Summer Break: Getting the Most Out of Your Time Off

By Ellen Weber


The school year is winding down for most of us, and we are desperately in need of some time to RR&R (rest, relax, and recharge). And yet, don’t we always feel guilty if we spend the entire summer relaxing? While the rest and relaxation are no problem, how do we recharge and get re-motivated for the new school year? After 40 years of teaching, I’ve hit upon a strategy that works for me – spend the summer doing something creative.


We all know that if you wait until the last two weeks of summer break to start working on things, it won’t get done. Then the guilt REALLY sets in. The key is to set aside an hour a day or a day each week to do something that will benefit you in your job and make next school year a little easier while at the same time giving you the stress-busting benefits of expressing your creative urges (and we all have them). Here are six ideas for making the most of your time “off”:



Whether you are lucky enough to have a real garden space, or have to limit your experience to herb gardening in pots on your apartment’s balcony, gardening is very relaxing. You get to enjoy the outdoors, and you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor when you cook. Why not combine that with preparing some lessons and materials for your classes next year. Take photos of the stages of planting and growing your plants. Take more photos of using your harvest in your favorite recipes. Then turn them into interactive lessons with TinyTap.


The lessons you will be able to create from these pictures are endless. Science teacher? Of course this is perfect material for studying plants and maybe starting a class garden. Social Studies teacher? How about an economics lesson comparing the cost of buying vs growing your food? Supplement with photos of your grocery store receipts or sales flyers from the local stores. Math teacher? How many seeds did you plant? How many came up, and what is the percentage germination rate? Cooking projects using weights and measures would be awesome using some of your fresh produce. What student doesn’t love a good cooking project? Language Arts teacher? Use your photos to make sequencing cards for planting or cooking, do a procedural writing assignment, have the students do a creative writing piece using perspective-taking skills “If I Was a Plant in Ms.__’s Garden.” I think you get the picture now (no pun intended).


To get some ideas for using TinyTap in your gardening lessons, check out these activities made by others:

  1. Garden lessons
  2. Plant lessons
  3. Cooking lessons


Read a Good Book

Give yourself a brain break! Instead of pouring over grad school textbooks and professional articles, read some new kids’ books and find some new favorites to use with your class. Turn it into a fun interactive TinyTap lesson. This is an excellent way to expose them to the classics like Aesop’s fables, reinforce character skills, and target curriculum standards at the same time. If you have young children at home, make it a family project! Let them help you find fun stories and create some activities in TinyTap.


Here is a sampling of narrative lessons and home projects based on stories:

  1. The Juice Box Bully
  2. Rosie Revere Engineer
  3. The Wild Toboggan Ride


Let Your Inner Artist Out

We all have students who need the added support of visuals in the classroom. TinyTap is the perfect vehicle for making interactive visual instructions for any activity, whether it is just the daily classroom routine, the steps in solving a math problem or constructing a written paragraph, or completing an art or cooking project.


Let your creative juices flow over the summer and experiment with some quick and easy classroom cooking or art projects. As you test them out, don’t forget to take photos of every step so you can easily import them into a TinyTap step-by- step activity.


To see some examples of visual instructions, check out these already posted in the TinyTap marketplace:

  1. Gingerbread Making
  2. Hooray It’s Pizza Party Day
  3. Or take these art projects and create visual instructions for them in TinyTap


Get a Jump on Next Year’s Homework, Reviews, and Quizzes

With the current interest in flipped classrooms, interactive TinyTap lessons can provide engaging ways to incorporate home assignments with their Insights data management service. With Insights you will receive their performance data that you can use for grades, running records of progress, or intervention data. And since most kids love doing TinyTap activities and projects, you will probably see a huge drop in the number of students not doing their homework! Want the students to review for a test? Have them create quizzes for each other!


Check out these schools doing just that:

  1. 2nd graders @wilkinsmcps use @tinytapit to create games #math #supercrickets #a1digitalinnovation
  2. Students creating and sharing games on telling time #tinytap #spiritlakecsd
  3. Review game made by student


Be Proactive in Saving Your Sanity

Who hasn’t had a student or two in their class that needs constant reminders of the rules/expectations the first few weeks of school? And just when you think they finally all “got it,” you get a new student and have to start all over again. It will be a huge time saver if you use TinyTap to create a quick little review that those few students can play every morning, freeing you up to do the things you need to be doing. Even better, have those students create it! Most likely they will remember the rules better if they put them into TinyTap. In fact, you could make it like a checklist, so when a student has difficulty, they can isolate the rule that they forgot, and maybe make a jump page to take them to a list of reminders/strategies/video models to help them be successful next time. For the students with special needs, a proven strategy is the use of social stories or scripts. These help to alleviate their anxieties over not knowing what to do as they provide an auditory-visual reminder. The best part – teachers and parents can reinforce the use of the social story regardless of the type of device or platform they are using by sharing the story through the TinyTap marketplace or by emailing them the link to play it online. They are also easy to customize by adding the student’s photo or an avatar they choose, making them even more effective.


  1. Sample social scripts – download and customize them!
  2. Sample interactive visual schedule with an “all done” feature


Spend That Mad Money

We all have that little stash of mad money for when something super fun comes up. Go ahead and use it this summer to really have a blast! Take your own kids camping or to the zoo, and take lots of photos to use later.


The good news is that TinyTap has started offering Pro Memberships, meaning teachers can now get PAID for people playing their apps. Just one more option besides TeachersPayTeachers to earn some money for your creativity!


Try one or all of these ideas this summer, and you will find that you are feeling much less back-to-school stress. There will be no guilt that you “got nothing done” all summer, and your school year will be much less hectic with your pre-made lessons at hand. Also, if you are new to TinyTap, you will find the summer the perfect time to get accustomed to using the app, so when you need a quick lesson during the year you can crank them out in a jiffy.


Happy tapping!


Ellen Weber is a veteran TinyTap creator and pediatric SLP. Check out her TinyTap collection.


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