6 Tips for Avoiding the Summer Slide
It’s finally summer. And after a turbulent school year for students across the country—and the world—we all want to let out a huge sigh of relief and simply relax. We—as teachers, parents, and students—owe it to ourselves, after all.
This year, summer comes with a bit more baggage. Most students in the U.S. are three months removed from their normal school routines, while many educators are looking toward the fall with a looming cloud of what ifs. The summer slide is defined as a regression in academic proficiency due to summer break and has been a trending topic in education research since 1996 when one of the first comprehensive studies was published on the subject. While younger students are prone to greater learning loss due to the crucial stage of development for their age group, the summer slide can have a negative impact on students of all ages. Here are our top tips for avoiding the infamous summer slide:
Read. Read. Read.
Summer reading has been on parents’ and teachers’ radar for generations, but there's a catch. Students don’t gain as much from summer reading if they aren’t enjoying it. The solution: let kids read what they want to read. Borrow books from the local library, take advantage of summer deals from digital reading platforms like Epic, and ensure students have access to a wide variety of books. In my experience as a middle school teacher and parent of three, kids of all ages enjoy being read to. Parents and students can select a book that’s slightly above their independent reading level, but one that they can still comprehend (bonus points if it’s a book that prompts them to ask questions, we can never have too many teachable moments). Reading together is a fantastic way to share a joint experience and keep students’ skills sharp over the summer.
Pack your bags for a virtual field trip.
Virtual field trips are hard to beat. They’re inexpensive—often free—and are much less time consuming than an actual school field trip. Virtual field trips also give students access to places all over the world that they may have never had an opportunity to experience otherwise. Students can take a 360° panoramic virtual tour of Le Louvre, embark on a dog-sledding arctic adventure, and even experience their very own virtual trek up Mt. Everest. Following the field trip, ask students to make a video sharing what they’ve learned, or—as an additional extension—have them try to persuade others to visit.
Fill the learning gap by exploring the great outdoors.
We all benefit from fresh air and sunshine. Luckily, summer brings both in abundance. Plus, experts have found that novelty stimulates the brain and promotes learning. Basically, a change of scenery can yield positive results. Encourage parents and students to take a hike and take note of various animal and plant species. Visiting a local farm or vineyard can be a great science lesson. Planting a garden (yes, even an indoor garden) teaches responsibility and evokes feelings of pride.
It’s never too early or too late to start a business, but it all starts with planning. Summer is the perfect time for kids to hone in on what they’re good at and brainstorm how they could potentially market that skill, talent, or product. From setting up a lemonade stand or mowing lawns in the neighborhood, to making crafts or writing comic books, there are myriad ways to weave entrepreneurship lessons into the things kids already like to do.
Lend a helping hand by volunteering.
The understanding and perspective that comes as a result of volunteering leads to greater empathy. Helping others makes us feel good, and oftentimes, it’s the smallest efforts that go the furthest. It can be something as simple as picking up trash in the neighborhood or walking an elderly person’s dog. Older students can read to younger ones. If your community has a large homeless population, consider bringing them food and bottled water.
Tie digital citizenship into internet research.
Digital citizenship refers to the responsibility use of technology by anyone using the internet and digital devices to engage with society on any level. Teaching digital citizenship continues to be a priority for schools and districts around the country. Having students conduct internet research during the summer is an effective way for parents to keep the importance of being an upstanding digital citizen top of mind. Students can start by finding answers to everyday questions. Ask them to map the route for the family trip, look up recipes for the 4th of July cookout, or find out which plants can grow in the shady part of the yard. Whenever possible, research should be the result of something the student is already interested in. That intrinsic motivation can take them further than an assigned task.
Additionally, the summer provides ample opportunity for students to practice digital citizenship skills that will help them will serve them well in the new school year. As we continue to social distance and connect digitally with family and friends, students should be encouraged to exercise remote meeting etiquette along with their tech skills.
Summer is a time for adventure. Try not to make learning feel like a punishment for students. Accomplishing any combination of these fun summer activities will help keep students’ brains in power mode. And, they will likely have learned some lifelong lessons about themselves without even noticing they learned something. Win-win.