According to the National Summer Learning Association, students experience learning loss when they are not engaged in summer learning. Over the summer, most students lose two months' worth of reading and math skills! Additionally, the same studies show that academic learning during the summer months not only combats the loss of skills but also improves their educational outcome during the next school year.
The best way to avoid the summer academic slide is to encourage year-round learning – not just during the school year! Let's look at some ways parents can encourage learning during the summer months.
Research from the Children's Literacy Initiative suggests that students who do not read during the summer months could fall two years behind by the 5th grade. Thus, summer reading is a crucial step toward beating the summer slide. However, it is not enough to read just any book.
Educational experts recommend using the "Goldilocks Effect" in choosing summer reading material. If the books are too easy, students will rush through them and easily find themselves bored. If the books are too hard, students will struggle to get through them and may give up. Therefore, it is essential to find books that are "just right" for each student.
How can parents find appropriate books for their students? There are several ways:
- Ask the student's school (or their previous or next year's teacher, if known) for a reading list. Most schools have a comprehensive reading list by grade level, taking the guesswork out of which books students should read over the summer.
- Ask a local public library for a reading list. Most libraries also have a comprehensive list of books, broken down by age level, to give students and parents plenty of ideas about what to read.
- Ask a local bookstore if they have age or grade-level-based sections of books.
Practice Math Facts Daily
Math facts – such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division – set the foundation for success in math from elementary through middle and high school and beyond! As a math tutor, the number one issue I see that causes students to struggle is failing to memorize their key math facts. When students have memorized their facts - especially addition and multiplication - they have one less obstacle. Memorizing these essential facts enables students to comprehend better and complete their work quicker. Practicing math facts for as little as 15 minutes per day can help students achieve mastery of their facts by the end of the summer. As a Learner math tutor myself, I have witnessed how Learner tutors are always ready to help students bridge knowledge gaps and hone math skills throughout the year. Mastery of math facts is foundational knowledge that can set them up for future learning.
Play Educational Games
Educational games are a fun way of engaging students in summer learning! In our fast-paced, high-tech society, online educational games can entice students as they combine game-play with learning. Here are a few online educational games that students can play for free:
- PBS Kids Games - a wide range of games, including Reading, Math, Science, and Social Studies.
- Mr. Nussbaum - this hub has games tackling various subjects, including math, language arts, history, geography, and science.
- National Geographic Kids - this site caters more to science and history, but it also has topics on space and the US.
Numerous online educational websites feature games, and a quick internet search can feel overwhelming with the number of available choices! However, parents can check their school's website for a list of recommended educational sites and resources to make a choice less daunting.
Online Summer Courses/Tutoring
Taking an online summer course is an excellent way of learning. There are numerous courses to choose from, and, just like with the online educational games, the sheer volume of choices can be off-putting. No worries, here are a few suggestions to help parents get started:
- Texas Instruments Virtual Summer Camps – most of these courses revolve around test prep, such as for the ACT or SAT. Summer is an excellent time for high school students to begin practicing for these standardized tests.
- Pearson Online Academy – online summer school programs
- Udemy – academic courses for all ages
- Check with local Universities because many offer virtual summer programs
Summer is a great time to bridge learning gaps with tutoring. When the school year ends, some students are still not proficient in the skills they learned throughout the year. Therefore, summer tutoring is an excellent opportunity to address learning gaps without falling behind in school!
Learner tutors are on hand to help throughout the school year and summer months. With Learner, parents do not have to worry about finding the right tutor for their student because the company's expert academic advisors are on hand to ensure a good student-to-tutor match! Furthermore, Learner offers tutoring in a variety of subjects and age groups.
Specifically, Learner's math tutors can help students address learning gaps and prepare for the next school year through the practice, application, and growth of key math skills. Learner's ELA tutors can help students improve their grammar, reading comprehension, and writing skills. Learner also offers test prep tutoring, assisting students in preparing for the SAT or ACT.
Engage in Meaningful Conversations
According to Resources for Early Learning, conversation helps students learn how to express themselves, ask for the help they need, and learn from the world around them. Supporting studies echo these sentiments and find that engaging in meaningful conversations helps to increase vocabulary and comprehension scores. This suggests that incorporating daily meaningful conversation into the summer routine could yield great benefits. Here are several easy ways to engage students in meaningful conversation:
- When preparing dinner, parents can invite their students to participate whenever there is any need for measurement or unit conversion. While showing them how to take the measurements or make the conversion, talk to them about the necessity for measurements and precision when cooking. Something as simple as this can help students learn how to perform these tasks while engaging in real-world application of math skills.
- When shopping, engage students in conversation regarding the pricing of some of their favorite items. Show them how to calculate the unit price or price per item, and show them where the unit price is usually listed on the shelf price tag. Ask them to try and guess the total for the groceries. If they are way off, ask them why they think they got it wrong. If possible, give them physical money – dollars and cents – and allow them to pick out their own items, being mindful of calculating their total to remain within their allotted budget mentally. Activities and conversations like these can help students to learn about prices and money in a real-world situation.
- Once a day, set aside time to discuss anything that has been read recently – whether it is from a book or an online article. Parents can start with something they read currently, giving a summary and engaging in discussion. Students can then be encouraged to share something they have read and lead in the discussion. This helps students learn how to summarize, analyze, and discuss text.
Overall, the general theme of beating the academic summer slide can be summarized in two words: learning and engagement! Encouraging learning during the summer months can be beneficial in the form of improved intelligence and school performance. Furthermore, engaging with students during the summer will further solidify the learning efforts, leading to an optimal outcome.