Jennifer Carollo Fischer
Contributing columnist
Summer is a time for kids to kick back, take a break from routine, and enjoy lazy days. It also, in many cases, is when learning loss- aka “The Summer Slide” can take place. Summer setbacks are nothing new regarding academics and the phenomenon has been researched by educators since the beginning of time. On average, student achievement can decline over the summer by up to a third of a prior year’s learning gains. Loss is usually greater in mathematics than reading, and higher grade leveled students are more noticeably affected than younger learners. The summer slide can be measured in both social skills and classroom discipline, in addition to academics.
Coupled with the residual effects of Covid, this summer will undoubtedly create an even greater push to help students get and stay on track. School districts need to address the issue of summer learning to help avoid achievement gaps, and to also avoid increases in the amount of time that teachers will need to spend “re-teaching” last year’s content. Academic losses contribute to the repetition of teaching last year’s curriculum each Fall.
Fortunately, there are multiple ways to combat the inevitable summer setback. First and foremost, Reading is key! Summer library reading programs, designed with themes and incentives are a fantastic way to get young learners on board. Summer reading lists, bucket lists, and challenge lists are also strong ways to keep literacy fun and a focus throughout the school-free months. School aged children should continue a daily ritual of reading for a specific time, based on their age and learning level. To up the game, consider adding a journal or diary to the mix and allow learners to keep a log, notes, and questions or a review system for what they have read. Do not stop at books alone. Encourage children to read what they like. Magazines, comic books, cook-books, and newspapers are all great print sources to dive into at the lake, pool, or Grandma’s house. Why not make your own version of any of those as an added fun idea?
Incorporate math, everywhere you can, into daily activities. Trips to the store or for ice cream can become teachable moments when paying for things and making change. Is something on sale? Even better. Let them figure out percentages, discounts, and prices. Watch a baseball game and discuss batting averages. Bake and measure out the ingredients together. When it is too nice to stay inside, set them up with an old-fashioned lemonade stand. For the older kids, send them to babysit, dog walk, or even to their first job. All are opportunities to understand schedules (time), budgeting, and money. As a family, play Monopoly and watch how quick everyone becomes a math whiz!
Of course, for the rainy days, there are a multitude of free and fun educational apps, games, and online programs that are wonderful learning tools for all topics at all grade levels. There are extensive, high quality choices worth utilizing during down time. A quick google search or a recommendation from a teacher or librarian can help you choose the perfect resources.
Taking advantage of different opportunities throughout the summer to help retain learning, or to get ahead, can be well worth the effort, enjoyable, and help to stop the slide.