Teacher Voice

Don’t Fall Into the Summer Slide: A Teacher’s Tips for Summer Learning

In the summer of 2011, the National Basketball Association entered their fourth lockout in league history. The players union and league ownership could not agree on a collective bargaining agreement, which delayed the start of season by nearly two months. During the lockout, many professional players began wearing shirts with a defiant slogan: “Basketball never stops.” Players wore these shirts as they played in several start-up leagues around major cities. Their concept was clear—nothing would stop them from playing basketball. I think this same message should be embraced by every student approaching a summer without classes: “Learning never stops.” What we now know through years of studies is that if students are not engaged in learning activities over the summer, they could lose up to two months of skills, with lower income students possibly losing more. This phenomenon is known as the  summer slide. But the summer slide lasts longer than a season. In my experience, most Septembers I’ve had to re-teach skills that students previously mastered. The summer slide is not inevitable. Here are some solutions that can help to slow down or even prevent the summer slide.
  1. Explore your world. Take time with your child to tour local landmarks. As you observe them, ask open-ended questions to gauge your child’s ideas. Every visit can be an opportunity for learning. If you happen to live near a major city, take advantage of opportunities to visit museums or the zoo. Even if your child has seen them before, their perspective tends to change which makes each experience different.
  2. Engage in reading. The skill that perhaps is in the most danger of being reduced during the summer is reading. Students go from having to read multiple texts every day to then reading at their leisure. There are several incentive programs from publishers such as Scholastic that encourage reading groups. Setting aside time each day to read a book together as a family, can be incredibly beneficial for a child. Parents should find books related to topics their children are passionate about. Finally, parents can assign weekly book reports that engage their children, incorporating the Internet as well as recording their book reports.
  3. Enjoy what’s new. People learn the most when all of their senses are stimulated. Nothing stimulates the senses like a new experience. There is a lot of potential learning that can occur from just visiting a new area in your city or arranging a play date with your child’s new friends. Novelty is a natural bridge to tapping into areas of your brain where new skills and points of information can be stored and developed. Try having your child learn a new language, memorize and recite a series of quotes or learn a new athletic skill. Their brains will thank you.
Initiating summer learning activities for your child addresses possible skill loss and reinforces the idea that learning is not confined by location, time or practice; learning is a lifestyle.  
Josh Parker is a compliance specialist in the Office of Title I of Baltimore County Public Schools and is the 2012 Maryland Teacher of the Year.

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