Summer is here and so is everything that comes with it – warm weather, longer days, and of course, students out of school. Perhaps more dreaded by teachers than a sunburn is what is referred to as the “summer slide.” Research has shown that students can lose up to one month of learning over the summer months (McCombs et al., 2011)! Often this means that teachers must spend the first few weeks of school, if not more, re-teaching what students have lost over the summer (Conan, Fairchild, & Cunningham, 2011). It does not stop there: low-income students are significantly more affected by the summer slide than their peers (McCombs et al., 2011), and the effect can be cumulative and contribute to the achievement gap over time (Donohue, 2013).
Summer is not all bad news! It is a great time to break from the usual routine of a school day and give students the opportunity to explore hobbies and build new skills (Conan, Fairchild, & Cunningham, 2011). Many school districts provide low-cost summer learning opportunities to students. Research by McCombs et al. (2015) showed that students who consistently attended voluntary summer programs run by their school district had improvement in math achievement. In addition to district-run summer programs, there are also many community-based organizations that provide field trips and learning opportunities (Conan, Fairchild, & Cunningham, 2011) which can provide students with experiences they may not otherwise have.
It does not take a field trip to keep students engaged. Even if students are not able to attend a district or community-run summer program, there are still ways to help them learn over the summer. One study showed that decreases in reading skills could be significantly diminished by simply providing low-income students with the opportunity to choose and bring home books over the summer (Kelly & Aligne, 2015). NOVA and PBS also suggest many ways in which students can connect with math and science during the summer. The ideas provided are as varied as practicing a musical instrument to using online games to build science, technology, engineering, and math skills (Bouquet, 2014). Visit the PBS webpage to learn more.
While summer may be a time for students to relax and unwind, it does not have to mean that students lose what they learned during the school year. It is not too late to make an impact! Providing students with engaging activities and opportunities to read and practice skills can help negate the summer slide in both reading and mathematics.