Summer Learning Opportunities and Preventing Loss

Summer Learning Loss
(and easy ways to maintain and improve your child’s achievements over the summer!)

Who doesn’t look forward to summer vacation? Summer is a great time for teachers and students alike to relax and unwind from a busy school year. However, A non-academic summer can cause students at every grade level to lose ground in their academic skills. Moreover, many parents notice that as the summer wears on, their children start getting antsy. Children love the carefree days of summer, but they also crave some structure. When the glow of summer starts to fade, some parents find themselves scrambling to find activities to keep their children interested and entertained. A plan for summer learning activities can help with this and do wonders to maintain your child’s academic edge by avoiding summer learning loss. More than that, by setting aside a little bit of time each day, you can give your child the structure they don’t know they are craving and at the same time, help to make the transition back to school in the fall easier and more successful!
Even a half hour to an hour a day can help to close the summer learning gap and perhaps even put your child in a position to return to school in the fall ready to perform at an even higher level during the upcoming school year. Summer is an ideal time for students of all abilities to strengthen their academic skills well still having plenty of time for unplanned and planned summer fun.

Designated time each day for your child to read.
Fifteen to thirty minutes is all it takes to preserve and strengthen your child’s reading skills. A great way to get your child excited about reading is to schedule trips to the public library to check out books of their own choosing or from their summer reading list. Any reading is good reading and the goal is to make it fun. Some children take to books like fish to water, but others need some encouragement and maybe even an incentive. For these students, you might come up with a reward or recognition system based upon your Child’s particular reading goals. Like many of you, when my boys were young they loved video games (they still do). We took advantage of this passion to create a reading incentive. As a way to limit their screen time, but still allow them some freedom, we gave them the opportunity to “earn” screen time by reading books. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we needed to require some “proof“ of completion and comprehension, but once we got past that hurdle, it worked out really well. As it turns out, our daughter wasn’t much of a video game player, so we came up with inducements and forms of recognition that were more suited to her interests. Use your imagination and tailor a plan to your child, but do try to include smaller and larger goals so there are milestones and rewards along the way. The recognition may be as simple as a sticker on a poster placed on the refrigerator or and ice cream cone or for a really huge accomplishment, like completing a larger goal by difficulty, size or number of books, consider planning a family trip to Storyland or some other favorite attraction.
One of the most important things is you can do to encourage your child to read more is to model reading for your children. Let them see you reading regularly and definitely read together. You might set the alarm and sit down side-by-side together for 15 to 30 minutes. The old adage, “Do as I do, not just as I say” can be one of the most effective means of encouragement towards a love of reading.
Finally, read to your children. Most of us understand the importance of reading to our children when they are young, before they can read for themselves, but studies have shown that continuing to read aloud to our children, beyond the age when they themselves learn to read, can be an important factor in a child’s reading success. More than that, it’s a great way to spend time with your child and take them on adventures without ever leaving your house. Finding a book series appropriate your child’s age level and then reading it together over the course of the summer can be a great way to bond and develop a love for reading. Children who read with their parents will associate that activity with a happy memory and will be more likely to develop a lifelong love of reading and who knows, you may find yourself giggling away to Junie B Jones silly misadventures or looking forward all day to your next installation of Little House on the Prairie, Harry Potter or Wind in The Willows. Visiting the land of children through their books can be fun for everyone.

Don’t Forget Math
Working on just 3 to 4 math problems each day during the summer can keep your child’s mathematical skills intact for when they return to school in the fall. As with reading, make sure that the math you work on is appropriate to your child’s academic development. Also, try to think of math as a fun puzzle or challenge for the day as opposed to a “problem”. Math is everywhere and summer is great time to play with math.
For the very little ones you could use everyday objects to introduce math skills and counting. For example, celery sticks or mini carrots can be used to work on addition, subtraction and even multiplication. Ask your preschooler to help make her snack by putting out a specific number of items on a plate: four pieces of banana, one scoop of peanut butter and two apple slices for example.
For your K-1 (or as appropriate) use these same items as tangible representatives of numbers. For example, set out 6 carrots in pairs of two and ask your child to count them up. Take two carrots away and ask your child to count them again and then be sure to tell them how brilliant they are for having just done an addition AND a subtraction problem!
When your child has mastered adding and subtracting carrots, try multiplying them by placing the same 6 carrots in the same groups of two and asking your child to tell you how many carrots there are when you have two groups of two and then ask how many there are when you have three groups of two. Once again, you will want to share your enthusiasm and praise over your child’s amazing ability to “multiply “. 2 piles of x 2 carrots in each pile=4 carrots and 3 piles x 2 carrots each= 6 carrots!
Once your child has mastered their numbers in written form you can start putting two or three problems on a piece of paper. Younger children usually love this sort of thing when it’s presented as a game or a daily “to do“ that they can proudly check off their calendar.
As your child’s abilities increase you might want to make use of a math workbook or make use of math challenges available on the Internet. Again, you will want to do this based upon the child’s academic level. If you are not familiar with what your child is doing currently for math as school, reach out to your child’s teacher and find out. that way, you can continue on by reinforcing the level of math from the previous school year. Middle Schoolers especially should be working on math every day and it only takes a few minutes to do a few multiplication, division or simple algebra problems.

Keep in mind, you want to find a balance between giving your child a real challenge that tests his or her ability to independently complete these tasks as a measure of self-discipline and accomplishment, without leaving them entirely on their own. A little frustration can spark effort and it feels great to overcome a challenge, but on the other hand, you want to be sure you are there as a net, to help when the difficulty is too great, by giving hints or direction. It won’t take your child long to complete these daily problems, so stay close if you can; it’s a great chance to sit together for a few minutes.

Summer is a Great Prompt for Creative Writing!
There are so many ways to encourage your child to write. Some kids love to journal so you might start the summer off with a new notebook and Pen for just that purpose. Your child can start the day off by writing down their dreams or what about finishing the day by journaling about what they did that day?
Letter writing, either in the form of an email, or better yet, handwritten (to practice those fine motor skills) can be a great way to work on writing skills while also encouraging your children to reach out to family and friends. Each week your child could write a letter to one person; a grandparent, teacher, friend or even someone famous. For younger children it’s usually best to pick someone who will provide them with a reply or at least an excited response. There are many places you can write and receive free things in reply, like stickers or other items. (We will list some ideas for you elsewhere) Remember, it is never too early to begin writing. For the youngest students, not yet able to write you can help by taking their letter in dictation and then have them sign the letter; seeing their words take form with your help can be so exciting!
For older students, capable of writing paragraphs or more, you might try sparking your child’s creative ideas by providing him or her with a weekly “prompt “.
For example:
The funniest thing I ever saw was….
The place I’d most like to visit is…. and explain why
I get really angry when…
I can’t help laughing when…
The best piece of technology every invented is…
The technology I wish was never invented is…
I am happiest when I….
Come up with your own!
Another fun idea is to do a “mad lib” type story with the whole family. You can start the story with a paragraph of your own creation, but be sure to leave it hanging- for example:
“The noise grew louder and louder until……”
“all at once I knew I needed to….”
“and then I realized it was….”
“when I rounded the corner I….”
Then pass the story on and ask each family member to do the same adding a paragraph with a cliffhanger at the end. You could do one round or several and then get together for a reading of your creation; it’s sure to be a laugh.
Finally, consider including poetry into your summer reading and writing assignments. Have your child read a few poems by different poets, read poems from different genres or styles (your librarian might be a good resource if you feel stuck) and then ask your child to pick a style and write his or her own poem.

Music and Art- it’s everywhere and a great way to build brain power
Certainly, some people have a gift for music or art, just like others have an affinity for reading, math or athletics, but you don’t have to be a prodigy or a master to get the benefits of an education that includes music and art. We know from Research that the developing child’s brain benefits from practice and exposure to art and music. These activities stimulate and develop parts of the brain that are then used for other purposes. The practice and exposure to these activities will be beneficial for every child in ways you may not yet know, so don’t forget to incorporate music and art wherever you can.
If you’re lucky enough to have access to a teacher, lessons or a camp that offers music or art that’s one way to incorporate these activities into your child summer. However, Music and Art are everywhere; and a pack of Crayons, a two-dollar package of watercolors, or a pair of scissors and glue could be all your child needs to become an artist this summer.
Likewise, Music can be created with instruments big and small, traditional and not so traditional. You don’t have to have a piano in the house or even a formal instrument, (although that would be great!). Young children can put on a “concert” by gathering household objects and “playing“ your pots and pans, ringing glasses filled with different levels of water or by finding different tones in everyday objects you can find around the house.
Try playing a beat and asking your child to repeat it or ask your child to make a beat twice as fast as yours. After that start with rhythms by playing two beats followed by one, followed by three and repeat. You can alter the level of volume from forte (louder) to Piano (softer), outside is a great place for the Forte! For older children, computers and the Internet can provide opportunities to listen to and recognize relationships between different genres of music like classical, jazz, blues, hip hop, techno, Indi, folk and reggae. Free applications can be downloaded to allow your child to play an instrument and even compose music.
We have only hit the tip of the learning iceberg ideas. We will post about ideas for science learning in another blog. The idea is to keep in mind that while the summer is an important time away from school, it doesn’t have to mean a complete hiatus from learning. With just a small amount of time, a little planning and a dose of creativity, you can create an amazing learning environment in your own home that will give your child the best opportunity to make a great start come fall.

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