(This photo was taken this summer at the Grand Canyon National Park).

When I was a special education teacher at a public elementary school, I loved the beginning of the school year! Even though it was a lot of work preparing my classroom and the activities for the first weeks of school, I enjoyed the creative experiences.

One year, I prepared a special bulletin board in one corner of my classroom.

I mounted a map of the United States on the bulletin board with a question for the title, “Where Did You Go this Summer?” This was an interactive bulletin board. Students added photos, hand drawn pictures and simple labels of places they had visited during the summer.

I used the map and a nearby compass rose to help the children locate their vacation sites and other famous sites on the map. We learned how to use reference books such as an atlas and encyclopedia.

I made a game with question cards so the children could interact with each other and the posted map. The children practiced their reading, expressive language and map skills as they took turns reading aloud the questions and answering them.

They also practiced asking and answering questions as they created riddles about places we had marked on the map. My students, who couldn’t talk and had mobility difficulties, could be helped to touch places on the map locating important locations like their home state.

The children also had opportunities to write about their vacations or about a favorite place in America in their writing journal. My students, who couldn’t write, drew pictures or pasted magazine pictures, printed pictures, or personal photos. My students had opportunities to choose activities using various art supplies.

The children who couldn’t write or talk also brought photos to share. I communicated with the parents ahead of time so the children would be prepared to share. This communication was intentional to help include all of my students.¬†Creative preplanning was key to involve all the students in the activities.

Since August 25, 2016, is the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service, a lot of basic skills could be taught around this theme. You could adapt the above activities around this theme.

My sister, Polly, who taught summer school in North Carolina and who is entering her thirtieth year of teaching recently shared how her team had planned summer school activities around this theme. Maybe she’ll post some of the activities which kept the children engaged.

Teachers, let’s use this blog to share treasures of the trade. I look forward to hearing from you.

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