Students and teachers across the country celebrate the last day of school as families prepare for summer vacation and enjoyment. Summer is a great time to try new activities and enjoy family and friends. But what about all the knowledge and skills gained during the school year? Will students be able to retain what they have learned for the fall?
Statistics say no. Summer slide is a phenomenon that educators have been tracking since at least the 1990’s. While younger students are more at risk of losing ground over the summer, middle and high school students suffer from the summer slide as well. What are some realistic expectations for students over the summer months in order to avoid the worst of the summer slide?
Read, Read, Read
The number one activity for avoiding the summer slide is reading. Students who read and who come from homes where reading is encouraged maintain their reading skills much better than those who don’t. Families can encourage reading at home, sign their children up for summer reading programs at the library, or even listen to recordings of books being read. All of these activities can contribute to maintaining reading skills over the summer and making a strong start to school in the fall.
What should students read? Forcing kids to read books they don’t like because it is “good for them” is likely to fail over the summer! Students should be allowed to read what they like, as long as the material is age appropriate. Local libraries and librarians are wonderful resources for finding books for every student at every reading level!
Enroll in Summer School, Camp, or Other Learning Activities
Students who are behind may qualify for summer school. These courses are often shorter and more concentrated than regular semester-long courses, so students should make sure they are fully committed to summer school, but it can be a great opportunity to gain credit or skills needed for a successful school year and graduation path.
If a student doesn’t need summer school, but would like to keep learning over the summer, there are many choices for summer camps and activities that keep their minds and bodies active. STEM camps, art classes, outdoor and sports camps are just a few options available for students of all ages. School districts, community recreation centers, private organizations, and even colleges and universities are some of the organizations that offer these activities and many are low cost to families.
Try New Activities
Even if a student is unwilling or unable to attend a camp or other organized activity, they can still try new activities. The important thing is to stimulate thoughts and ideas, and avoid excessive screen time. Zoos and museums often offer free or reduced price days for students during the summer. If going on a trip, students can track their trip on a map (the paper kind!) and research points of interest in the area. If staying at home, students can always learn new things about their own hometown by treating it as if they were visiting it for the first time. What is important about their town? Is there a museum, sculpture garden, or any monuments they can learn about? And, students should not forget that exercise is important to brain development as well! They can set athletic goals and work towards them, or just make a commitment to get out of the house every day and walk or do yard work.
Summer slide is real, but there are steps students and families can take to avoid this common setback. Summer camps, classes, and activities are great, but the easiest and most effective way to avoid the summer slide is to keep students reading and active.