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"Keep Kids Off the Slide This Summer"

July 13th, 2018

Keep Kids Off the Slide This Summer

by Frank J. Kros, MSW, JD - President, Transformation Education Institute

The "summer slide" is the loss of learning students experience during the long summer break. 

Sometimes students simply forget what they've learned. Sometimes the loss of learning occurs because students don't practice essential skills. 

Reading and math skills, in particular, require regular practice to stay sharp. When kids aren't reading or using math in July and August, lots of the hard work that students, teachers and families put in during the school year is wasted.

It's a bigger problem than you might think.

Summer slide has been studied in the United States since 1906. More than 100 years of research demonstrates that nearly all students suffer learning loss when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Most students will regress about two full months but some of these students will lose as much as three months of prior learning over the summer break. (Cooper, 1996). In addition, much of the achievement gap between lower and higher income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning activities. (Alexander et al, 2007). Perhaps most alarming, summer slide is cumulative. Loss adds up for students getting little or no educational stimulation in the summer. These repeated periods of learning loss aggregate each summer, pushing students farther and farther behind peers that do keep learning even while school is not in session. (Cooper et al, 2000).

 More recent findings confirm this alarming reality. McCombs and colleagues (2011) report that elementary students' performance falls by about a month during the summer, but the decline is far worse for lower-income students. This comprehensive study also confirmed that summer learning loss is cumulative and that these periods of differential learning rates between low-income and higher-income students contribute substantially to the achievement gap.

 But summer slide can be stopped with a little planning and the use of mostly free resources. Most important, summer learning can be fun. See below for just a few of the many strategies adults can use to help students avoid sliding back several months over the summer.

7 Strategies to Stop the Summer Slide :

1. Run to your local librarian. 

Every library has a summer reading program for every age child. 

Simply go to the information desk and tell the librarian you want to help your child avoid the "summer slide." You'll get lots of help and your child will get lots of choices including book recommendations, live readings, reading groups, audio books, games and prizes.

2. Use the Web. 

The National Summer Learning Association offers a wealth of online resources, high-quality research, and an excellent annual conference related to summer learning and preventing summer slide.

The Publications & Resources tab of the website particularly leads to excellent research and practical tips for summer program providers.

Summer Matters is a California organization that provides research and tools on preventing slide that are relevant nationwide.

3.   Cook with your kids. 

Cooking is a unique activity in that it integrates reading, math, following directions, planning and practicality! If possible, challenge your student to plan a menu for guests, select the ingredients, prepare the meal and serve it to guests. Cooking for others builds lots of skills and gives your student confidence. 

Two good kid-centered cookbooks are Kids Around the World Cook! The Best Foods and Recipes from Many Lands by Arlette Braman and the Betty Crocker Kids Cookbook.  

4.  Utilize your 'smart'phone. 

Teachers With Apps is another great resource to help you stop the summer slide. 

Many students have mobile phones and these learning-centered apps are inexpensive and lots of fun.  

Two of my favorite include Toca Doctor and Skoolbo that use interactive games to learn about the human body and for numeracy, literacy and English language learning.https://www.teacherswithapps.com/

5. Use virtual readers for young children. 

If you have limited time to read to your child,  go online and have an adult read to them.

For example, https://www.storylineonline.net/ has a terrific line-up of books for young children read by adults who know how to be engaging readers. Hearing books read out loud builds reading fluency, increases knowledge and expands experience. This is also a great tool when you need a few minutes break!  

6. Take a virtual field trip. 

There are a number of great websites that will take your students on awesome field trips when you can't take them in person. Take a complete tour of the Museum of Natural History in New York City or discover the mysteries of survival in the arctic tundra. There are many good sites for virtual field trips summarized here: https://www.commonsense.org/education

7. Read Something Every Day.

This is probably the most commonly offered suggestion but is also the most important advice. 

Try to plan for reading every day  

through one of the suggestions above or ideas you create and discover on your own. Getting your students to read and to listen to others reading prevents the loss of language skills so critical to success in every academic area. Research suggests reading just six books over the summer can significantly slow the summer slide.

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