Summer break is usually a time for children to relax and have fun. They can play outdoors, enjoy a little extra screen time or even go on trips with their families. However, too much free time can be slightly and subtly harmful for children in the long run. It can have a negative effect on a child’s or student’s progress in school, and few only notice this effect once they’re back from summer break. This is what many experts determine as summer learning loss or “the summer slide”.
Summer learning loss is the decline in reading ability and other academic skills that can happen during the summer months when school isn’t in session. It is the most common time of year that results in some students falling behind or losing most of the information and lessons they were taught the previous school year. The summer learning loss is usually measured in subjects like reading or math. When students come back to school with summer learning loss, it wastes a lot of time in the first part of the school year. This is because teachers tend to spend that first part of the school year re-teaching the same learning material that they taught the previous year.
Although this may not have an impact on every student, it is important to remain mindful and cautious of the probability, especially in the earlier years. Summer learning loss has a larger effect on young children, including children from low-income families. A recent study has shown that students in third to fifth grades lost an average of 20% of their reading progress of the past school year. It also showed that, during summer break, these students lost 27% of the math knowledge they gained in the previous school year. The study shows that it has an even worse effect on students in the 7th grade. Seventh graders lose an average of 36% in reading progress, and 50% when it comes to math.
This is a challenge teachers face every year. Knowledge gained and skills learned also need to be practiced. In this blog, I’ll be sharing ways that can help you prevent students from losing what they learned in school during summer break.
1 - Summer Reading is key
Reading for at least 20 minutes every day. It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare. It can be whatever the student would have fun reading. I recommend taking them to the local bookstore and giving them the power to choose what they read. Presenting them with that option allows children to feel like they still have that sense of freedom that summer break brings. Yes, they need to practice and build on the skills they learned in school. But that doesn’t mean it should feel like a chore.
Show children that reading can be fun, by letting them take control of the reading material. If children already love to read, encourage them to explore other types of reading material to widen their horizons. If they love to read magazines, encourage them to read comics or short stories. If they like reading novels, encourage them to explore different genres aside from their favorite. Versatility in reading is just as important for growth.
You don’t have to read books to exercise your reading skills. Yes, you read it right. If a student dislikes reading, audio books are here to save the day! Parents can choose a suitable audio book that their child would love to listen to. If parents want to make it even more fun for their child, they can go for a ride and listen to the audio book together. Children, as well as teenagers, are more likely to read more when parents encourage them to. It also increases their willingness to read when they see adults in their life reading as well. Therefore, parents being involved in their child’s education – during and after school – encourages the child to keep learning and growing.
Some children and teenagers find reading on their own boring while others prefer it. This should be a fun and enjoyable time for them. So, to avoid that feeling of boredom, parents can encourage their children to start a book club with their friends during the summer.
2 - Math + Summer = fun (Trust me!)
Math skills are the second most common skills that summer learning loss affects. So it’s important to stretch those multiplication skills, for instance. Yes, once children hear math coming their way, they tend to feel bored. But it doesn’t have to be boring. Teachers can recommend fun ways for children to practice math skills during summer break. Spend time cooking or baking with their parents, siblings or friends.
This is a great way to exercise a student’s math skills while having fun at the same time. Who needs papers and pencils to practice math? Bring out the measuring cups and the ingredients! Learning the right measurements they need to bake a tasty treat. Encouraging them to learn the fractions involved in baking. Not only are they practicing math, but they are also spending quality time with family or friends. The best part? They get a delicious treat at the end of this exercise.
Teachers can also suggest to parents that students can find the math in their daily routines. For example, finding the math in playing outdoors with friends. This can be in the form of jumping rope 50 times. There is also math in shopping. Parents can sneak in some learning in this fun activity by encouraging their child to calculate shopping discounts.
3 - Vocabulary building blocks
Teachers can encourage parents to consistently engage in meaningful conversation with their child and help build their vocabulary. Especially when they are an only child, some students tend to keep to themselves and engage less with others, compared to when they are in school with their classmates. Spending more time talking to their children and having conversations around topics their child is interested in can help improve their vocabulary.
Another popular strategy to build a student’s vocabulary is a “word of the day” calendar. Our memory can carry and store a lot of information. So learning new words can actually help your brain create more ways of storing information. Parents can have a word of the day calendar for their child to use daily during the summer months. Set a goal for your child to use each word at least 3-5 times a day, as repetitiveness helps with memory.
4 - Adventure Time!
Students who have the opportunity to go on short and nearby trips with their parents or otherwise should take it. Learning through field trips has many benefits. Students get excited when they leave the same environment – even if it’s only for a few hours. This is one of the few ways that their learning is driven by their interest. It isn’t decided upon by the teacher’s lesson plan or the school’s curriculum.
This allows them to feel accountable for what they learn and how they learn it. Through trips to museums, libraries, national landmarks, or even affordable summer programs, students’ learning is up to them. Signing up children in summer camps or programs can help them feel challenged and learn new things during the summer break.
5 - Education is all fun and games
Did someone say games? Parents don’t have to completely take away their child’s technology during the summer. Why? Because it can help prevent summer learning loss. Parents should take advantage of their child’s screen time. If it’s 4 hours a day, set aside 1 hour for them to play a problem solving game, a numbers game, or a vocabulary building game. Use educational apps and games to help students practice their skills.
First thing’s first - Parents need to be on board
Although teachers can make a difference, they can’t do it alone. Teachers and parents are a team. Even when school is out. Especially when school is out. When summer break begins, teachers tag in their partners – the parents – and it’s up to them to keep the learning going. Both teachers and parents want to ensure that the students are not falling behind when the next school year begins. However, it’s up to the teachers to effectively communicate to parents the importance of summer learning. Teachers can connect with parents before summer vacation begins and share with them some fun learning activities for students.
Here are a few ways how parents can help.
- Being more involved in their summer learning activities
- Letting children read what they want to read
- Reading around their children as well
- Encouraging them to learn
- Giving them the access they need to achieve their summer learning goals
- Rewarding them with something they would like
- Ensuring they keep learning and fun balanced during the summer break
- Making time for fun but smart play
- Taking them on fun educational adventures or trips
Preventing summer learning loss can seem like a big task to take on as a teacher. But teachers have more power and influence than they think. Teachers can help students succeed by engaging with parents from the beginning and providing them with helpful tools and resources. Reassure parents that they can communicate with you if they have any questions or concerns during the break. However, it is important to clearly communicate when are the suitable times for parents to contact you, to ensure a healthy work-life balance. Teachers deserve to have fun too!
I believe the secret to preventing summer learning loss is to keep learning all summer long. But there’s no need to panic. I’m not talking about worksheets and homework during the summer. It is supposed to be a fun and enjoyable time for students. So making summer learning fun and light is the way to go. All children really need is at least a 20-30 minute window of learning time a day, and I believe it can do wonders. I don’t think practice makes perfect. I think practice makes it better. Isn’t that what we all strive for? Better education, for all students, through better communication.