags: summer vacation, summer break, teacher burnout, professional development for teachers

10 Things Every Teacher Should Do at the End of the School Year

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 11, 2013 9:16:00 AM

end of the school yearStudents aren’t the only ones in countdown mode—but once we’ve finally said our goodbyes, submitted grades and packed up the last of our personal belongings, we’re usually left with mixed emotions. Sure, we’ve been pining for a break, but there’s also a faint, lingering feeling of “Now what?” To help teachers decompress and find their footing after a long and successful year of teaching, we’re offering a list of 10 things every teacher should do at the end of the school year.

10 Things Every Teacher Should Do at the End of the School Year

1. Thinking about getting a head start on the fall curriculum? Not so fast. Take off your teacher cap for at least two weeks. Walking away often brings clarity, enthusiasm and a renewed sense of passion once you return.

2. The next time you’re at the store, don’t drop a penny on anything for your classroom—don’t even look! Go about your business and stop thinking about your students!

3. Once you have some physical and emotional distance from the school year, take time to reflect on it. Ask yourself,

  • How have I changed since August?
  • What did I learn about myself? What did my students learn about me?
  • What did I do well? (you owe it to yourself to spend a lot of time on this. Don’t get bogged down by your shortcomings)
  • What will I do different in the fall?

4. Set up a blog and tell your students (both past and future) about it. They’ll enjoy reading about your summer and seeing that you have a life outside of the classroom. If you’re looking for a free blogging platform, we recently started using Weebly: Not only is it free, but it’s one of the most user-friendly blogging platforms we’ve used yet.

5. Redefine professional development by taking a class that interests you. Maybe you teach math, but have a secret passion for ceramics. We see no conflict between art and science: Artists, like mathematicians, are problem solvers; they know how to improvise with raw materials, and look at their environment and their world in new and innovative ways. Both must be able to communicate, collaborate, think critically and approach their palate from perspectives other than their own. Go ahead and take that ceramics class and find a way to bring your new skillset into the classroom.

6. Take “guilty” out of guilty-pleasure reading. We know you’ve got a stack of books you should read this summer, but let them gather dust a while longer. Don’t let anyone judge you for reading Dean Koontz or gossip magazines. You earned it.

7. Join a community group with people that share your interests. If you don’t know where to start, stop by Meetup where you’ll find the world's largest network of local groups. There’s a group for just about any interest you could possibly conceive of.

8. Get coffee with a colleague you’d like to get to know better—or one you don’t get along with very well.

9. When you finally get your hands on the class list for the fall, give each student a call and introduce yourself—and don’t forget to tell them about your new blog!

10. Learn at least five new pieces of technology that you can bring into the classroom in the fall. We can help you get started with two of our free guides: Surfing for Substance I and Surfing for Substance II.


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Tags: summer vacation, summer break, teacher burnout, end of the school year

10 questions to ask before choosing educational summer camps for kids

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 8, 2013 6:00:00 AM

educational summer campsAvailable at nearly every price point, educational summer camps are a fantastic avenue for preventing summer slide. Plenty of local organizations (the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, local parks and recreation, zoos, museums) offer programs that support summer learning, but how can you know which one is best suited for your child?

While parents will obviously have to consider cost and convenience when choosing educational summer camps for kids, we thought they might also benefit from a checklist of questions they should ask before signing up.

10 questions to ask before choosing educational summer camps for kids

  • Does the program offer a balanced curriculum that includes reading, math, cultural enrichment, and recreation?
  • What is the student-to-staff ratio? Will kids have the opportunity to work one-on-one with staff members?
  • Does the program have a mission?
  • How are the days and weeks organized?
  • Will my child have an opportunity to choose some of his/her activities?
  • Does the program assess my child’s learning or track his or her progress?
  • How have students benefitted from the program in the past? Has it positively impacted their academic achievement?
  • What are the qualifications of the staff? What kind of training do they receive?
  • What will my child eat?
  • Is parent involvement encouraged? Am I able to stop by during my lunch hour?
  • Does the program offer scholarships, grants or financial aid?

If you are looking for more ideas on how to keep your kids sharp this summer, check out a few of our recent blogs:Use Travel Journals to Help Prevent Summer Slide and 10 Summer Reading Activities for Struggling Readers.


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Tags: summer slide, summer vacation, summer break, summer learning losses, summer activities for kids, educational summer camps

10 Summer Activities for Kids Who Use the B-Word

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 6, 2013 11:25:00 AM

 summer activities for kids

We strongly dislike the B-Word (boring!) and those of us with kids find it ringing in our ears during the summer. As anti-boredom fighters and educational advocates, we’d like to offer 10 summer activities for kids. Not only will they keep students entertained, they’ll also keep them from taking a ride down the summer slide. Please feel free to add any suggestions to our list!

10 Summer Activities for Kids Who Use the B-Word

  1. Plant a garden and keep a journal documenting each plant’s growth. If you are short on space, plant in containers.

  2. Here’s an idea for parents: If your children want to watch TV—even though the weather is beautiful!—cut them a deal: They can watch a movie, but they have to watch it with the sound off and the closed captioning on.

  3. Use iPadio to create a weekly podcast updating friends and family on your summer adventures. iPadio is a free app that allows you to record up to 60 minutes of high quality audio simply by using your cell phone (or landline). Once you’ve recorded your message, you can upload it to Facebook or email it to your friends and family.

  4. Here’s an idea for teachers: Hand out postcards (stamped and addressed) so that your students can tell you about their summer.

  5. Find a picture book without words and write your own story. Not sure where to start? Try The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher by Molly Bang. It’s a classic.

  6. Adopt a soldier through websites like, Adopt a US Soldier or Soldier’s Angels. Just remember that when you sign up, you’re making a commitment to regularly send cards and care packages. If you’re unsure what you should say, check out these sample letters for ideas. Keep in mind that packages don’t have to be expensive and if you’re stumped on what to get for your adopted hero, just ask; you can also refer to the website for a list of the most-requested items.

  7. Become a change agent. We’ve always believed that young people have the power to lead even if they don’t know it themselves. Are you passionate about animals? The environment? Does texting-and-driving bother you? Stop by, a website for young people who want to help make the world a better place, but don’t know exactly where to start.

  8. Become a Geocacher. If you’ve never heard of it, geocaching is a free real-world outdoor treasure hunt. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using a smartphone or GPS and can then share their experiences online. To learn more about it, stop by

  9. Design an alternative book cover for your favorite book, or try writing a short sequel or alternative ending to the book instead.

  10. If you’re looking for a list of books to read over the summer, but don’t know where to start, download Reading Rocket’s free guide to summer reading.

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Tags: summer slide, summer vacation, summer break, summer learning losses, summer activities for kids, summer reads

Quickwrites add a twist to what your students did on their summer vacations!

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Aug 28, 2012 5:33:00 AM

Marygrove MAT suggests the quickwrite strategy for returning students!A quickwrite is a popular literacy strategy that can be used to promote writing fluency, encourage thoughtful reflection, and is a way for teachers to gain a better understanding of student thinking. Students are expected to respond within two to 10 minutes to a prompt or question with a thoughtful reply that connects to prior knowledge and previous learning. There are many engaging ways to make this simple, effective strategy work in your classroom. 

Students can participate in quickwrites to:

  • Make personal connections to the learning.
  • Apply critical thinking skills.
  • Synthesize previously mastered concepts.
  • Gain a purpose for further reading.
  • Organize ideas for writing.
  • Develop new ideas.
  • Reflect on key concepts.

To implement the quickwrite strategy into your instruction:

  • Share with students the purpose of quickwrites in general and the specific goal of the current prompt.  Make sure you explain that this is an informal writing application. Students should simply be responding by writing whatever comes to their minds. It isn't an exercise in organization or grammar. The student's thoughts, ideas, and voice are the focus.
  • Give students a short amount of time (2-10 minutes, typically) to write uninterrupted. Monitor their work but don't interrupt their writing. As they proceed with the quickwrite don't address spelling, grammar, or other writing mechanics.
  • When their writing session is over give students an opportunity to share their piece. Although you could have students engage in large group sharing, structuring the sharing into partners or small groups is more time effective. Prompt them to share one specific thing from their writing instead of simply reading the piece aloud. 

This strategy has multiple applications across all content areas, and is especially beneficial at the beginning of the year to model reflection when you ask your students to recap their summer vacation. For years, students have been asked to write about their summer vacation as they return to school in the fall. Using the quickwrite strategy to extend this traditional activity can help students focus their thinking and gain experience with your writing expectations.  

Ideas for your students’ summer vacation quickwrite:

  • Write for six minutes about a specific place you visited this summer. It can be an out of town vacation spot, your favorite place to play, a local adventure location, or any other place you went this summer. Explain what you saw, what you heard, and what you smelled. Use vivid details to take the reader there.
  • Write for eight minutes about something new you learned this summer. Did you master a new skill, begin a new hobby, read a new book?  Think of one thing that you learned this summer and explain how you learned it and why it is important to you.
  • Write for five minutes about a new person you encountered this summer. You might know this person's name, you might not. You may have spent days with this person, perhaps just minutes. Choose a person that you met this summer and explain the circumstances of the encounter.  
  • Write for ten minutes to compose a letter to your future self about your summer vacation.  Choose your future self at a specific age or time. Maybe the end of this school year, the beginning of college, or perhaps at 50 years old. Tell yourself about the summer vacation that just ended. Think about what made your vacation unique: What was the best part? What did you learn? Who was important in your life? How did you feel about coming back to school?

What other quick writing strategies have you found to be successful with your students?  We’d love to hear from you.


Tags: quickwrites, writing strategies, summer vacation

Teacher’s Top Ten Checklist for the End of the Year!

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on May 22, 2012 12:07:00 PM

Top ten checklist for k-12 teachers to keep you on your game!The end of the school year is rapidly approaching for many of us, and wrapping everything up in an organized, efficient, and timely manner is incredibly important. Consider following this end-of-the-year checklist to ensure that you head off to your summer vacation with no worries, and return with everything in great shape for next fall. It's all part of good classroom management.

  1. Clean out student desks, cubbies, drawers, or lockers. This is a great project for students to help out and “do a good deed.” You can have students participate by rustling up lost markers, accounting for text and trade books, organizing bookshelves, and taking personal items home.
  2. Organize and purge your classroom and personal items. The end of the year is the perfect opportunity to spend time sorting through classroom and personal items. Focus on keeping only the items and materials you'll need for next year and create a give-away table for other teachers who might find something of value.  
  3. Store all student books and materials. Confirm your school’s procedure for storing student materials and books. You should also verify that every text checked out to students was returned and that all student-issued materials are accounted for. Some teachers cover classroom bookshelves with old sheets so that less dusting is needed in the fall.
  4. Organize and purge files (paper and electronic). The last things you want to see after a refreshing summer vacation are piles of unfiled papers or a clogged email inbox.  Taking some time to clean these out before summer break begins will be well worth the effort!
  5. Create a "Beginning of the Year" box. As you clean up your classroom consider keeping a tub or box for the materials you'll need at the beginning of the year such as your classroom handbook, name tags, desk tags, welcome postcards, bulletin board materials, or contact lists. This way, regardless of the state of your classroom when you return, you'll be ready to start on the essential beginning of school work when you return.
  6. Follow school guidelines for summer electronics maintenance. Each school and every district have different protocols for maintaining and storing electronics during the summer months. Double check with the technology department or school administration for the proper way to store computers, tablets, handhelds, wireless units, and presentation systems.
  7. Cover bulletin boards or take them down to make way for new ideas. One great way to prevent dust accumulation and fading of your bulletin boards is to cover them with sheets of newspaper. This will also keep the materials safe during classroom cleaning.  If you are planning on changing the items on bulletin boards or the wall, taking them down before the end of the year allows you to start with a clean slate for the fall.
  8. Pack away all items that need to be removed for cleaning. The custodial crew will be working hard all summer long to ensure the school is ready to go for the fall term. You can help by carefully packing up all loose items on your desk, shelves, windowsills, or tables. Eliminating the clutter will help custodians do a more thorough job.
  9. Make an inventory of items in your classroom. Before you leave for summer vacation take a quick inventory of the number of packed boxes, stored items, and materials left in your classroom. Take a copy of this inventory with you to make sure that everything you need is returned to your classroom for the beginning of the school year. 
  10. Create a summer "Career To-Do" list. Along with rest and rejuvenation, summer vacation is also a great time to check some things off your personal and professional “to do” list. This is your chance to review that new math text you’ll be using next year. Or sign up for a couple of webinars over the summer on a hot topic you’ve been interested in.

Of course, we believe that enrolling in the Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching program is an excellent use of your time this summer! At your leisure, review our website and speak to one of our helpful enrollment specialists for more information. It just may be the boost your teaching career could use! Classes begin September 4.

Apply for the Marygrove MAT




Tags: end-of-the-year, teacher checklist, end of the school year checklist, classroom management, enroll in the Marygrove MAT program, summer vacation, summer break

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