Preventing Summer Slide
What can parents and educators do to minimize this loss of skills over the summer break?
At this point in the school year, most students are counting down the days to summer. At the same time, teachers are frantically teaching as much as possible, knowing that most students will be without formal instruction for the next two to three months. Research supports what many educators and parents have known for decades. Students often lose academic skills over the summer, at least one month’s worth of academic skills on average.
Yes, teachers respond to the summer slide by reviewing skills for the first four or so weeks of the school year, but what if that's not enough? What can parents and educators do to minimize this loss of skills over the summer break?
According to the RAND Corporation, research suggests that organized summer learning programs, at-home reading programs, and even some informal community experiences can positively affect student learning and may help to minimize loss of skills over the summer. However, these opportunities are not always easily accessible or feasible for families.
There are a few things that families can do on their own to help reduce the loss of academic skills over the summer while still enjoying the time away from school. “Little and often” may be the best approach. Fifteen minutes of academic practice each day is enough for many students.
A Little Routine Goes a Long Way
Keeping some structure and routine over the summer will help students to transition back to school more easily in August. Children often appreciate structure as it provides predictability which is familiar and comforting to kids.
Be careful not to overdo it. Some routine is good, but you should avoid scheduling every moment of your child’s summer break. Kids need time to play and relax, too. To maintain a little structure this summer, you could read together each night before bed, plan a weekly trip to the library or establish a schedule to practice math for 15 minutes a few days per week. Keep it simple, but consistent, to avoid battles and maximize the benefits of these activities.
Words and Numbers
It is nearly impossible to review every skill your child learned over the school year in the 10 weeks of summer, but there are ways to practice key reading, writing and math skills that will keep your child in the “learning mode” when out of school.
This summer, challenge your child to read a few books. Make sure the goal is achievable and that your child is reading books on his or her level. Give your child some choice. Allow children to choose books that might be exciting to them. Graphic novels are often a great choice for reluctant readers. Talk to your children about the books that they are reading. Summarize. Ask questions. Make predictions. Audiobooks are also a great way to improve comprehension when you’re on the move this summer.
To encourage writing, try journaling or blogging about summer experiences. Write songs and poems. Write letters to a friend or family member, or create a scrapbook and write captions for each photo.
There are lots of ways to practice math skills including board games and hands-on projects. Activities such as shopping, baking or building projects offer “real world” application of math skills. For more targeted practice, ask your child’s teacher to recommend a math workbook or review pages. Websites like IXL.com and mathabc.com also reinforce math skills by grade level.
The Triangle area has lots of summer opportunities for kids and families. Check out local museums, libraries and summer camps for activities which encourage reading, math, critical thinking and fun!
When planning for the summer, perhaps the most important thing to remember is balance. With a little routine, practice of academic skills and unstructured time to play, children will return to school refreshed and ready to learn.
Lindsay Behrens is the Learning Specialist at St. Timothy's School in Raleigh. Behrens, a native of North Carolina, studied elementary education at UNC-Chapel Hill and then went on to complete a master's degree in special education from North Carolina State University. She served as a resource teacher in Wake County Public Schools before joining St. Timothy's School.