We have all heard of the phrase "use it or lose it" – the notion that knowledge or skills that are rarely applied are likely to be lost over time. That is especially true for students over the summer. Research shows that kids typically experience learning losses over the summer, including a drop in standardized testing scores and a decline in computational skills. Some students, especially lower-income children, also lose reading skills over the summer. One study found that unequal access to summer learning opportunities accounts for more than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income students.
Below are some strategies that teachers can use to mitigate the so-called "summer slide" in student achievement. While this list focuses on reading, some of the ideas below can be adapted for other academic subjects.
Literary 'scavenger hunt'
Create a reading challenge for kids. Make a list of different types of books for kids to read over the summer, such as:
- A book that is the first in a series
- A book about a place you would like to visit
- A book about a famous American.
The possibilities are nearly limitless. Scholastic.com has resources for kids, parents and teachers to encourage reading over the summer, including a summer reading challenge where students can join in with other readers from across the country.
When your students leave for the summer, send them home with a bingo sheet, where each square lists a different reading achievement, such as:
- "I read a picture book,"
- "I read a story about two friends,"
- Or "I read a non-fiction book."
Have your students return the bingo card to you during the first week of school in the fall for a small prize.
Have your students do a few book reports over the summer, or write a few sentences in response to questions such as "Do you prefer reading fiction or non-fiction, and why?" "What was your favorite book to read this summer?" Alternatively, you could give your students a few index cards and ask them to send you a postcard explaining what they are reading this summer.
Most likely, you have one or two students who you have identified as most at-risk for learning losses. Stay in touch with these kids' parents over the summer, e-mailing them every few weeks to see how their child is doing and providing reading tips.
Summer reading kit
Send your students home with a summer reading kit with a mix of fun and educational items. You can put almost anything in the kit, but some ideas include:
- A reading club "membership card" where you must read three times a week in order to maintain your membership.
- A "do not disturb" sign to hang on the door, only to be used when a child is reading.
- A small journal to write about the books they read
- A certificate for being a great reader during the summer break.
The "summer slide" can be an obstacle for teachers to help kids realize their potential, but following these tips can help ensure that kids maintain good reading habits throughout the summer.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.