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“Sliding” into Summer

Submitted by jreid on

The countdown has begun to the official end of the school year. With less than a week to go, the students are abuzz with anticipation for summer vacation. And how can you blame them? They have been working hard all year in their classes, on the sports fields and in the arts, with this week being particularly busy with end-of-year assessments and summative projects. There is no doubt that our students (and teachers alike!) are looking forward to some well-deserved R&R.

Summer vacation brings with it a wealth of opportunities. It is a time for students to recharge and move away from a fully structured school day to more sleep-ins and free time. Students can pursue personal interests, spend more time with family and friends and potentially travel. For our Grade 8 students in particular, it can be a chance to volunteer and collect community service hours, or to further develop key life skills such as cooking, cleaning and managing money – remember, post-secondary education and adulthood is just four years away!

With so many positives, it’s hard to imagine any drawbacks to two consecutive months off of school. But there can be. Learning loss, disruption of routine, social isolation and risk of boredom are all potential factors that can have academic, social and emotional effects on students.

The “summer slide,” as it is often called, is the regression in learning faced by students during the summer months. It is a topic that has often garnered attention and even debate by parents and teachers alike. There are, however, statistics to back up the slide. A study from the American Educational Research Journal found that the average student, between Grade 1 and 7, lost 17% to 34% of the prior year’s learning gains. Other research has revealed that students’ achievement scores, on average, declined over summer vacation by one full month of learning. Math losses were more defined than reading, with the effect of the loss being more significant at the higher grade levels.

Thus begins the art of juggling – how can students reap the restorative benefits of a summer off while also counteracting the natural effects of the summer slide? While there is no magic recipe that fits all students, families and schedules, here are a few daily suggestions that can help your child stay in the learning zone to help them re-enter the classroom in September with gains rather than losses:

  1. Read EVERY day: Keeping up a daily reading routine is one of the best ways to stay ahead of the curve. Here in the Junior School, we recommend families follow the Summer Reading Bingo created by our teacher librarian in order to keep the enjoyment of reading going strong.
  2. Find opportunities for math in day to day life: From baking, to shopping, to dining out, have your child explore numbers in their daily lives through conversations and hands-on activities.
  3. Go to museums, parks and other enriching environments: Not only is this a great way to make memories together, but being in these spaces keeps children engaged, has them asking questions and learning through conversation.
  4. Experiment/build/create: There’s nothing better than a homemade volcano with vinegar and baking soda, a roller coaster made out of popsicle sticks and straws, or a paper maché monster. Students love to experiment, be creative and build, and, oftentimes, there are plenty of resources already in your home. For older students, woodworking crafts such as washer games and birdhouses are always fun.
  5. Play games: Whether it is a board game, cards or bocce ball in the yard, find a fun activity to do as a family. Games help students make decisions, cooperate and streamline their focus, all skills that can transfer into any school subject.
  6. Promote outdoor play: As Jonathan Haidt, author of The Anxious Generation, suggests, play should ideally be outdoors, in mixed age groups, with little or no adult supervision. Haidt is all about giving children back some independence, free play and responsibility outdoors, in the real world. Surprisingly, there is a lot of learning that can come from this.

By incorporating any or all of these tips, your child will inevitably decrease the amount of “slide” accrued over the summer and be ready to tackle a new academic year in September with confidence. We hope you and your family have a wonderful break together and we look forward to seeing students back on campus in September!

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