Summer 2021-Enjoying the Learning: The Individual Play Plan

There is one question that is top-of-mind for teachers, parents/caregivers, and administrators: will students be successful the following school year?  This is not a new question, as it drives learning plans and activities throughout the year.  But what is uncommon is the year we just experienced. The markers that we usually have to help us answer the question have been obscured by the murkiness of uncertainty and the complete eradication of every familiar routine.

At the same time, it is important for students, families, and teachers to look forward to a break and the comfort and certainty that a break between years will be provided. This pause, even if short,  offers students a temporary shift from the day-to-day planned schedules. While these daily rituals are important, the break allows different routines to emerge.  This break can offer ways to mold time differently- into what we want it to be and how we want to spend it. It offers educators an opportunity to recalibrate and refresh for the forthcoming year.

We know, however, that there is a very real concern for our students about the skills they need to be successful as they move forward, and how those skills have been affected by the pandemic.  We also know that while understanding the need for a break, many families are experiencing great anxiety over the lack of structure and another sudden shift for their students, and how to maintain some pattern to their days. This year, there is added urgency to use every minute to “catch students up” in learning that has been “slowed” to prevent skills from being “lost.”  As we think of how to capture back that time, the upcoming summer break becomes an attractive component that could be utilized to mitigate these concerns.


It is important for us to help students be prepared for their next steps. But it is also important to maintain the benefits of the break between school years. The IPP process will help families help their students continue the learning in explicit ways while also enjoying the time provided through a summer break.


 How to and where to focus?  Create an IPP!

Just like in the classroom when teaching the students, it will be important for teachers to offer suggestions of flexibility for their families’ learning styles, structures, and time availability. Utilizing family interests and situations will help to maximize enjoyment of valuable time during the summer break. An IPP, or an “Individualized Play Plan,” can be just the ticket.  Much like an Individualized Education Plan, the purpose of an IPP is to answer the learning needs of the student.  But the IPP takes into account what families enjoy doing together. The steps listed below for creating the IPP are a collaborative process.  They lend themselves to a plan that teachers and families can feel good about, without creating a lot of extra work for anyone. The teacher begins the process and engages families in a joint planning session. Here are the steps:

  • Step 1: Schedule an online whole-group meeting with your entire classroom of parents, setting the date for sometime during the last week of school. When sending the invite to your parents, send along a *survey. Tell parents they have a week to complete the survey, and that you will be using this information to plan the meeting.
    • Create a *one question survey for your families that helps parents and caregivers focus on things they enjoy doing together. Perhaps provide a list of items to kick-start their thinking, and then give them a chance to list others in an open-ended format. Example: “I enjoy doing xxx with my child, and the summer break allows us to do it together/do more of it:  cook, go to parks, play games, make music, enjoy nature, read together, talk with each other, collect things,” etc. Then have an open-ended space that says, “Please add other ideas here.”
  • Step 2: While you are waiting for surveys to be completed, review 2-3 standards within both math and literacy for your state or district. Emerging research is finding that during extended breaks, students experience greater declines in mathematics skills than reading skills. Overall, however, literacy skills are so important that they can take equal focus in the IPP.
    • Translate the skills in these areas to student-friendly language. Do not use technical terms with your parents. This cannot be emphasized enough!
  • Step 3: Once the surveys have been completed, review to give you a more granular idea of what types of activities parents enjoy doing with their children.
    • When looking at the responses, begin thinking about general activities you can suggest to your parents that mesh the standards to the activities. Begin compiling your ideas into talking points for the meeting. Plan to model at least one example of an activity paired with a math standard, and one with a literacy standard.
      • Examples: Math-for families who like to play games together, have the student create a graph that can be placed on the refrigerator of numbers of rounds of a game played, and who wins how many rounds. Literacy-If a family enjoys cooking together, focus on literacy by having students create a cookbook replicating a recipe in their own words with new illustrations that they create
    • Step 4: Create a document that you can send home to your families just before the meeting. This document will be their actual IPP.
      • The document can be simple: Title it “Individual Play Plan for XXXX”
        Then make a row titled: “We enjoy doing XXX together.”
        The next two rows can be titled, “When we do XXX, we can do XXX to keep our math skills strong,” and, “When we do XXX, we can practice reading, writing, listening, and speaking by doing these things.”


Enjoying the learning-Parent Meeting for the IPP

It’s important to share the goals of the IPP during the meeting:

  1. This plan is flexible and collaborative
  2. The summer break is a time to breathe and enjoy
  3. The IPP allows learning to continue while enjoying time together
  4. A casual plan provides some structure, some mutual goals, keeps parents and students connected to learning, and builds practice time for and awareness of the skills


Demonstrate how to complete the IPP with examples you’ve come up with.  Invite parents to complete the plan with their students as you talk.  After these steps, open the meeting for collaborative opportunities by asking the following:

  • Who might want to share an idea for an activity paired with math or literacy?
  • How might this be helpful for you and your student?
  • Does anyone have ideas about online resources that you’ve found to help your students?

It may also be helpful to suggest to parents that when they are looking for supplementary resources for their students, it’s important to look for something standards-aligned and focused on multiple core areas. A platform such as KneoWorld.com fits these needs, and can offer ways for students to maintain and extend their skills during breaks.




Leave a Comment