How to Avoid the Summer Slide
What Is “Summer Slide?”
You might have heard the alliterative and scary term “summer slide” used more and more frequently in the lead up to this summer. Maybe other parents in your student’s class have been whispering frantically about avoid it, or you’ve seen it used fatalistically in some blog post. But what is this scary term? How do you get your child to avoid it?
“Summer Slide” refers to an observable tendency in students to lose some of the progress they’ve made over the course of the school year during the three months of summer vacation. (1) Studies are somewhat split over how much, with some saying that students lose as much as one month of school learning over the summer, and other finding much less strong correlations. (2) However, on a general level, it is understood that summer learning loss occurs.
“Summer Slide” it is a scary term for a somewhat obvious idea. If your child takes three months off from doing any sort of work, they will become rusty and lose their progress. It would be the same for any other skill, be it basketball or watercolor painting.
Furthermore, those extreme studies that find that students are losing a month of learning are assuming a summer of nothing but video games. Certainly, your child should have ample opportunity to play and relax during their summer vacation, but whatever the “Summer Slide” actually is can be easily avoided by simply doing some remediation and work over the summer!
Naturally, this is not an easy pitch for kids. Here are the best practices for encouraging the right type of summer work, and avoiding the dreaded “summer slide.”
As you might have gathered from the first article in this newsletter (link) summer reading is by far the most important way to keep the progress that your child made during the school year going through the summer months. Reading strengthens the parts of the brain associated with memory retention and learning. Reading even grows other parts of the brain as well. In fact, reading has been linked to lower levels of depression and anxiety.
During the summer, reading can take many helpful forms. Reading for pleasure should be highly encouraged. Reading school books is great, but your child taking the initiative to choose and read a book they love has all those benefits, plus raising their confidence and nurturing a healthy imagination. Again, for some good reading suggestions, see our official summer reading list! (link)
Don’t Forget Math:
Many of those pesky studies have shown that students are far less susceptible to losing progress in math than in reading and writing. (3) However, this does not mean that math shouldn’t be worked on! But it might be helpful to have it take a slightly different form than during the school year. Many teachers and educators suggest finding a way to integrate math into daily activities. It keep kids using that part of their brain in a way that avoid the “gross, school in the summer” mindset. Examples of these activities include, cooking using a recipe with a lot of measurements, or a science experiment such as making slime. Gardening is also an excellent tool for reinforcing geometric concepts . (4)
More traditional math can be helpful as well, especially if it is focused on remediation. Summer is an excellent time to work back on the basic building blocks of math. Many students who struggle with math during the school year are doing so because they are missing some key skills from early on in their math careers. Math is like a tower of blocks; each level is built on the previous level.
Let it Get Creative:
We just discussed how making math fun can battle against the summer slide, but encouraging creativity is great advice for all aspects of summer work. Instead of books reports and other more standard writing work, consider giving your child some creative prompts to write on. This facilitates writing skills and encourages an active imagination. You can also encourage your child to do other creative projects, such as drawing. Drawing has been shown to help build up the neural pathways in the brain that work on attention, which has incredible benefits for academic work, and life as a whole. (5)
Schedule It Out:
This is excellent advice for the school year as well, but it can take on even greater importance in the lazy summer months. If you and your child take the time to schedule out the time that you are going to spend on the summer remediation work, it will help them take ownership of the work, in the same way they do during the school year. It also helps show them that it isn’t that much time! If they resist because they don’t want to be taking up their whole summer with work, show them on the schedule that the hour or so of work they’ll do is a fraction of their day! They can certainly take the time to stay on track in school in fun, engaging ways, and still take advantage of all the beautiful freedom that summer can offer.