Wednesday, July 22, 2015

No Summer Learning Loss Here! Resources to Help ALL Summer Long!---Part 5

Part 5: Needed Key Skills for Next Year's Curriculum
(The last in a series of 5 articles)

This is the fifth and concluding article in our series entitled No Summer Learning Loss Here! Resources to Help ALL Summer Long! Previous articles in this series addressed the following topics:

A. Part 1: Build a GREAT Book List!
B. Part 2: Reading and Learning Games That Count!
C. Part 3: Discover MORE Reading & Learning Activities to KEEP Them Engaged!
D. Part 4: FREE & Low-cost Educational Field Trips for Families

This week in Part 5, the last article in the series, we wanted to conclude by addressing the skills that will be required in grade levels K-12, so that parents and teachers can use the summer months as a good time to effectively prepare both students and themselves for the coming school year.

Many of our readers here may be more than aware of the current controversy over CCS, better known as the Common Core Standards. More than a few parents and some teachers are concerned about how this push to standardize specific academic goals for each grade level across all 50 states. As in the past, each state does have its own expectations at each grade level for language arts, reading and math skills. From state to state, however, those expectations and standards required can vary significantly. More than a few groups are anxious about the fairness of this potential standardization of the country's academic standards. We at Brennan Innovators are most concerned about how these state standards could impact the students challenged with special needs. What levels will they be required to reach in order to be promoted to the next grade or academic level? Will enough flexibility be allowed for these students who learn differently? How will this be fair to these students?

We wanted to raise further awareness about these state standards but also provide resources to allow parents and teachers to access information about what levels of achievement are considered appropriate for each grade level. We thought it prudent to list links to websites not officially affiliated with CCS as well as those links from the CCS sites. This way, our readers should have more information to form their own conclusions, as we attempt to present resources from more than one side of what is currently a hot-button issue across the nation.

At the same time, we do recommend that you consult with other educators, school administrators and other qualified individuals about the important skills to be learned and the main units of study to be presented in your students' or children's NEXT grade level. Viewing and possibly sharing such a "preview" list with your children could very valuable. Students will be able to get a bird's-eye view of what to expect AND how the summer vacation period can be an important time to use for preparation. Please refer to the list here as a guide for keeping the summer's reading and activities on-track.

Resources for Needed Key Skills for Next Year's Curriculum

Grade Level Expectations for Language Arts/Reading and Mathematics by State
Expectations for each grade level in language arts/reading and math for each of the 50 states. Direct links to individual state resources included here.

List of State Education Departments and Related Math Documentation---from
Math skills by state with direct links to state information. FREE printable math worksheets also available on this site.

BrainPOP Educators' Academic Standards Tool
Helpful online search tool that can be used to find the academic standards for specific subjects and grade levels.

State Standards—Specific Learning Guidelines for Each Grade
by Rynette R. Kjesbo, M.S., CCC-SLP (a Handy Handout from Super Duper, Inc.)
Each state has its own set of standards for academic achievement. This FREE, printable handout for parents gives information and resource links in order to find out what the academic standards are in an individual state.

Standards in Your State
Forty-three states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have adopted the Common Core State Standards. The map here provides information about the process each state and territory followed to adopt their new academic standards. In addition, links are provided to state and territory department of education websites that provide information about how the standards are being implemented, plans for aligned assessments, supports for teachers, and plans to help all students succeed.

The FREE K-12 Academic Standards Digital Library---from Academic Benchmarks
Over 8 million standards searches have been conducted on the Academic Benchmarks site since 2004, with more than 2 million searches in 2010. This digital library includes 3 sections: Standards Authority Search tool, a Standards Document Collection and a Standards Digital Deployment Report.

The Common Core Is Tough on Kids With Special Needs from The Atlantic
The standards don't allow enough flexibility for students who learn differently.

For information on customizable low-tech & digital reading tools for all kinds of challenged readers, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info and support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

No Summer Learning Loss Here! Resources to Help ALL Summer Long!---Part 4

Part 4: FREE & Low-cost Educational Field Trips for Families
(The 4th in a series of 5 articles)

For the past several weeks, we have been receiving many great comments from our readers about our summer series of articles here. Thank you to all who have given us such positive feedback. These comments have been most inspiring for us to "keep on keeping on" here for parents and teachers who want to help children prevent learning loss over the summer vacation period.

We've even heard from some of our subscribers in other parts of the world who plan to use the online resources for the children they serve. A few have mentioned that the materials, information and support we've presented in the articles are not readily available in some locations outside the U.S. and Canada. We're pleased that what we do here to help families and educators maintain literacy and learning skills is making a difference---nearly everywhere!

The previous articles in this series provided information to help you:

A. Part 1---Discover how to Build a GREAT Book List!

B. Part 2---Create a collection of Reading and Learning Games That Count! to further promote literacy in order to prevent summer learning loss.

C. Part 3---Learn how to Discover MORE Reading & Learning Activities to KEEP Them Engaged!---ALL summer long.

This week, we are adding to this list of ideas and resources with the fourth installment in our series---FREE & Low-cost Educational Field Trips for Families. This list includes links to help you find events and resources available in your community that will help promote and support critical thinking, problem solving, the arts (plays, art shows, craft demonstrations, etc.) and other areas of educational interest to children of all ages and their families.

As you may know, these are the kinds of things that help prevent summer learning loss (and at other times of the year, too!) These resources should make for a wonderful collection of local family field trip ideas that will also help encourage good quality time for parents and their children. Happy Reading AND Learning!

FREE & Low-cost Ideas for Educational Field Trips

1. Explore and discuss your local architecture or take a walk around town to locate some of the best buildings in your community. See if you can discover the oldest and the newest building in your area. You can also look for different shapes and colors in all the buildings you visit.

2. Find FREE museums to visit in your area.

3. Compare the current landscape with old aerial photographs of your community or of the nearest major city. This is a great way to show children how things in your area have changed over time.

4. Visit your local seat of government. This works well with units of study in civics, history or government.

5. Take a tour of your local churches or a cathedral (where possible). Many churches have very interesting histories and have contributed much to their local communities.

6. Take advantage of free community events - air shows, vintage car rallies or historical re-enactments.

7. Take a nature walk and collect items for your homeschool or classroom's nature table. Even a local park can unearth some wonderful finds.

8. Visit your local farm or orchard. Take advantage of pick-your-own programs and pricing. Take advantage of picking your own pumpkins, strawberries, apples or blackberries when in season. Combine these experiences with a learning unit on farming or gardening.

9. Explore different environments in your area (if possible). See how many various land formations or environments you can discover---beaches, wetlands, highlands, lakes, agricultural areas, etc.

10. Experience pond dipping or bug hunting. Butterfly or dragonfly catching is a favorite with many children.

11. Visit bird sanctuaries or animal rescue centers - or at the very least, go feed the ducks at your local park (where permitted).

12. Open gardens - many areas hold Open Garden Days, where people open their home gardens to the public. Discover programs like this in your community.

13. Take advantage of free performances - Street performances or theatre in the park.

14. Visit art galleries or free art exhibitions - Some local art groups have regular exhibitions in local churches or other locations.

15. Visit nearby art studios. Many areas run an 'Open Art Studio' scheme where artists open their studio doors to the public for a few days a year. This is a great opportunity to meet the artists and talk about their work.

16. Ask to visit a local craft group - Craft groups are usually very interested in sharing their skills and welcome visitors in their communities. Try your local groups in spinning, quilting, weaving, pottery and painting.

17. Visit some of your local businesses. They are often happy to arrange visits by families or small groups. If you have to visit one of these business in the course of your day, then why not turn it into a field trip. Some suggestions might include the following:

-Pet Store - Make a list and price up everything needed when caring for a pet BEFORE adopting one.
-Grocery Store/Supermarket - Encourage the children to look at package branding, differences in item prices or nutritional values of various foods.
-Library - Take a look at how books are organized or categorized.
-Art Store - Check out the different art mediums and ask how they are used - some stores will be happy to demonstrate.
-Fire Station - Discover the training required to become a fireman or learn about how to prevent fires in one's home environment
-Veterinarian - Learn what is required in the education of a doctor who cares for animals
-Real Estate Agent - Learn what is involved in this occupation
-Travel Agent - Discover free information, brochures and resources about cities and countries

18. Visit your local Chamber of Commerce or Visitor's Center. These offices can give you ideas and alert you to upcoming events. Make sure to sign up for their email list so you won’t miss anything!

19. Tour a local college or university. They often have special events for the public such as free movies, tours, and lectures. These are events that you can sometimes discover from the newspaper---so keep an eye out for them!

20. Visit a nearby greenhouse. Such locations often give tours and let children plant their own potted flower for a minimal charge.

FREE & Low-cost Resources for Educational Field Trips

1. The Field Trip Factory: A great resource for FREE field trips in your local area is The Field Trip Factory. They help organize and arrange field trips to local businesses that offer special programs for students. Since the rising cost of bus transportation is always an issue, they offer suggestions for bus funding and even have some sponsors that completely fund the field trip – bus and all!

2. A Virtual Field Trip with Skype: With a webcam, a microphone, and a computer, you can talk with another family ten miles away or around the world. ePals is an online pen pal matching service for teachers, home educators and classrooms that use Skype. It is free to have an online video conference, and it is a great way to expand your children's or students’ knowledge of different areas and cultures in your community or in the world.!/main

3. Factory Tours USA: 562 tours and counting! This site celebrates American imagination and industry. What better way to appreciate those qualities than to visit and tour America at work. The information on this site is maintained by many people throughout the United States who enjoy visiting American industry. Click here for more information about becoming a contributing member for Factory Tours USA.


3 Ideas for Free and Low-Cost Field Trips---by Brandi Jordan

Field Trip Ideas for Homeschoolers

Free and Low Cost Field Trip Ideas---by Tonya Prater

Fun Field Trip Ideas

For information on customizable low-tech & digital reading tools for all kinds of challenged readers, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info and support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at