Editor's note: Alison Gammage, head of the Lower School at St. Timothy's School in Raleigh, shares her expertise today.
For more than 100 years, educators and researchers have documented students' loss of academic skills over the summer. This occurrence has become known as the summer slide. Data suggests that some students lose one to three months’ worth of academic skills over their summer break.
Needless to say, students who lose skills in these core areas are at a disadvantage when the new school year begins, and possibly, later in their educational careers.
Yes, teachers respond to the summer slide by reviewing skills for the first four or so weeks of the year, but what if that's not enough? What can parents and educators do to minimize this loss of skills over the summer break?
The National Summer Learning Association suggests that a high quality, six-week educational program is the most effective way to tackle the summer slide. However, these programs are not always easily accessible or feasible for families.
There are a few things that families can do on their own to help reduce the loss of academic skills over the summer. At St. Timothy’s School, we have found that “little and often” is the best approach. Fifteen minutes of academic practice each day is enough for many students.
Keep Some Structure
Keeping some structure and routine over the summer may help students to transition back to school more easily in August. Routines provide predictability which is familiar and comforting to kids.
This does not mean that every moment of your child’s summer should be planned. Kids need time to play and relax too! To maintain a little structure this summer, you could read together each night before bed, plan a weekly trip to the library or establish a schedule to practice math for 15 minutes a few days per week. Keep it simple, but consistent, to avoid battles and maximize the benefits of these activities.
Read! Journal! Talk!
The best way to become a stronger reader and writer is to practice! This summer, challenge your child to read a few books. Make sure that the goal is achievable and that your child is reading books on their level. Talk to your children about the books that they are reading. Summarize. Ask questions. Make predictions. Of course, this will be most effective if you have read the book as well. Audiobooks are also a great way to improve comprehension when you’re on the move this summer!
To encourage writing, try journaling about summer experiences or writing letters to a friend or family member. At St. Timothy’s School, children are assigned specific summer reading projects and are given book recommendations. Students share their projects when they return to school.
Reviewing math concepts from the previous school year helps to minimize loss over the summer. There are lots of ways to practice these skills including: Board games, hands-on projects, practice work books and online practice. Set, Sumoku, Tenzi, and Sum Swamp are just a few of the many board games out there that involve problem solving and math skills.
Activities such as baking or building projects offer “real world” application of math skills. Some schools, like St. Timothy’s School, may provide review packets based on grade level or end-of-year assessments. If not, ask your child’s teacher to recommend a math workbook or review pages. Websites like IXL.com and mathabc.com also reinforce math skills by grade level.
Find Local Opportunities
The Triangle area has lots of summer opportunities for kids and families. Check out local museums, libraries and summer camps for activities which encourage reading, math, critical thinking and fun!
Alison Gammage is the Head of Lower School at St. Timothy's School in Raleigh. Gamage, a native of the United Kingdom, studied theology at Oxford and then went on to complete a master's degree in education, followed by a master's degree in special education in the United States. She served as a teacher and administrator at schools in Washington, D.C., before moving to Raleigh to join St. Timothy's.