We are all familiar with the concept that students lose significant learning gains over the summer— the infamous Summer Slide.
One of the original studies on the subject from The American Educational Research Association states, “summer loss equaled about one month on a grade-level equivalent scale” and was found most detrimental for math. More recent studies, however, assert that the average student loses 17–34% of the prior year’s learning gains specifically in language arts.
Whichever study you follow, there is significant proof that children often lose some of the gains they made during the school year.
Younger children are particularly vulnerable because they’re at a crucial stage in their development. “In general, kids learn a lot more in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade than kids in middle school or high school, because learning follows a curve where it’s accelerated early in life and then plateaus,” says James Kim, Ed.D., an assistant professor of education at Harvard University. “Things like decoding, letter knowledge, and word reading skills are very susceptible to decay without frequent practice, as are math facts like addition and subtraction.”
While most people agree that children need a change of pace in summer from rigorous academics, there are ample ways to reinforce student learning by incorporating enriched exploration into everyday activities.
Cooking: Younger children, as well as older ones, often love to cook. Reading recipes and measuring ingredients can give tangible math lessons whether your child is learning to count or learning fractions. Advanced exploration: what makes a cake rise when it is baked?
Journaling: Buy a summer notebook and give your child a new question every day to write about. Or if very young, your child can tell you their thoughts and you can write them. Prompts can be as simple as, who is your friend and why. Or if older, what qualities make a good friend? Even more complex, what makes people happy? The practice of writing usually creates the desire to write more.
Reading: 15 minutes a day of quiet reading is a great start. Whether picture books or storybooks, the act of reading an actual print book is irreplaceable. Reading Comprehension is crucial to education: Learning to analyze. You might ask your child about the actual story, their favorite part, and how it made them feel. What would happen if perhaps some elements of the story were changed? How would the story then be different?
Labeling: When children are learning to read, a fun project might be to write the names of household objects on sticky notes, ie., clock, lamp, computer. Your child can sound the word out as well as see what the word looks like matched to the object. For older children, label things in a foreign language.
Screen time: There will be a need for quiet time and there are wonderful and interesting educational websites to explore. For example, check out Brain Pop, National Geographic Kids, PBS Kids Lab, and Nasa Kid.
Calendaring: Let your child make a calendar with months, days, and dates and fill it in with scheduled plans or fantasy agendas.
Write a Play: Planning, dialogue, characters, setting, story. Your child would be learning literary elements as well as exercising cooperative learning and group play. Of course, video the finished project for posterity.
Gardening: Watching how things grow is always fascinating. Planting a seed encourages patience. Your child can discover how and why a plant grows. You can also teach them about healthy eating.
Exercise: Learning how the body works to keep it strong and healthy. What exercise routine could your child create to work out each muscle group? They could lead the family in a simple exercise routine. Or they might jump rope to their multiplication tables.
Volunteering: Summer is the perfect time to explore what we can do to give back. Bring a bag to the beach and pick up trash. Start a community garden. Practice singing songs with friends and entertaining at an elderly home. Volunteering goes a long way toward keeping us aware of the world around us.
Whether you construct a full summer enrichment plan for your children or create a single project to explore and see where it goes, don’t let the summer just slide by. They are many ways to reinforce concepts learned in school and discover new ones.
Learning is a lifelong endeavor. It is sparked by curiosity and curiosity doesn’t stop because school lets out in June. In fact, that’s when it just might start.
Janis Adams is CEO/Founder of Academic Achievers Educational Services specializing in KinderPrep Camp, Homeschool, Test Prep, Subject Remediation, and Summer Enrichment. https://www.academicachievers.com