Summer is a time for students to rest in between school years. They can enjoy a few weeks outside of the classroom to recharge ahead of the fall. However, during this time, many kids also forget some of what they learned in the previous year. This phenomenon is known as summer learning loss, or the “summer slide.”
On average, students lose between 17-34 percent of what they learned during the school year. These numbers can be higher and lower depending on the activities that students do when school is out.
There is good news for students and parents alike: it’s possible to prevent learning loss just by completing a few small activities each day. Parents don’t have to become homeschool experts and students don’t have to spend all day reviewing concepts. Instead, learning together can be fun. As a teacher, use this list to encourage parents to make learning a key part of summer.
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1. Look for Free Events and Activities
Many organizations know how stressful it is for parents to entertain their kids all summer. They also know that many families have limited resources and can’t afford pricey summer camps or long vacations.
Check with your local museums, YMCA, libraries, and other community centers to see if there are any free or cheap events for kids and families. You can create a list of these events or share apps and websites where parents can find them. A few questions that each event should be able to answer include:
- How much does it cost for parents and kids?
- Can parents leave their kids there (is there specialized supervision) or is it a family activity?
- Is the event a one-time thing, like World Ocean Day, or is it a recurring event (weekly, monthly) that the location hosts?
- Does the event occur on weekdays or weekends?
- What age range is the event for? Will families with kids of diverse ages all enjoy the event?
These are all questions that parents will ask when they determine whether an event is right for their kids—or even something they are able to take their children to.
2. Find Little Free Libraries in Your Neighborhood
Little Free Libraries are boxes and nooks that people build to store books that others can borrow. There are Little Free Library locators online where you can find registered boxes near you. While you can recommend that students visit physical libraries in the area, it isn’t always possible for parents to take their kids during operating hours.
Little Free Libraries don’t have open and closing hours and there might be one or two just down the street from most of your students. Once your families find libraries with kid-appropriate books, they can stop by throughout the summer so the whole family can have reading resources.
3. Set Aside Time to Read Together
Acquiring books is the first step toward encouraging kids to read over the summer. However, parents often lead by example to show how fun reading can be. If parents never read but kids are expected to, then reading can become a chore and feel more like summer homework. However, if parents read or set aside time to read with their kids, it can seem more like a fun activity.
Encourage parents to read together as a family for a few minutes each night. This could involve the whole family reading one book together so kids can practice sounding out letters and learning new words. It can also mean independent reading time where each family member has a book of their choosing.
Not only do these steps build up reading skills, but they also help kids learn different concepts based on what they read about.
4. Find Educational Games and Activities Online
Throughout the summer, many parents will likely wonder how they can pry their kids away from video games and other smartphone-based activities. While limiting screen time can be beneficial, you can also encourage parents to look for educational games and activities online.
Let students know if they will still have access to their eSpark games over the summer. They might enjoy completing some learning quests when they have downtime. Additionally, look for camps and community organizations that also use eSpark (like your local library) so kids can enjoy games that have proven educational value.
5. Turn Basic Activities into Learning Experiences
One of the most frustrating questions in the classroom is, “when are we ever going to use this?” Oftentimes, teachers spend the whole school year trying to show how various concepts are useful in real life. Fortunately, summer is a time when kids can apply what they learned.
Brainstorm a list of at-home activities where students can use classroom concepts. Check out a few homeschool blogs for tips on how to turn daily activities into valuable learning experiences.
One of the best ways to incorporate math concepts into fun activities is with baking. Baking is a science that requires detailed measurements for everything to turn out well. Kids can use fractions, multiplication, and a variety of other skills to complete even the most basic (and boxed) recipes.
There is much less work for parents if they can add learning to daily tasks, rather than having to create lessons to prevent learning loss.
6. Use a “Word of the Day” App or Whiteboard
Kids and parents can keep their vocabulary fresh throughout the summer with a “word of the day” challenge. This can be high tech, with an age-appropriate app, or low tech with a whiteboard on your refrigerator.
You can make the word of the day even more interactive by challenging your kids to write the silliest or most creative sentences using the featured noun, verb, or adjective. The whole family can laugh about a “lugubrious” dragon that is too blue to breathe fire or “commemorate” a day in June just for eating ice cream upside down.
7. Create a Travel Journal
If your students are fortunate enough to travel over the summer, consider encouraging parents to invest in a travel journal where kids can practice their writing skills and handwriting. Keeping a travel journal develops multiple skills, including:
- Developing sentence structure and verb tenses
- Using key vocabulary
- Improving storytelling
- Growing confidence in shaping letters and words.
Journaling is a skill for students of all ages, whether they are just learning to write or entering advanced literature courses. If families can’t travel, kids can create a summer memories journal to write their favorite events each week.
8. Practice Handwriting by Sending Postcards and Letters
The use of postcards and letters is another great way for your students to practice their writing over the summer. Once again, your kids don’t actually need to go anywhere to send a postcard. Your local grocery store might have some postcards of nearby sites. Additionally, kids can send cards and letters to each other even if they just live down the street.
Not only will this activity prevent learning loss, but it can brighten the days of other kids, family members, and community leaders. Imagine the joy that other people will experience when they receive a hand-written letter in the mail.
9. Know What Weaknesses Kids Should Work On
If possible, talk to each parent before the end of the school year to recommend areas where their kids can improve. You don’t have to create an in-depth progress report for each of your students, but you can recommend some concepts that parents can focus on.
Every student is unique. Some kids might spend all summer curled up with books and ignoring their math lessons. These learners don’t need to focus on reading as much as their peers might.
The goal of preventing learning loss is to make sure students don’t fall behind in their most vulnerable areas. You can help parents by knowing what these are.
10. Work With other Parents to Refresh Kids
Let parents know that they aren’t alone in preventing learning loss. Instead of placing the burden entirely on themselves, encourage parents to work with their friends and neighbors to help kids learn together. For example, one parent can help kids with reading one day per week with a reading circle. Another parent can put together a different science experiment each Tuesday. Even if parents only partner together in small groups, the whole community can work to prevent learning loss.
Find Fun Activities to Prevent Learning Loss
As a teacher, you know how hard it is to keep kids engaged in lessons. If kids don’t have to learn over the summer, they won’t—unless the activities are fun. This guide can help you keep kids excited about different concepts so they want to learn even when they don’t have to.
In the meantime, get to know eSpark so you can see how this will be a valuable learning resource for kids over the summer.