It is the beginning of summer vacation, and kids everywhere are making plans to stay busy during their break from their normal routine of classes, homework and studying for tests. For most, those plans do not include acquiring the daily dose of learning that takes place behind classroom doors for nine months of the year. But even just occasional learning during the summer may prevent the onset of what is known as the “summer slide.”
“Summer slide, or summer setback, is the loss of skills that occurs over the summer,” said Jill Szafranski, an elementary school principal at the Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School. “As a result of summer slide, teachers typically spend a few weeks to the first month of the school year reviewing skills and concepts that were taught the year before. These skills are mostly in the area of math, however reading decreases also are evident in the area of spelling.”
According to Szafranski, it is true that if kids do not use the knowledge they learned during the school year while they are on summer break, they will lose that knowledge. “Children should be encouraged to practice skills throughout the summer to limit the loss of skills. They should be encouraged to pick up a good book and read or be read to everyday. Also, there are many different types of reading opportunities available in local communities, such as summer reading programs at the local library or bookstore.”
Your local library may offer a “Reading Together” program for Babies, Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Kindergarteners and other programs for older kids that encourage regular reading during the summer months.
“Kids also should be encouraged to use math in real-world situations, as well as practice math facts regularly,” Szafranski advised. “For example, parents can plan a shopping trip to the grocery store, create a list of items needed, and have the kids review the weekly circular to determine what items are on sale, how much money will be spent and how much will be saved. Kids are more eager to participate when the learning is relevant to something they can do.”
In addition to practicing math facts and reading when school is out, parents can make learning fun and real for kids throughout the entire year, according to Szafranski. Parents can extend learning opportunities after a visit to the zoo by reading a book about an animal they saw or creating a graph of all of the different types of animals.
But children should not be the only ones learning.
“Parents should allow their children to see them actively engaged in learning situations, such as reading a newspaper or balancing a checkbook, to demonstrate how their kids will use the skills they learn in school,” Szafranski suggested.
One possible solution to preventing the skill loss that occurs during summer break is switching to year-round schooling. According to the July 2011 issue of Parents magazine, about 8,700 public elementary schools in the United States have made the switch to year-round schooling, whereby students attend alternating 45-day sessions followed by three-week breaks to relieve overcrowding. Because there is no summer vacation, the students have less time to forget what they learned.
“Instead of year-round schooling, I feel that we need to look at how the school year is structured and make adjustments throughout the school calendar,” Szafranski said. “For example, perhaps we could divide the year into trimesters rather than semesters. This way, students would still have approximately the same amount of time off, but not all at once, which would help prevent the loss of skills during the summer months. And, teachers could spend less time reviewing upon school’s return.”
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