University of Findlay Education Expert: How to Combat “Summer Slide”
“Summer Slide” is described as a student’s loss of knowledge during the months of summer break. Although variability exists in the data collected on this phenomenon, one recent study reported that the average student lost 17-34% of the prior year’s learning gains during summer break (Atteberry, A. & McEachen, A., 2018, p. 16). Mary Heather Munger, Ph.D. is an associate professor of education at the University of Findlay and says, “Summer slide is real. It is well documented that students can lose ground over the long break.”
The question then becomes: How can parents and students help to prevent the loss of knowledge during summer break? Some people look to workbooks and flashcards to keep kids learning, but Munger suggests something different. “I advocate looking at summer break as an excellent opportunity to use play to keep skills fresh and learn new things to combat any learning loss,” she says. Munger encourages families to focus on engaging in age-appropriate learning activities with their kids several times a week.
“I would be less concerned about structuring time where a specific outcome is desired (20 minutes of supervised silent reading) and more concerned with consistently communicating and learning,” said Munger.
- Reading to kids helps improve their vocabulary, build their background knowledge, and provide a fluent model of oral reading. Playing with the sounds and letter combinations in words, by putting them together and taking them apart can help develop decoding and listening skills as well as help build their understanding of how English words are structured. Reading with kids is a valuable activity too! Allowing them time to read to themselves gives them valuable practice; talking about the story after silent reading encourages reflection and holds them accountable for what they read in a positive way. Approach reading as a treat rather than a chore.
- Get kids writing just about anything; lists for shopping, notes for family members and neighbors, emails to friends, songs, poems, jokes, and recipes.
- Discussing current events, how things work, and the lessons illustrated in the television shows and movies you watch together as well as the stories, books, and articles you read together. Conversation builds oral vocabulary, listening skills, and practice with self-expression.
- Calculating and solving money-related problems like estimating the costs of snacks, budgeting for summer outings, or any other expenses helps kids apply mathematical concepts. Measuring and problem-solving issues related to projects around the house or yard is also great practice for applying math. Identifying wants vs. needs for kids’ personal budgets and teaching them about savings can also be good learning experiences.
- Exploring libraries, museums, parks, and historical landmarks to develop background knowledge and to provide opportunities to share thoughts and insights about nature, historical events, ideas, and points of view.
- Spending time experimenting and creating can increase background knowledge and sharpen observational skills to help with science and creativity.
- Observing adults engaged in reading, learning, and voicing their curiosities provides a positive model for kids and helps them see the value of growing as thinkers.
“Learning in authentic contexts is powerful! Keep it fun, keep it consistent, keep it real, and kids will head back to school in good shape, ready to tackle another academic year,” said Munger.
Atteberry, A. & McEachen, A. (2018). School’s out: The role of summers in understanding achievement disparities. American Educational Research Journal 58(2), 239–282.