Smart Ways to Spend the Summer: Keep Kids Off “The Summer Slide”

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Third grade teacher Alyssa Call got a bit of a shock when she returned to her classroom last fall and saw the test scores of her students.  She had taught several of the children the year before as a second grade teacher, and she knew their scores had fallen considerably after taking nearly three months off for summer vacation.  It’s a phenomenon so well known that teachers  across the nation refer to it as “the summer slide.”

“It’s just kind of accepted in the teaching world,” says Call.  “Most of us know the students are going to come back in the fall, and they’re not going to be at the level they were when they left in the spring, but it’s still sometimes shocking when you look at their test scores and see just how far they’ve fallen.  The first month of school is usually spent refreshing what they should have remembered.”

Studies confirm what Call and other teachers see in millions of American school kids each fall:

  • The average student loses approximately 2.6 months of grade-level equi valency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months.   (Research compiled for an Association for Public Policy)
    Analysis and Management Conference report.)
  • Teachers typically spend four weeks reteaching or reviewing material that students have forgotten over summer break, according to John Hopkins Center for Summer Learning.
  • Research shows ALL young people experience learning losses when they don’t engage in educational activities during the summer.    (Research compiled for an Association for Public Policy)

“It doesn’t have to be that way,” says Dr. Ken Gibson, author of Unlock the Einstein Inside:  Applying New Brain Science to Wake Up the Smart in your Child.   “Think of it like this:  The brain is like the body.  If you exercise it, you improve it, but if you let it sit idle, it’s going to lose ability.”  To avoid the summer slide, Gibson recommends brain games and exercises that build cognitive skills, the underlying skills needed to learn.

Thirteen-year-old Tyler Walner knows the power of building those cognitive skills.  He was labeled “special needs” and tried more than a dozen reading programs before he took an intensive brain-training course at LearningRx.  His family saw life-changing improvements.

                “Before the training, I would sit right beside him or at least three hours a night making sure he did his homework, and he struggled to get C’s,” says his mom Marti Walner.  “Now, he does it all on his own, in 30 minutes, and he’s got straight A’s.  I’ve got the report card to prove it!”

The best way to build those mental skills quickly and effectively is through an intensive LearningRx brain-training program, says Tanya Mitchell, the LearningRx Director of Training  “With our intense game-like exercises we can see growth of many years in key areas like logic and reasoning, attention, processing speed and auditory processing.  But, to prevent the summer slide, parents and kids can use free, fun games and exercises at home,  in the car, and even online.”

Here are just a few of the free and fun brain-training games Mitchell recommends:

  • Mental Tic Tac Toe (helps Attention, Logic and Reasoning, and Working Memory):  Similar to traditional Tic Tac Toe, this game uses a ‘mental’ grid numbered 1 to 9.  Players remember where their opponent has already been and call out an unoccupied space.   The layer who calls an occupied space loses the game.
  • Needle in a Haystack (helps visual processing speed):  Take a page from a newspaper and time your child as he/she circles all occurrences of a specific latter.  Focus on increasing both accuracy and speed.
  • 20 Questions (helps Logic and Reasoning and Memory):    think of a person or object and give your child 20 chances to barrow down twat you’re thinking o by asking yes r no questions.  T help them improve their logic and reasoning, teach them to strategize by using questions that will significantly narrow down the categories, such as “Are they alive?” or “is it bigger than you?”
  • Poetry (helps Auditory Analysis  and Memory):   Have your child choose four words that thyme and then ask them to use those words to create a poem or a rhyming song.  Or say a word, then have them come up with another that rhymes.  Keep this pattern going as long as possible, then start with a new word.

Simply getting your child to read every day is another powerful way to slow the summer slide.  According to Scholastic Parents Online, research shows that reading just six books during the summer can keep a struggling reader from regressing.  When choosing the six, make sure they’re the right level – not too hard and not too easy.

Call says she’ll stress the importance of summer reading to her students before they  head out for vacation.  She also recommends several websites:   Mathdrills.com, and stresses that any reading or learning program that rewards or excites the kids will be beneficial.

Choosing a few of the above activities to do daily will make a big difference in the fall.  Your child will notice a difference and so will their teachers.

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