Whether you play an instrument or a sport, practice keeps you sharp and builds your skills. Lack of practice stunts your progress.
The brain is the same way. Learning that’s not reinforced can slip away. For kids, the effects of summer vacation on student learning can include a loss of lessons learned from the previous year. It’s a phenomenon known as “summer slide.”
Parents can halt summer learning loss. These five summer learning activities help prevent students’ academic growth from plateauing or backtracking. These tips keep learning vibrant even after the school year is done.
The Impact of Summer Learning Loss
Teachers know all about summer slide. Children lose nearly three months of learning over the summer, typically causing teachers to spend four to six weeks at the start of the new school year reteaching forgotten material, according to research studies by Johns Hopkins University.
Even worse, summer learning loss isn’t a temporary phenomenon. Summer learning loss has lasting consequences. Research studies estimate that, by ninth grade, as much as two-thirds of the achievement gap between disadvantaged children and their better-off peers is the result of summer learning loss. Learning losses can accumulate over the years, causing below-grade-level performance that can follow students through high school, college and beyond.
Of course, children can and should have fun during the summer, education researchers say. But with the consequences of summer learning loss accumulating to the detriment of the child’s future, it’s important to create learning opportunities. Parents play a vital role in providing resources and creating a rich learning environment, even while kids enjoy summer vacation. Even a family game of Scrabble or a round of flag football on the lawn keeps children in practice with their linguistics, math, memory and competitive spirit.
5 Tips for Summer Learning Loss Prevention
Summer vacation is the best part of any kid’s year. For parents and teachers, though, there are hazards, and we’re not just talking about sunburn. Are students losing their gains from the previous school year?
Here are five ways that summer learning programs, hands-on learning and fun activities keep your child’s brain in shape all summer long.
1. Read Over Summer Break
Reading books and other materials is one of the surest ways to keep young brains active and engaged. Research proves the value of reading to prevent summer literacy loss and promote reading skills and comprehension:
- Children who participate in summer library reading programs outpace their peers in reading proficiency.
- Students who participate in summer reading programs start the school year ready to learn, show stronger reading skills, enjoy reading and are more motivated to read than their peers.
- Reading for fun outside of school improves academic achievement and promotes positive emotional and social results – and when is a better time to read for fun than summertime?
- Children who read books not assigned for schoolwork are more engaged in school, and they have close family ties and strong friendships.
Reading materials come in many forms, and every word counts. Encourage children to read about the topics they love and in the formats they prefer, whether a traditional book, a magazine or a graphic novel.
Need help with reading that prevents summer learning loss and boosts literacy skills? Try these resources to get your students reading.
- Local library summer reading clubs are full of fun and prizes. Many libraries offer children’s e-books and e-audiobooks, so families can find free reading materials without leaving the house.
- Your child’s school and teachers might hold a summer reading challenge. At CCA, literary clubs encourage students to read books, tell stories and write letters, all while making friends and socializing.
- The National PTA offers a three-step plan to beat summer slide and promote “summer stride.”
- Reading Rockets suggests booklists for children from birth to 12.
- The National Education Association’s Read Across America compiles programs and reading recommendations.
2. Identify Hands-On Learning Opportunities
Children learn by doing. Try to incorporate hands-on learning into lessons, and summer should not be a reason to stop exploring. Project-based learning keeps children curious about the world around them.
As education researchers have found, the damaging effects of summer slide can be halted, and even reversed, through hands-on learning.
- Eighth graders assigned to build a water purification unit scored 20 percent higher on comprehension tests than peers simply taught through lectures and textbook readings.
- Hands-on learning stimulates growth on both sides of the brain, for advances in left-side visual and spatial learning and right-side analytical and language skills.
- Engaging multiple senses, including touch, creates multiple pathways for sending new learning concepts to the brain.
Kids and parents can find plenty of resources for exploring educational hobbies that grab their attention:
- Artful Parent turns homes into art studios and takes parents and kids on backyard scavenger hunts.
- Funbrain offers games and fun activities full of math and science lessons.
- Science Bob bubbles over with fun activities that include explanations of the underlying science. Make ice cream in a bag. Float blobs in a bottle. Bend water with static electricity.
- Start With a Book offers 24 topics for kids to explore, from bugs to buildings, and pairs each with suggested readings and activities.
- CCA’s 30-plus clubs invite children to explore their passions, tapping into hands-on learning for a variety of interests.
3. Practice Math in Everyday Situations
Summer reading loss gets a lot of attention, but summer math loss is even worse. It is easier for children to lose math skills than reading skills.
We know why. Reading is woven into everyday lives and routines; math often is not. And yet, researchers say, parents truly are, or should be, their children’s first math teacher. The key is incorporating mathematics into everyday life.
- Highlight math in normal activities: Cooking, shopping and baseball games all involve math. Talk to kids about doubling and measuring recipes, making change or calculating statistics.
- Read math stories: Reading a math-based bedtime story just once a week can improve a child’s math skills. Read a Bedtime Math story, or try a puzzle from the Family Math book.
- Play math games: When kids play Yahtzee, Rack-O, Blokus, Monopoly and Set, they are counting, calculating, categorizing and building.
- Practice math in small ways at home: Use a problem-of-the-day math calendar or exercises in basic math skills.
Parents don’t have to face at-home math alone. Try these resources to prevent summer math slide.
- KCEdventures has lots of activities and information to help parents make math an everyday habit.
- PBS Math Club explores math through unusual examples, such as Batman parodies.
- Find examples everywhere. Let your child estimate the costs of the week’s groceries, calculate proportions used in a pie crust recipe or estimate the miles between your house and Grandma’s (no GPS allowed). All of these are math activities integral to everyday life.
4. Write to Improve Communications Skills
Like other subjects, writing skills can diminish if allowed to languish. And yet, consider these benefits of a strong foundation in writing. Through writing, children can:
- Enhance their problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
- Learn to plan, research, reflect on, organize, draft and revise their work.
- Develop the skill of inquiry. They learn to collect and evaluate information, consider situations from new perspectives, support a particular point of view, ask questions and rethink their conclusions.
- Increase their decision-making abilities.
- Learn to explore ideas, take in a broader worldview and expand their imaginations.
- Express their feelings in ways that keep their social and emotional health in balance.
Try these writing activities to stop the summer loss.
- Write a nature journal. Count flowers. Observe ants. Hold a nature scavenger hunt.
- Create a poetry challenge. Cut out words from a magazine or newspaper and put them in an envelope. Have your child pull out five and write a poem using those words.
- Share a favorite recipe. Write it out, including step-by-step directions, and add a sentence about why this recipe is important and what it means to share with others.
- Review a book, movie, place or experience. Turn a summer activity into a chance to solicit and support opinions.
- Write like a journalist. Clip out a newspaper or magazine photo, and ask your child to write a caption. Or have your child write up a family adventure as a news story.
- Write a letter. Choose a favorite author or friend, and write a letter. Write a rough draft, followed by a final draft.
5. Discover the World Around You
Children are born explorers. Adventure awaits around the globe or in their backyards. While they’re at it, they soak up lessons in geography, math, language and cultures.
Consider all the benefits of adventure learning.
- Cooperation skills and trust building. Exploration demands teamwork.
- Problem-solving skills. Children in unfamiliar situations learn to adapt.
- Increased self-esteem and confidence. A child who conquers a daunting task feels ready to take on the next one.
- Communications skills. Children placed in unfamiliar settings learn to express their needs, even while they learn the language and jargon of other cultures and pursuits.
- Stretching beyond personal limitations. Each step a child takes outside a comfort zone expands it by that much.
Need ideas? Try these resources to inject adventure into your child’s life.
- Park it. National parks and state parks beckon with natural wonders to see and vigorous activities to pursue. Make it educational with lessons in geography, botany, marine science and history.
- There’s no place like home. Summer adventure awaits in your own backyard. Plan a backyard campout, search for bugs and birds, or grow vegetables to serve with dinner.
- Go local. Check local visitors’ bureaus for fun, affordable family adventures in your region.
- Go global. The world is your child’s playground. Look for tips on traveling with children to minimize stress and maximize adventure.
- Go virtual. It’s not the same as the real thing, but on a rainy day online adventure games fuel the spark of curiosity.
CCA keeps adventure learning going during the school year, with a full slate of field trips. More than 500 each year offer educational adventures for kids of all ages. Parents enjoy them, too!
Summer Education Is Everywhere
Learning doesn’t have to stop in the summer. In fact, it shouldn’t. Fun, engaging summertime activities prevent summer learning slide and reinvigorate kids – and their families – for the school year to come. Summer offers the time to expand your children’s horizons and encourage them to dive into their passions.
CCA believes in the power of personalized learning and real-world activities to help children grow academically and in character. Learn more about CCA’s commitment to keeping kids engaged, and embark on new adventures in learning.