School’s out! But learning shouldn’t be.
Around my junior year of college the School of Education at Kansas State University formed an advisory group of 8 faculty members and 2 students. I was one of the students and even though our meetings were at 7 am, I showed up. Dr. Kurtz, one of the professors in the group, was doing a study on the percentage of math skills lost over the summer. He had hired an elementary teacher to help him conduct the study and asked me to be her assistant…..because he knew I would show up. So for two months, 20 or so lucky rising 4th graders met us every morning to play math games. After testing at the end of 3rd grade and the beginning of 4th grade, the students not in the control group lost on an average of 35% of the math skills learned in 3rd grade. Research now says that most students will lose 2.6 months of math skills, especially in computation, no matter what their family income or background is. This is one of the reasons teachers spend 4-6 weeks reviewing at the beginning of each school year.
Research also shows that children of lower income families will lose 2-3 months of reading and spelling skills but middle class children will gain reading skills. Are you thinking the same thing I am? The children gaining reading skills are the same ones who have learned to love books because they have always been a part of their lives. It’s summer and they are still being read to, reading to an adult or reading on their own. Summer reading list…..don’t cringe…..they are designed to keep your child engaged in learning over the summer.
Math is a different story. Not many of us think about math over the summer. We do remember the hours of helping our children learn math facts to pass timed tests during the school year. They know their facts, they should be good to go, right? Depending on the age of the child, probably not. A child in the 6th grade has six years of math skill practice and usage where a child in 2nd grade has only two. I makes sense that the 6th grader will retain more of the information over the summer. Children can “learn” their math facts for a test but if those facts aren’t continually used after the test they are likely to forget a percentage of them even before the school year is over.
Every May at least one parent will ask me if I will be sending home a packet of work for their child to do over the summer. My answer is no. I tell them to do 4 things.
1. Continue listening to your child read at least 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Review any reading wordlists that came home during the year at least once a week. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again…….. the better reader they become the better writer they will be. They see writing styles, adjectives, adverbs, quotation marks, and the list goes on.
2. Math flash cards. If your child is 2nd grader and learned addition and subtraction facts 1-12 in first grade, then that is what they need to review at least once a week. If they are a rising 4th grader, they focus on the facts learned in 3rd grade.
3. Have your child keep a journal where they can write a sentence every day or a story every week. This will help keep punctuation, sentence structure and spelling sharp.
4. Enjoy the summer. You have time to “Stop, Look and Learn “. Add museums and parks to your routine. Take day trips. Widen their world so they have topics to talk and write about. One of our (or maybe just mine) travel activities was for our children to pick out a postcard at every destination we visited that had them. When they were small they dictated a sentence to me to write on the back. When they learned to write, they were in charge of writing their own sentences. If it was a long trip we’d punch a hole in the corner of each one and put them on a binder ring. It was an inexpensive souvenir from each place we visited and they still have them as adults.
Summer is a time to relax but can also be a time to learn. My challenge to you is…………
Will your child get brain food this summer or be a victim of the summer brain drain?