HOW TO PREVENT SUMMER LEARNING LOSS FOR STUDENTS
As schools dismissed for spring break across the United States, no one imagined it would be the last time students were in the building. The official end of the school year is here for many school districts. Parents are celebrating their child’s promotion to the next grade, entry into college, workforce, or celebrating temporary retirement from homeschooling on a whim, especially after learning teachers had been telling the truth about their child all along, okay!
Traditionally, summer schedules have been filled with chillin’ poolside, sporting activities, family vacations, and summer camps. Due to COVID-19, traditional summer camps will not be happening this year. Summer camps have always been a way to continue social/emotional and academic learning opportunities for students and have been critical in preventing what is known as ‘summer slide.’
What is Summer Slide?
Summer slide is the phenomenon that occurs when students are not actively continuing learning activities when schools are closed for summer break. If children are not engaging in literacy and math activities regularly during summer break, they may lose a percentage of knowledge gained during the previous school year. As a result, they could enter the next grade level a little behind. This is problematic because students have to relearn skills from the previous year while meeting learning targets for the current school year. It is the equivalent of falling off your exercise regimen for 2-3 months, returning to the gym and finding yourself on the struggle bus. You have some catching up to do in order to move forward with your fitness goals. This loss in learning could be compounded this year due to the significant change in learning environments as schools moved to e-learning because of COVID-19. It is believed that students of lower socioeconomic status, elementary-aged children, and middle school students are most at-risk for summer learning loss or summer slide. There are many things parents and caregivers can do to help maintain and strengthen literacy and math skills for students over the summer.
How to Help
Providing summer learning activities for your child does not have to be overwhelming. The simplest activities often have the biggest impact. As a professional educator, I will share some simple learning activities that parents, and caregivers can do with children at home. Furthermore, I will focus mainly on math-focused activities to help your child retain foundational skills on while school is in recess for the summer. Over the years, I have found that parents seem to be most intimidated by teaching math to their children.
You may not have all those fancy counters and blocks your child’s teacher use at school, but you do have plenty of items around your home. The use of manipulatives is a great way to help mathematical situations become realistic for students. Consider this story situation:
Desmond took 28 cupcakes to school for the class party. 19 cupcakes were eaten. The teacher let Desmond take the extra cupcakes back home. How many cupcakes did Desmond take home?
Students sometimes have difficulty making sense of word problems like these. You can help your child understand what is happening here by physically gathering 28 uncooked beans, grapes, hot wheel cars, beads, crayons, something you hoarded, or whatever it is you are able to find around the house. Talk through the story situation slowly and move things around to mimic what happened in the story problem. Develop a variety of story problems for your child to solve.
Play Board Games/Card Games
Yes, you read that right! This is a no brainer, right? Playing board games cover so many skills for children but in a fun way. Let’s unpack that idea. Board games come with directions. Consider the amount of reading and comprehension of the directions that must occur to play any board game correctly. Family favorites such as Monopoly requires players to read and negotiate (listening and speaking are critical skills) and of course there is plenty of math involved with buying property and paying rent and utilities (plenty of life skills too!). Simple card games such as UNO help rising kindergarteners with color and number recognition. You may want to refrain from throwing cards down on the table if your child is not competitive.
Activity Books and Pages
Activity booklets can be found in your local dollar stores and major retailers. Student engagement may not be as great, but they still work. The cool thing is most come with an answer key in the back to support the parent or caregiver using the book. Additionally, there are many printable worksheets on the internet that are free for personal use. A simple google search can return an abundance of free printables.
Indoor/Outdoor Scavenger Hunts
Use your imagination here. Create a theme of your choice, build a list, and send your child on a scavenger hunt. For example, your theme could be fractions and you could challenge your child to find something in the house that is full, half empty, three-fourths full, and so on. Parents, your wine glass does not count here!
Read, Read, Read
Often times we forget there are many picture books written around math concepts. Picture books are NOT just for babies and toddlers, but they work for upper elementary and middle school students too. A few titles include Math Curse by John Scieszka and Lane Smith, The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns, and The Best of Times: Math Strategies That Multiply by Greg Tang. Picture books provide great visuals and will help you explain mathematical concepts to your child. YouTube is a great resource for finding read alouds.
Trying a new recipe? Ask your child to assist you. When we are not as familiar with a dish, we are more likely to follow all steps in a recipe. Some of us throw in a dash of this or that until our ancestors tell us to stop (ha!) but that does not always work. Allow your child to help you measure out the ingredients. Measurement can be a difficult concept for kids to understand. If they have more exposure to various measuring tools those images become embedded in their minds and that background knowledge will help them in future learning situations.
Apps and Websites
Okay, need I say more here? There are many great free websites and apps that allow for math practice. Some of my favorites right now include ABCYA and Khan Academy Kids. Your child may have been granted access by his or her teacher to additional resources. Check with the teacher to see how long these accounts will remain active over the summer. Use them while you can! Because we are in a 100% online learning environment right now, be sure to access the list of digital resources that have been curated by your child’s school district which are accessible on the district’s website.
Hire a Certified Professional Tutor
If you do not have the time or patience to teach your child at home, seek professional help. Listen Linda, teaching your own child can be a real challenge and there is no judgement here! As we know, sometimes this option is good for your own personal sanity. There are many learning centers around and many virtual tutoring options available. I provide virtual tutoring for elementary students and currently have availability. Visit my website at www.dandelionkidsworldwide.com for more information.
In closing, be open to minded as you support your child’s learning. Many parents acclaim they do not understand this ‘new age’ math but trust that the ‘new age’ math teaches students to break down numbers in a way that makes conceptual sense and is efficient. Be flexible in your own thinking as your help your children at home. There is always more than one way to arrive at a solution.
Furthermore, it is not necessary to make children sit through math drills for hours on end or raise your voice when they are experiencing mental block. Raising your voice will not magically make them understand. Yes, I said what I said! Take a break and return to it later. Most importantly, have fun. Creating learning opportunities at home does not have to be that deep. The future is uncertain right now and no one knows when schools will reopen. In the meantime, keep your child learning and remember to have fun along the way!
Dominique James is a licensed K-6 professional educator in Virginia and has over 12+years of experience in education. She is the founder of Dandelion Kids LLC whose mission is to support military kids as they bloom where planted by creating educational products for them and provides virtual tutoring – available to all students! Visit her website at www.dandelionkidsworldwide.com or send inquires to firstname.lastname@example.org.