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Avoiding the Summer Slide

Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators

Date Posted: 5/29/2018

School’s out for the summer. Time for students and educators alike to take a breather. But relaxers beware: “Summer slide,” also known as “brain drain,” is lurking around the corner. While its name may be catchy, summer slide is serious business.
What is summer slide? Simply, summer slide is the term for the learning and skills loss that occurs during the break between school years. The effects of summer loss are tremendous. Research has shown that as much as two months of math and reading skills are lost over the course of the summer. The loss is often so great that teachers have to spend six weeks in the fall re-teaching old material to their students.
The effects of summer learning loss worsen as years go by, causing students who experience it to fall further behind—and summer learning loss is even worse for low-income children. According to Scholastic, the summer slide accounts for as much as 85 percent of the reading achievement gap between lower-income students and middle- to upper-income students.
We know what you’re thinking: This blog post is starting to feel like a drain on my brain, so is there anything I can do to help my students and their families combat this? Luckily, there’s plenty of good news on that front, and the first step toward protecting against learning loss starts with school districts. According to a reading report by Scholastic, parents say that teachers and schools are their No. 1 source of information about this issue.
So, how do we fight back? Here’s a few ideas to get you—whether you’re a principal, teacher, or parent—started. 
  • Plan out summer activities to give to students and parents ahead of time. We don’t want to use the word “assign” in case it makes students groan, but districts should use the opportunity to plan summer learning activities ahead of time and then pass them out to students at the end of the year—whether it’s a reading contest, math scavenger hunt, or even a flier about summer learning loss.
  • Encourage students to read up to five books over the summer. Reading keeps children’s brains active. Studies have shown that reading just five books can protect a student from learning loss. Help children find books they enjoy by promoting trips to the library, participating in book clubs, and taking books on trips and vacations. Reading in the morning is also a great way to take advantage of the schedule your child is used to during the school year. And, parents, make sure your child sees you reading! Reading can be a fun family activity.
  • Visit your local library. Your community’s local library may be your biggest ally in combating brain drain. Not only is it your best source for books, but many libraries schedule events through the summer to showcase the importance of a love for reading. Reading programs and contests often include prizes—just for reading!
  • Participate in writing activities. Writing and spelling can fall by the wayside over the summer, too, so why not encourage creative writing tasks? Research pen pal projects your student could get involved in, or have your child write a story about their day. Involve the whole family by encouraging every member to write a story.
  • Stay active. Regular physical exercise means increased concentration and improved math scores. Getting in the recommended one hour of physical activity each day can be fun and easy during the summer. Walk, run, and play with your child/student. Enroll in a summer sports league. Scout out your town’s local parks or make walking the dog a family affair.
  • Practice math. Incorporate real-life problem-solving scenarios and let kids help you compare grocery prices, calculate gas mileage, or simply follow a dinner recipe. Another great idea is to go outside and find interesting rocks (this works well for younger kids); you can then add the rocks, subtract them, or simply put them in a line from smallest to largest.
  • Find a summer camp. Consider sending your child on a mini vacation to summer camp. There are usually learning opportunities for kids in church, Scouts, or other camps. Day camps are also a good option for busy families with younger children. Check with your local parks and recreation office or YMCA.
And that’s just to start! What do you like to do to combat summer learning loss?
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