Monday, October 02, 2023

Avoiding the summer slide

by MARK FISK / Contributing Writer
| June 1, 2023 1:00 AM

As an educator, I worry about the summer slide. This term refers to the learning loss most students experience over summer break. Like so many of us, students also suffer from the “use it or lose it” effect. As parents and guardians, what can you do to not only minimize the summer slide, but to keep your children learning through the long car rides, camping trips, family vacations, and barbecues of summer?

Be a model — Model being a lifelong learner for your children. Let them see you read, learn, and grow. Let them see you learn a new language, practice a musical instrument, or improve your photography skills. Children need to see their parents try, fail, try again, and, eventually, succeed at new things. Model a curiosity that prompts you to learn new things, then persevere in them.

Make learning convenient — Can your children easily find a piece of paper, crayons or colored pencils, and other supplies for hands-on activities? Make sure that your home is a positive environment with a dedicated place for your children to explore. Make resources like books, games, puzzles, and art supplies convenient to find and use. This will mean more time doing and less time looking for supplies and a place to use them.

Beyond Books — Stories are wonderful, but much of what we read as we grow up are informational texts. Look for opportunities for your children to read maps, recipes, bus or flight schedules, instruction manuals, charts, graphs, newspapers, museum placards, or even historical/geographical signs on the side of the roads. Have them explain to you what they’ve learned in their own words. Reading books is a given, but make sure your children are reading their world too.

Audiobooks — Speaking of stories, listening to audiobooks can be a great way to keep the mind sharp during those summer car trips or even for just keeping cool in the summer heat. Ideally done while following along in print, listen to a chapter as a family, then discuss it. Ask questions about plot, characters, setting, and other elements of the story. How does the author paint a picture with words? Define unfamiliar words by looking them up in the dictionary. Pick one and make it your “Word of the Day” by incorporating it into your conversations. Encourage your children to make predictions about what is going to happen in the story next, then listen more to see if their predictions come true.

Number sense — Don’t neglect math. Summer is a great time to involve your children in learning about budgeting, shopping, investing, all of which involve math. Explain how even a small jump in the price of gas or diesel can impact a family’s finances over hundreds of gallons. For teens, consider an online course on personal financial management from one of the several prominent financial advisors. Planetariums, museums, and numerous websites can make math visible and exciting.

Play together — Games like: Chess, Sudoku, and Mastermind can be used to increase number sense, logic, deductive reasoning, and strategic thinking. Perplexors are great tools for teaching deductive reasoning. Mancala, an African stone game, can be used to help with counting and basic math facts. Blokus can be used to teach spatial relationships. Quarto, a game invented by a Swiss mathematician, can be used to teach strategic thinking. Playing games together also teaches patience, persistence, problem solving, and personal communication skills.

Learning loss during the summer slide is a concern, but it isn’t inevitable. Parents and guardians have a critical role in ensuring their children return to school in the fall ready to learn.

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Mark Fisk is the principal at Boundary County Middle School. This article is part of a regular column by Boundary County School District 101 officials.

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