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Oak Summer Theme Experiences 2020
Oak Middle School

“Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.” ― John Dewey

For incoming 7th and 8th grade students at Oak Middle School, students are asked to engage in Summer Theme Experiences over the summer break.

Summer Theme Experiences Audio Explanation

Why Summer Theme Experiences?

  • We want to develop our students into self-motivated, lifelong learners, and know that providing students with choice and agency are critical components towards this endeavor.
  • We want to know our students as whole people. Activities at the start of the school year will be designed to broaden our understanding of our students and to let them know that we value their contributions.
  • We want our students to know that reading is a lifelong activity, not a school activity. Reading adds value to the human experience.

How do students engage in summer theme experiences? A theme has been established for each grade-level. The goal of the themes is to establish a common discussion across each grade-level at the start of the school year, as well as to build on these themes over the course of the year.

The Grade 7 theme is Using Your Voice
Some questions that students might consider:

  • What are ways to “Use Your Voice?” (“Use Your Voice” means to express yourself or your ideas, not to talk or sing.)
  • Who are individuals or characters who have used their voice in memorable or important ways?
  • How can you use your voice in a positive way? (To help yourself be successful? To help others? To solve conflict?
  • To create change?)
  • What can be the cost of standing up for yourself or others? Are people always celebrated for using their voice? Or not?
  • Can voices be used in ways that are not helpful or positive?
  • What are some examples of these ideas from your reading/watching/doing?

The Grade 8 theme is The Individual and the Community
 Some questions that students might consider

 

  • What are the different groups that you are a part of?
  • How do you fit into a group?
  • What do you like about being part of a group? What can be hard about being part of a group?
  • When are groups important, when can they help?
  • When do groups present struggles or challenges to us?
  • What can you learn about the impact of an individual on a community? What can you learn about the power of acommunity? Is the power of the community a positive one or not?
  • What stories, historical events or figures, main characters, or experience can help you to reflect on these ideas?


Students are asked to explore these themes over the summer months by engaging in at least THREE activities.

  • We are asking all students to read all summer long, and to connect at least TWO things that they read to their theme.   Students can read ANY form of text that they would like, including current news articles, blogs, realistic fiction, graphic novels, biographies, fantasy, science fiction, informational books, poetry, recent award winners -in print or audio book format.

       We are asking students to also engage in 1-2 additional experiences:

  • LISTEN / WATCH Audio/visual-based: Listen to a podcast series, watch a lecture, watch a film adaptation of a book, watch a documentary.
  • DO Experience-based: Engage in regular journaling activities, create artwork, enjoy nature, build something, cook something, connect with others virtually as a part of an organization or group.

Is there a specific reading list? There are no lists of specific books or activities that students must choose from. We have provided a number of excellent resources to assist students and families in finding books, podcasts, documentaries, and activities that match a student’s interests, prior experiences, and goals.

How should students keep track of and reflect upon connections to the theme? Students are asked to keep track of connections to their theme during the summer as they make them so that they are prepared to share and discuss their activities and connections to the theme in the fall.  Students may choose to complete:

  • A graphic organizer: Students can complete this graphic organizer to keep track of their connections to their theme.
  • A visual journal: Students can create a visual connection using pictures, drawings, and words to keep track of their connections to the theme. Pic EDU and Notability are two apps that support this kind of document creation.  

Some examples of ways that students could go about their Summer Theme Experiences:

Jake: Jake enjoys reading comic series, and would like to continue to read a series over the summer. He finds a series that connects to the theme because the central character is fighting for a better way of life for his society. Jake also is interested in a recent documentary about a famous sports player who wanted to change the way that other players were treated. Finally, Jake decides to read a biography about another sports figure who also helped to make a difference in his sport and his greater society. Jake completed the graphic organizer to keep track of the connections he was making to the theme.

Allanah: Allanah and her friends trade books often, and they all have a few in mind that they want to read next. Her friend suggests two books that fit the theme because the characters both make important changes from the beginning to the end of the book. So she decides to read them. They both also know that one of the books has a movie adaptation, so they watch the same adaptation and talk about which they like better.  Allanah kept track using pictures and words to connect her activities to the theme.

If you have any questions during the summer about Summer Theme Experiences, please contact Lisa Daly at ldaly@shrewsbury.k12.ma.us



Guiding Resources

The goal of the summer theme experiences is to provide you with the opportunity to make your own learning choices and to continue to develop yourself as a lifelong learner.

Knowing what book, podcast, blog, or documentary that you would like to engage with may come very easy for you.  You might already have some things in mind, like that favorite book series that you are looking forward to finally having the time to finish.  You might know some friends or family members that you can go to for some good suggestions!

Or, it might take some time to identify what areas you would like to explore and connect to this summer.   Sometimes making your own choices can feel harder than being given a specific task.  

In either case, here are some resources that can help you along the way!

Shrewsbury Public Library: You might want to make The Shrewsbury Public Library your first stop in your Summer Theme Experiences journey.  There is a page for recommended teen reading ready for you! Keep a lookout for their Summer Reading Programs and events.  There are also an amazing amount of e-content resources that you can access, including video streaming, podcasts, and audiobook resources.

“The Time is Always Right to Do What is Right”
The killing of George Floyd and the subsequent protests that were sparked as a result all around our state and country may have you wanting to learn more.  If you want to engage in your grade-level theme by connecting to books, movies, documentaries, or news that will help you learn more, and perhaps do more, about racial injustice, this link to Common Sense Media Resources About Race and Racism has some terrific suggestions to get you started.  

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed almost everything about the way we go about our day-to-day lives. You may be interested in taking time to read more about it and connect it to your theme. We have seen so many people get sick, and have renewed understanding of who the heroes of our communities are.  News For Kids is a great place to find current news articles created specifically for students. The Shrewsbury Public Library has a link to news publications that offer free access to all content related to Coronavirus.  

Goodreads: Goodreads is a searchable resource that provides readers with all kinds of lists and reader recommendations for all kinds of books.

Common Sense Media is a resource that provides students and families with objective reviews about books, movies, apps, and games. Reviewed content provides information about prevalent themes, topics, and age-appropriateness as determined by the organization as well as students and parents.  You can search by entertainment type, themes, or titles, as well as suggested lists that have been compiled, including a list of age-appropriate Podcasts.

American Library Association 2020 Book Awards - The American Library Association (ALA) sponsors a wide range of book, print, and media awards each year, and are a fantastic place to find content that is high quality, new, and upcoming for kids and teens.  Awards are given for book, print, and media for children and teens.