Summer, Summer, Dare You Go!

Back to school is a clear indication of that summer is over!  If you live in a pretty cold climate and you are not a person who enjoys polar vortex or watch snow flakes for 6 months of a year, then, letting go of summer can be … Reluctant, challenging,  and depressive…    Oh, even heart-broken!

Well, I have never been excited nor happy to let summer go.  On the contrary, I would do whatever it takes to keep summer lingering longer.



By creating more memories!!!  By personalizing my classroom with shared memories of summer.

Here is how!

  1. A few days before the official start, I send out an email to all of my colleagues and ask them to share one photo which represents their summer the most. In addition, please explain the time, location and the significance of the photo.  It would be better if they are not in the photo, then we can play “Guess Whose Summer Is This?”as well.  If they send a photo with themselves in it, equally welcome.  I often use these photos for my lower level classes, and focus more on the things they are doing, mood and the people they are with, etc.
  2. After I get a nice collection, sometimes, I would need to ask a few follow up questions to make sure I have all the necessary information which I need, then I embed these photos into a PowerPoint.
  3. I also create a Google slide with the same request for my classes and ask each of my students to share a summer photo.
  4. I arrange both faculty and students’ photos around a similar theme, such as by the ocean, summer camp, travel, family, etc.
  5. See – Think- Wonder.  This is a well liked and familiar routine .  They are allowed to ask for vocabulary if there are something they don’t quite know how to say it yet, since one image is worth a thousand of words.  Typically, with my lower level classes, students speak one person at a time.  However, with my high level class, since their ability to communicate is at “a string of sentences” or “paragraph” level, I ask them to switch off after each sentence.  Otherwise, a listener is going to stand there for 4 or 5 minutes without talking.  It can be boring.  For some, they can easily get distracted.  I ask students to stand in two columns, face each other.  Whenever their conversation naturally die off, I would ask the student at the end of column A come to the head of the column, everybody else takes one step over to get a new partner.
  6. Share with the class.  After they switch partners a few times, now, it’s time to ask a volunteer to share with the class.  During this process, a teacher listens, ask more clarifying questions, personalize the prompt and even design some fun activities.  Here are some visual clues of how it looks.


The first photo was shared by a colleague from our college guidance office.  He and his wife were on a Greek Island during the last week of July.  Watching sun rise and sun set is one of his favorite things.  They were there to celebrate their 30th anniversary.  In the distance, you see a rectangle structure, it is an unfinished temple for a Greek god from the 4th century.  Wow!

My students failed to guess who was the owner of the photo.  After I revealed my colleague’s identity.  All of my girls let out a big “awwwww…”, another girl let out a big sigh and said, “No wonder I’m still single…  I can’t find a romantic partner yet…”

This is a group of juniors and seniors in class.  I also designed a Four Square game to survey their opinion as the follow.

In the center, it’s a question of “In your opinion, you think a romantic person…”  In the green, it says: “it’s everywhere.  It makes our lives better.”  In the blue, it says: It’s not that important to be romantic, many people don’t care.”  In the purple, it says: “A romantic person is everywhere.  Only lucky ones can find them.”  In the red, it says: A romantic person is rare.  Lots of people don’t know what is romantic.”

Based on their personal beliefs, students move and stand on a square accordingly.  Then, we discuss.  Fun, fun, fun!

Next class, two more oceanside photos were added into the discussion.  Above is a photo of a student who spent her summer in southern France with her grandparents.  In the distance, you can see a snow covered mountain, that is Alps.  Below, it is a photo from California, a student took a family trip there.

Now, it is time to find out about each other’s opinion furthermore!  I designed another Four Square game.  The question prompt says: In summer, lots of people enjoy going to an ocean, watching waves, sunrise or sun set…  However, as for you…

In the green, it says: If nobody is going with you, you would rather not go by yourself.  In the blue, it says: regardless there is someone or not, you would always go.  In the purple, it says: Unless there is a friend or family members to go with you, otherwise, you would rather stay home.  In the red, it says: You would only go with a romantic person.  Otherwise, it is not as interesting…


Now, you can see we spend quite a lot of time to create and share summer memories together.  Lastly, I would ask my students to do a quick speed write on their computer.  It would be next week!

Oh, one more thing, I bump into my colleagues who have shared their photos with me in hallways, these photos and students reactions are the best conversation starter.  I could not remember who has said the following: If we know everyone’s story, we would love everybody because we know them as a person.  I’m hoping by small acts of personalizing my curriculum, we could all learn more about each other.


By Haiyun

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