What We’re Doing to Combat the Summer Slide

Parents, have you heard about summer learning loss, the summer slump, or the summer slide? Does what you’re hearing make you worry about what you need to do with your children over the summer to ensure they start a new school year fresh and ready to go, especially after such a strange finish to the most recent school year? Are you trying to do ALL THE THINGS to make this happen? Read on for a little info about summer learning loss, as well as what we’re doing in our house to keep skills up in fun and natural ways!

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All kinds of reading count as reading!

Though the summer slide research is mixed and much of it is dated, here is a little info for you:

*Many students do indeed lose some academic skills over the summer, though the amount of loss varies (largely correlated to socio-economic class).

*Loss of skills can happen in both reading and math. That said, we most often associate this slide with reading and attribute it to lack of time reading in the summer.

*Some research has found that all it takes is reading 4-8 age-appropriate books over the summer to maintain reading skills!

*The biggest study on summer learning loss was completed in 1996, and most studies have focused on early elementary students.

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So, what are we doing in our house to combat the summer slide? Here’s a hint— we’re not changing much!

*We’re still reading, a lot! We’re trying to stay consistent with our read-aloud time (during one or two meals a day and before bed — see my “90 Books for 90 Days of Summer” book list (you can find the 2019 list here and the 2020 list here!) if you need inspiration!). We’ve got time each day for the girls to read whatever they want independently. And we’re trying to do a better job of modeling our own independent reading as adults.

*Though our library is still closed for in-person visits, I’ll be requesting lots of library books for curbside pickup! And, in the past, we’ve always tried to visit the library once a week, so we’ll do that if our library reopens. Yes, for the most part, I let the girls check out whatever they want with their own library cards (you can check out a series of posts I did with tips for using the library from early Sept. 2018 if you need library visit help!).

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*We signed up for the summer reading program at our local library. Most libraries and bookstores have summer reading programs with fun incentives, and it’s not too late to check it out if you missed signing up!

*We’re still listening to audiobooks— in the car, during quiet time, and for a few minutes after stories and before bed.

*Our standard writing materials (clipboards, paper, pencils, pens, markers, staplers, etc) are always available, writing time is age-appropriate and child-driven, and we’re celebrating what they’ve written when they choose to write instead of correcting it.

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*We’re trying to write lots of letters and postcards to friends. I’ve got a whole post about our favorite letter-writing books if you want to do a mini letter-writing unit with your kids. After all, everyone loves to get mail!

*We’ve started a Conversation Journal with our oldest. This is simply a notebook that she picked out where we can write letters back and forth. There are no requirements here— she writes to us when she wants to, and we will always respond. My friend Theresa from Literacy in Motion recently posted about a Words of Affirmation conversation journal that she does with her oldest, so we may try to use this idea with our conversation journal, too.

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*We’re playing games! Some of our favorite games that also happen to provide practice with learning skills include Sleeping Queens, Katamino, Pattern Play, Make 7,  Tiny Polka Dot, and Alphabet Go Fish.

*We’re trying to give our girls cash to pay for things themselves, so they count out money to pay and receive actual change.

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*The girls have access every day to building materials, such as wooden blocks, Legos, magnetic tiles, and pattern blocks. Building helps to develop both spatial awareness and motor skills!

*We’re trying to spend time exploring outside. There’s a lot of science to be talked about if you stop to notice it!

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*We’re trying to give the girls opportunities to choose things to cook, help make a grocery list and shop for groceries, and help cook dinner or treats (our youngest LOVES to bake!). Reading recipes and measuring ingredients provide terrific opportunities to practice reading and math skills!

*We’ve got lots of free time for art and creative process work. Both of our girls LOVE sticker mosaic books (I did a post about some of our favorite sticker mosaic books here, and this summer we’ve been working through this more advanced book… It’s been nice to have one that takes a little more time!). Yes, these sticker books aren’t open-ended, which is my preference for anything arts and crafts, but they’re chock full of letter or number recognition, problem solving, fine motor, planning and sequencing, problem solving skills, and more! We also always have markers, crayons, water-color paints, and plain paper available, in addition to our “special” materials that we bust out other times.

*The girls also have lots of free time to play creatively. They love open-ended dress-up materials like scarves and have put on many shows already this summer! Our oldest is also enjoying playing with our Ikea dollhouse, and our youngest has taken every baby we own into her room to read to them and put them to bed when she takes naps. The benefits of pretend play for language development are numerous!

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*We’re continuing with our Family Focus character trait work each month. Be sure to check out June’s booklist for books to inspire wild creativity (chosen very intentionally for a summer month!, and then continue to follow along for our July and August booklists!

If you’ve followed along for a while, you’re probably not surprised by any of these ideas, as these are largely the same ways we support learning during the school year.

Yes, I know statistics about summer learning loss can seem scary, but I also believe that if children engage in reading, writing, and math in natural, fun, and stress-free ways, amazing practice can happen!

And, please note that many of our efforts above have the word “trying” in them… It is summer, after all! Schedules change, things happen, and we want to be flexible and full of grace with ourselves!

So, what about you? What is “learning” looking like in your house this summer?

For more information, visit:

https://www.nwea.org/blog/2018/summer-learning-loss-what-we-know-what-were-learning/

https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/10.7249/mg1120wf.10.pdf

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2018/10/resilience_in_summer_learning_gap.html

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