Hello friends, parents, educators, and future scholars!
So, as the summer is closing in on us quicker and quicker, I would like to address a known problem in education, the dreaded Summer Slide! I'm going to start this blog post off a little differently; with a quick definition of the term "Summer Slide." I believe this is important for establishing what exactly I aim to offset. I'm also a firm believer of "don't fix what ain't broken" so here is the definition from Wikipedia.org, along with some compelling data to back it up:
Summer learning loss is the loss in academic skills and knowledge over the course of summer vacation. The loss in learning varies across grade level, subject matter, and family income. A common finding across numerous studies is that on average, students score lower on standardized tests at the end of the summer than they do at the beginning of summer (on the same test). Summer loss for all students is estimated to be equal to about 1 month (Cooper 1996), but this varies across subject matter:
- Mathematics - 2.6 months of grade-level equivalency loss
- Reading- Varies across SES. Low income students generally lose about 2 months of reading achievement. Middle income students experience slight gains in reading performances.
For over a century, scholars have recognized that summer vacation is a period when students’ rate of academic development declines relative to the school year. All children lose academic skills during the summer months, and family socioeconomic status (SES) is highly correlated to the level of academic growth or decline in the summer months. Two-thirds of the academic achievement gap in reading and language found among high school students has been explained through the learning loss that occurs during the summer months of the primary school years.
So, now that we know what the summer slide is, how do we prevent it from happening? Well, luckily for us there are many resources to help us come up with a strategy for further cementing and even making gains on the impending loss of skill retention. After all, educators aren't necessarily filling their students' heads with mere information. What makes us professional educators is our ability to impart and/or inspire students to gain valuable life skills. Skills that teachers who inherit these students (including the students you inherit) are not going to have the time to re-assess, re-differentiate, and re-teach. Mind you, the effect is cumulative... so if you're like me and you teach in a high school, these gaps become very apparent the further the student gets into their educational career.
Often during the school year students and teachers alike find themselves without time to invest in anything other than their school work. Parents and teachers should treat the summer like a breathe a fresh air where they can start putting the skills they've acquired to good (and fun) use!
How did I come up with the two organizations on my hand out?
The Brooklyn Cultural Adventure Program, and the 4H Summer Camp are both endeavors that I've found myself participating in at some point in time. This is excellent grounds for suggestion since I've vetted the source in-person. However, if you don't have that luxury then it's important to not only select well known organizations, but ones which appeal to your subject in some way. I'm a high school biology teacher, so an adventure camp that's STEM focused or the 4H club's natural inclination for nature is perfectly suited to supplement what I have taught, and cement that knowledge (or even grow it) over the summer months. Also, I teach in the NYC/NJ area, so that definitely helped to determine what activities I recommended. I'm operating under the assumption that parents still work, and they are mostly looking for weekend day trip ideas or a safe place they can send their kids during the weekdays, or possibly even for a short length of time.
Go On an Adventure!
One of my favorite things in the world to do is to select a state park, preferably one nearby, but not so nearby that I can still hear the taxicabs and jackhammers. I usually bring a book, my laptop, or my headphones (sometimes all three) and I just walk around, day dream, read, and just simply exist. I usually refer to this as "decompression" and I think it's important for kids as well as for their families. Please take a moment to look at the infographic I've taken from the American Psychological Association to substantiate this claim of importance.
How did I come up with the two places on my hand out?
Again, these are places that I enjoy. As I've built a relationship with my students over the course of the year they've grown to trust my opinions when I say that something is "fun". Again, if you don't have that luxury, then it's important that you reach the parents, tell them exactly what it is you propose, and then finally give them as many details as possible. Don't worry about putting all of the information on a hand out like the one I've attached toward the top of the blog post, I'm going to propose a way in which you can maintain contact with parents (if you choose) into the summer and beyond. (Hint: It involves ClassDojo)
Visit Cool Places!
Finally, to complete what I see as the trifecta of skill retention this last proposition is a little bit like the first two, but a more specific experience. For example, on my hand out I've suggested that students and their families go to the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, NJ. this one has obvious benefits, the science center has educational activities, an IMAX theater, a professional scientific staff, hands-on learning, etc. There are even common-core aligned activities for students when they get to the science center, and educators to provide help. The sad thing is, unless I point it out to parents, they might not even think to visit. Or if they did, they might not know the wealth of the experience they can get. It's a classic case of "you don't know what you don't know." Oh and by the way, the Liberty Science Center also has Open Heart Surgery screenings in their theater-sized auditorium... seriously, look around at centers like this, or this one. There is more than meets the eye with regards to what some of these places offer.
The second place I suggested is also STEM-centric since I'm a high school biological sciences teacher. I've chosen an observatory which is open to the public twice a week. This little gem is a rare treat for kids living under the maroon night sky that comes with excessive light pollution. Many people don't know that the research-grade telescope is open to the public twice a week. They have professionals there to help show you around the sky, again this is a gem in the rough with regards to summer skill retention.
Stay in touch!
Last but not least, if you're looking to stay in touch with parents over the summer or if you're a parent and you're looking to stay in touch with your children's teachers over the summer... theres a free tool for you to do just that. It's called ClassDojo Messenger, and I've already written a pretty extensive blog post about it. Here are some ideas for ways that you can help your students and their parents remedy the impending summer slide through ClassDojo Messenger...
- Summer Reading Suggestions
- Software Recommendations
- Help Parents Find Great Educational, and Fun Activities
- Teachers Can Provide Test Prep Resource Recommendation
- Instructors Can Recommend Free Textbook, or E-Books
Here is a little bit about how ClassDojo Messenger works
(in case you didn't click the link to my former blog post):
HOW IT WORKS (IN 5 STEPS):
ClassDojo Messaging is a new feature within ClassDojo’s app on iOS and Android devices
Step 1: Sign up FOR FREE!
Sign up for ClassDojo if you haven't already. (iPhone and Android versions are available as well)
Step 2: Congratulations, you're done!
You now have ClassDojo Messenger.
(Wasn't that easy?)
Step 3: New Feature
As soon as you log in you're going to see a "New Feature" This is the new ClassDojoMessaging option.
Step 4: Get parents signed up
If parents have already connected with your classroom via the ClassDojo app or through the ClassDojo website, then you can already message them. If not, you can remind them with downloadable Class Code's specific to your classroom.
Step 5: Start building relationships
Now that you've connected with your students and their families, there are some important points to mention.
- Send ‘Direct Messages’ to individual parents
- Send a ‘Broadcast’ message to all the parents in your class
- Know when parents have read your message with ‘Read Receipts’
- Keep your phone number and email address private