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Jeanie Groh column: “Never stop learning” – even over Christmas break

Although students may be out of school, a complete mental vacation could do more harm than help when they return to class in January.

“I think balance is a very important word,” said Rowan-Salisbury Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Julie Morrow, adding that the goal should be to “bring about that love of learning” in children, rather than to “drill” studies down their throats.

Morrow said reading, intentional conversations and exploration can be used to foster that love of learning.

“They do need some time just to be kids, but then it never hurts to read, read, read, read,” she said. “That’s just a part of what we should be doing every day.”

The joy of reading at home is that students can read about things they enjoy. It doesn’t have to be a book focused on what they’re learning in class – it could be articles in the Salisbury Post, or a novel from their favorite mystery series.

“Go to the public library,” Morrow said, adding that parents should encourage their children to pick their own reading.

She also said it’s important talk about what they’re reading and what you’re reading.

“Ask them questions,” she said, adding that talking is a “critical piece of learning language.”

“Encourage them to write,” she said.

Rather than assigning a book report, however, ask them to write a letter, Morrow suggested.

Exploring the area around them is also a form of learning. Researching how things work or even going on a hike can accomplish that goal.

“Go outside and discover nature,” Morrow said. “It’s critical as we develop.”

Continuous learning shouldn’t end when a young adult graduates high school or college. Adults should be just as intentional about learning over the holidays as their children.

“Never stop learning,” Morrow said. “Find something that intrigues you.”

“I don’t think people should ever stop trying to learn or explore,” she said.

“Write a letter to someone. Write about what the day held. Pick up the newspaper,” Morrow said.

If you’re still looking for ways to keep your children engaged and learning over Christmas break, here are some fun ideas from Rowan-Salisbury’s literacy coaches. By the way, some of these work for grown ups too.

  • “Write a note to your parents and describe how you will enjoy your new gifts.” – Julie Shull
  • “Read a holiday book to a sibling or someone else. Young readers especially enjoy getting to do the reading themselves.” ­­– Jennifer Sloop
  • “Read a book about a different winter holiday and choose a tradition to try with your family.” ­– Beverly Lltke
  • “Visit a local museum and take time to read the exhibit descriptions.” – Crystal Morgan
  • “Read a book to your dog or cat.” – Karen Puckett
  • “Kids can watch a movie that was a book they have read (‘Fault in Our Stars,’ ‘Divergent,’ ‘The Giver,’ etc.) and write down what is different about each version and which they like best.” – Leigh Graham
  • “Write a story about your family’s holiday traditions.” – Jane Woodward
  • “Make a cookbook of favorite family recipes – would make great holiday gifts!” – Allison Miller
  • “Read the poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,’ or ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ to all present at a family gathering.  Or, read the Gospel of Luke chapter 2 to family on Christmas morning.” – Chip Gobble
  • “Have family members create their own charades game from holiday-themed words or holiday books and then play the game – could work for a “Pictionary” style game as well.” – Andrea Fulghum
  • “Write an online letter to Santa and get an instant reply.” – Jennifer Roberson (Here are some websites where you can do just that: http://www.aletter4santa.com, http://emailsanta.com/email_santa.asp, http://www.santaletter.com/sendsantaletter/.)
  • “Act out your favorite Christmas story or movie as a play.” – Jonathan Smith
  • “Describe your holiday break experiences in “tweet” format: only 140 characters!” – Renee Cunningham
  • “Write a holiday word for each letter of the alphabet. Older kids may write a story using the words.” – Lisa Milstead
  • “Write thank you notes to friends and/or family for gifts received. Read Christmas cards received in the mail and make a list of people who sent them.” – Dawn Fox
  • “Sit down as a family and make a grocery list of items needed for Christmas dinner.” – Kim Suping
  • “Use the Norad tracker, listen to stories, read information, and watch videos about Santa’s workshop. Create a travel brochure to share all the information or create a tour of the workshop using Chatterpix or SonicPics.” –Renee Cunningham (Here’s the link for the tracker: http://www.noradsanta.org.)
  • “Take some photographs on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and write a story to go along with them.” –Karen Moyes
  • “Create a movie trailer about a favorite book.” – Leigh Graham
  • “Use a digital storytelling app like Buncee or Storybird or Sock Puppets to create a digital version of your favorite holiday story or to tell about your break/ favorite gift.” – Jenelle Simeone
  • “Write a play script where the presents under the Christmas talk to one another before Christmas morning. The presents could talk in a way that portrays the contents of the present (for example, if the present contains jewelry, the present might talk in a dignified, haughty tone and if the present contains a garden trowel, the present might speak with a country dialect or speech pattern, etc. The final line, of course, would have to be ‘Quiet.  They’re coming down the stairs!’)” – Larry Persinger
  • “I used this internet scavenger hunt with my school. Students with the most correct answers won a free book: http://www.misskayscomputer.com/assignments/christmas_scavenger_5-6.htm.” – Karen Faulkenbury

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