Learning Loss Post-Covid: How to Help Kids Beat the Summer Slide
Did you know that each Summer the average student loses up to a third of the material they learned during the school year? Termed the “Summer Slide”, this summer learning loss has only increased in recent years due to the pandemic’s role in school closures and the subsequent transition to online learning. Thankfully, there are some easy ways to overcome this loss and ensure that your kids stay on track for the upcoming school year.
Why Does the Summer Slide Occur?
We all need a break every once in a while, but over time, if you don’t use the skills that you have learned, you will lose them. With most public schools taking an average of 12 weeks off during the summer season, it can be easy to notice declines in learning. Unfortunately, these deficits will become cumulative if your child is not given the chance to regain the information they lost during their summer vacation.
Research reported by Dr. Megan Kuhfeld, a research scientist for the Collaborative for Student Growth at the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), shows that “seventy percent to 78% of students lost ground in math during the summer within the elementary school grades, compared to 62% to 73% of students who lost skills in reading.”
These losses were only exacerbated when coronavirus forced school districts to make the tough decision to close schools and turn to virtual learning. This switch eliminated hands-on learning experiences as well as open discussions that facilitated opportunities for a better understanding of the course material. Moreover, both the summer slide and the COVID slide have been shown to be even greater in low-income families and high school students who find themselves now unprepared for higher education.
Sadly, the cost of online classes is still being felt in the present day, both socially and academically. Harvard researchers note that a lack of classroom education has also led to “a rise in temper tantrums, anxiety, and a poor ability to manage emotions, especially among the young elementary-aged children during remote learning.”
Top Six Ways to Beat the Summer Slide
These factors make educational interventions and opportunities for group learning even more important for your child’s academic future. Here are some of the top ways that students can bolster their academic progress during the Summer months and the academic year.
1. Enroll in Summer Camp
While a stereotypical summer camp gives kids the chance to enjoy time in the great outdoors, there are also programs and workshops that are centered around STEM-based activities that can serve as spectacular learning experiences and be fun at the same time. Attendees can explore topics like robotics, chemistry, forensic science, zoology, space, and so much more! Best of all, these day camps can spark new interests and even introduce your kids to potential career paths.
Additionally, for those folks who live in or near college towns, look into programs offered by the university. Most schools have programs for students in all grade levels ranging from sports camps to music courses and even college preparatory classes.
2. Participate in Summer Book Clubs & Reading Challenges
One of the best ways to improve your child’s language arts and reading skills is to simply sign up for summer reading programs. Most libraries offer these opportunities for little to no cost and many have prizes for the kids who put in the effort. This makes the activity more enticing for the children who were hoping to avoid these types of activities over the summer break.
3. Plan Educational Excursions
Classrooms are one of many student learning environments. Don’t be afraid to branch out from the workbooks and find ways to achieve learning gains outside of the norm. Other forms of enrichment include taking your child to museums, volunteering at various non-profit organizations, working in a community garden, or visiting a national park.
Furthermore, reach out to your local television station and area farms to request a tour. These activities are a fun way to sneak learning into your kid’s vacation and motivate them to learn in unique ways.
4. Work on Math Skills Through Daily Activities
As mentioned, educators have found that achievement gaps are highest in mathematics. Thus, take the time to sneak math lessons into everyday pursuits. Cooking is a fantastic sensory activity that requires the use of addition, subtraction, fractions, ratios, and even the telling of time.
Moreover, board games like Yahtzee and Rummikub call for subitizing, adding, subtracting, and matching. Even time spent in the sandbox can help to bolster your child’s arithmetic skills. Volumes, areas, perimeters, and measuring are all concepts that can be better understood through this type of play. You can also check out websites like Cool Math Games for tons of quick quizzes and activities!
5. Sign Up for After School Activities
Another fantastic way to keep your child’s mind sharp is to sign them up for extracurricular activities that help them to better understand the concepts that they are learning in school and allow them to use these skills in real-world situations. This is exceptionally important for students who are still enrolled in distance learning programs that don’t utilize hands-on teaching methods.
Organizations and businesses like the Boy Scouts of America, Sylvan Learning, and your local Parks and Rec all offer opportunities year-round for supplemental learning. Additionally, research shows that physical activity is associated with better academic outcomes. Therefore, consider enrolling your kids in sports, dance classes, or martial arts programs. Lastly, don’t forget about the arts — cooking classes, pottery, and painting courses, and music lessons can all be a benefit to your kid’s education as well.
6. Take Prep Courses for Standardized Tests
For the high school students who are concerned about their test scores on the SAT and ACT, consider enrolling in prep courses to help shrink those educational gaps and teach them to be a better test taker. These classes can be found in most major cities, but there are also online programs that are available to those who live in more rural areas. These include The Princeton Review and Kaplan.
The Big Picture for COIVD Learning Loss
Paul T. von Hippel, a policy professor at the University of Texas in Austin believes that these losses are not exclusive to the summer months. In fact, in 2019, he postulated that these gaps form before the age of five. He notes that we still have a lot to learn about summer learning loss, but one thing is for certain — “nearly all children, no matter how advantaged, learn much more slowly during summer vacations than they do during the school years. That means that every summer offers children who are behind a chance to catch up.”
In other words, if you are proactive with keeping your children engaged over the summer and limit their screen time, you can better facilitate opportunities for learning, lessen the impact of the summer slide, and help them to better understand concepts that they may have struggled with throughout the school year.
Finally, due to the additional learning loss that occurred thanks to the pandemic, it is more important than ever for parents and educators to be proactive in lessening these achievement gaps and finding new opportunities for learning gains. Therefore, if your child did struggle in certain subjects during the school year, you may also want to hire a tutor. This can give them the individualized attention they need to understand these topics and be better prepared for the material that will build on these concepts in the Fall and Spring semesters.
For even more help kids prepare for the new school year, check out: 3 Ways to Stop Summer Slide During the Pandemic.