This hectic school year is coming to a close. Whew! Whether our kids were in school full-time, part-time, remote full-time or a mix of them all, they were part of a structured learning routine. That is not the case during the summer months, and all parents are familiar with the “summer slide.” The summer slide is the tendency for students to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year.
The degree of the loss will vary by child and depends on the amount of reinforcement that occurs during the summer. For children with exceptionalities, mastery of concepts may be harder to build, easier to lose and take longer to build back. There are many ideas around how to slow the summer slide. We will share a few themes along with links to resources that you can access on the Education Team Allies webpage and social media.
Keep it simple. It’s summer - let’s not get complicated. Each student and their family need to approach this in a way that works for them. For example, you can make a folder of educational activities to do over the summer or you can just write things on a sheet of paper. Stay away from complex learning activities that take too much time to figure out. Activities do not need to cost a lot. The dollar store can be your best friend in this process, or if your child is anything like mine, she brought home enough classroom supplies that we can reuse many of those this summer.
Flash cards are big in our house - simple and effective for us. One aspect of simplicity is to keep the time limited. Marathon sessions in the summer can be counterproductive. Think of it as series of sprints. Setting aside 10- to 20-minute blocks of time - maybe once or twice per day or having a number of blocks that you want to do each week - will be a good way to frame it for you and your child.
Make it “public” in your house. Whatever type of learning activities your children engage in, keep track of them and make it public in your house. That means put it somewhere they can see it or easily access it. Post a chart on the fridge or in a bedroom or keep a log on a family Google doc. Ask your kids where they would like to see it. Make it a fun tracker where it is easy to see “success” and visualize the “wins” - don’t use one that highlights what has not been done yet.
For reading, keeping a chart of what you have read is a great benchmark for children to see so they can celebrate their accomplishments. Typically, our library provides a sheet to use as a tracker that may be helpful to others. My kids were excited when we signed up for summer reading because they got prizes for just signing up! Think about signing up for the summer reading challenge through Scholastic by visiting www.scholastic.com/summer/home. All kids can log their minutes there. If your method of keeping track becomes too overwhelming, you will likely not use it - back to our advice to keep it simple!
Make it work for your team. One of the biggest themes to work toward is how to make it fun and engaging - your children do not want their summer learning to be like school. Make it different and allow your child to have more input or control over the content. This is a big difference from school where they are often told what to do, study, read, etc. For example, let your child give input on making flash cards - they can pick from a list of topics and make the flash cards with their favorite color paper. Did I mention we like flash cards in our house? Our kids put their flashcards on rings so they are easier to access, and we do one set a day. This is another good way to reinforce those foundational skills - it could be letters, numbers, facts, money, or whatever is fun for your child.
Read. Read. Read. Reading is foundational and essential. Yet reading skills and comprehension are areas that often fall prey to the summer slide. Give your child room to choose what they read. Take a field trip to the library and find books about topics that your children want to learn about. Think about reading in a variety of ways - you can read to your kids, kids can read aloud and they can read silently. When they read aloud, they can build confidence by reading to you or a friend, or by reading to their stuffed animals or maybe even a real pet. Our golden retriever has been a great listener over the years!
See if a few of your child’s friends want to read the same book or check out what is happening in your local bookstores and libraries. In my community, Park Books & Literacy Lab has a fabulous book selection, and the staff is running book groups for children this summer! When you read with your child, stop and ask questions about the story - talk about what is happening - this helps develop your child’s reading comprehension and gives you an idea where they are. Keeping reading skills intact will positively impact other areas of learning as well.
To recap - keep it simple, keep track and celebrate all of the wins, do what works for your family and read! This summer, keep the summer slide limited to something you do in your bathing suit. As always, if you are looking for help figuring out what your summer learning plans should entail, call Education Team Allies at 410-793-7060.