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Summer Is Back

How Students and Parents Can Avoid the Annual “Summer Slide”

by Frank Milner

Summer is right around the corner and that always means great news for students and teachers alike– no more classes, no more homework or grading, and no more early mornings. However, a term that all parents and teachers should be wary of is what the education industry refers to as the “summer slide,” and it affects thousands around the world throughout the summer break season.

Simply put, the summer slide is the tendency for students to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year.

The three-plus months that lack educational activity during the summer every year can be incredibly detrimental to the learning progress a student makes during the 8-9 months of the school year. Fortunately, there are some simple activities that you can share with parents to alleviate the summer slide.

Typically in the summer, parents witness a lack of desire to continue learning and a sense of lethargy that sets in after a few difficult weeks that are spent on final exams or papers. The conclusion of the positive momentum that leads up to the slide results in learning loss from the prior months, decline in reading and math skills, and the inability to get off to a positive start in the fall. This can set a student up for a poor start to the next school year and potentially a significant decline heading into the future.

Without question, it’s completely acceptable to relax a bit during the summer – chill out on the back deck, watch a little baseball on TV or at the ballpark, even sneak in a video game or two. But too much of the latter on that list will turn a student’s brain into mush, figuratively speaking.

Fortunately for students and parents, avoiding the summer slide is relatively simple, and it doesn’t require that much effort. Stay active, go outside and exercise, and get involved in healthy activities.

To better prepare students for the summer slide, here are some simple tips that can be utilized and encouraged by parents:

  • Encourage reading. As stated before, it is okay to take a little time off from school – every student needs it. But it is important for them to continue reading, whether it’s a book, morning newspaper or magazine. It is critical to keep reading skills in top shape heading into the new school year. Don’t let them sit around and watch television all day – push them to read.
  • Let children select their own reading materials. This teaches them to read for enjoyment, regardless of the subject. When they read about entertaining subjects such as sports and celebrities, they are still improving in reading comprehension, writing style, vocabulary, spelling and grammar.
  • Allow students to help with travel plans. Many families travel over the summer break. If this is the case, let your student plan the trip with you. Letting your little scholar figure out mileage between specific points and calculating how long it will take to reach a certain destination will keep math skills in good shape.
  • Cook with your student. If you have delicious cookouts or food to serve for a big summer outing, let your kid(s) help you. Involving your child in meal planning and cooking reinforces the importance of following directions, sorting and measuring ingredients and time management.
  • Encourage exercise and hanging out with friends. It cannot be emphasized enough that children should not lay around and do nothing for a few weeks. Yes, it is in fact true that kids – and adults too, for that matter – should break a physical sweat while breaking a mental sweat. Exercise directly impacts the behavior and development of the brain. It increases oxygen flow and assures the survival of cells in areas responsible for learning, memory, and reasoning.

As a parents, it is more than okay to let children have some fun and enjoy the summer. But it is incredibly important to continue to think “big picture” when the summer slide starts to hit. No one wants to see their students lose the positive educational gains they developed during the school year. Relaxation is healthy, but too much of it can be harmful to a student’s development.

Follow the suggestions and guidelines laid out above, however, and students won’t succumb to the summer slide. Entertaining reading material, travel planning, cooking and exercise – all activities that can be a ton of fun – are all beneficial. Couple the tips with positive reinforcement and your little scholar will be ready to tackle the next school year head-on.

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