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Chicago

3 Ways to Beat the Winter Slide and #KeepKidsLearning

With barely 1 in 4 Chicago Public School students able to read at grade level, the winter holidays can pose additional educational challenges for students and potentially lead to a further dip in test scores. In recent years, the “summer slide,” also known as summer learning loss, has been grabbing attention in the headlines, and rightfully so. A Johns Hopkins Study found when low-income students are on summer vacation, they “lose more than two months in reading achievement.” However, parents, teachers and students should also not be quick to overlook the “winter slide,” a period of time when students are away from school and can lose or forget the information they’ve learned. It takes collective effort to reinforce the lessons learned in the classroom. Similar to summer learning loss, winter learning loss tends to have a greater impact on students who might have less access to scholastic resources at home. The holidays are a great break from classes for students and teachers alike, but this time does not have to be a discontinuity from learning. To help alleviate the possible loss caused in winter sliding, here are three resources for parents and students to take advantage of this winter.  
  1. Online Educational Resources There are countless online educational resources available with a quick Google search and the click of a button. Giving your child supervised time on the computer or your smartphone can open a world of learning opportunities. Khan Academy is one of many websites with a wealth of information and free video lessons. Students can select subjects that interest them at their grade level and watch short lessons from home. This is a vital resource for parents who are unable to help out with advanced courses or may not remember their calculus lessons from high school. For families who can’t make it to one of Chicago’s many museums, The Smithsonian Learning Lab and the Disability History Museum allow students to explore a digital collection of exhibits and learning materials.
  2. The Public Library The Chicago Public Libraries tend to be an underrated and underutilized resource. Visiting your local library is a productive way to occupy free time and is a helpful service for children who do not have access to wireless internet or computers at home. Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the library is a hub for scheduled book clubs, science fair preparation, and writing workshops. With hundreds of books to choose from, computer access and a warm place to sit and read, the library is a haven for educational opportunities.
  3. At-Home Activities Students can access a variety of learning resources in the comfort of their own home, without stepping outside the front door. It can be as simple as having your child multiply or add fractions in the kitchen while you are making a favorite holiday recipe or quickly making flashcards to memorize spelling rules, state capitols and math solutions. Getting a small dosage of math, writing and reading everyday at home helps students engage in valuable learning experiences outside the walls of the classroom. To practice math, playing a board game like Monopoly encourages children to exercise their addition and subtraction skills with money, and can double as a holiday present. Children can take turns playing the banker and ensuring that everyone is receiving the correct amount of change. Other math-focused board games include Sum Swamp, Sumoku and Connect Four. For writing, you can give your child three random words (e.g. telephone, cotton candy, hippopotamus), and have him or her practice spelling by writing a story involving those three words. This not only engages writing abilities, but critical and creative thinking as well. Increasing reading comprehension can be as simple as incorporating 10 to 20 minutes of reading practice during the day for quiet time or right before bed.
Before students head out for the holiday break, City Year Chicago corps members prepare and distribute packets with education-based activities to keep their students engaged and motivated while they are on vacation as an additional resource. It is imperative to keep the minds of our youth constantly working to steer them towards success. Instruction time for students is vital, and any extended break from school should be supplemented with exposure to continued learning opportunities. While our dedicated teachers are taking a much-deserved break from the classroom, learning can continue at home so students don’t fall behind in their academic efforts and enjoy a well-rounded holiday.
Rebeca Nieves Huffman is the executive director of City Year Chicago, an education-focused nonprofit equipped with 230 AmeriCorps members aiding over 13,000 students across 26 of the Chicago’s highest-need public schools.

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