Learning While School’s Out: Tips for Preventing the “Summer Slide”

Most kids look forward to the day that school is let out for summer vacation as much as they look forward to receiving gifts on their birthdays or candy on Halloween. I know the feeling – I and many of my fellow teachers look forward to the end of the school year almost as much as our students! It’s a chance to recharge after a busy year and explore different resources for learning and educational development before the start of school again in the fall.

Unfortunately, summer is also a time when some of the academic progress made in the past year is lost. Referred to as the “summer slide,” kids can fall behind their peers in the same grade if they don’t continue their learning during the summer vacation, leading to lower chances of them graduating from high school or going to college. For teachers, the “summer slide” requires more classroom time in the new school year to review previously taught material instead of teaching content aligned to rigorous, grade-specific standards.

While new research is calling the extent of the impact into question, there is no doubt that keeping kids engaged over the summer can only help them succeed. We’ve compiled tips written by Learning Heroes and the National Summer Learning Association for parents and educators to help you engage the children in your families and communities over the summer and maintain their learning.

Tips for Engaging Students Over the Summer

For Parents:

  1. Before the school year ends, talk with your child’s teacher about where they are doing well, where they need additional support, and what you can focus on over the summer to help your child maintain their skills and ensure readiness for the following grade level. Set summer goals for reading and math that are specifically aligned to your child’s academic needs.
  2. Connect with school administrators about resources and spaces that are available to students over the summer. Request a list of local summer programs or internships in your community. Students benefit from participation in art camps, reading programs, and structured outdoor activities.
  3. Explore the fun, engaging – and often free! – places in your community where kids can continue to learn. Check out programs and resources at local public libraries, museums, zoos, parks, and community organizations. Talk with your child what they learned and enjoyed at each visit.
  4. Make learning fun by engaging with your child’s interests and asking them to teach you what they’ve learned. Showing you what they know helps kids practice, review, and build confidence in important skills.
  5. Use the summertime to help your child hone the real-life skills they need in and out of school, like problem-solving, listening to and communicating with others, learning from their mistakes, and navigating conflict resolution.

For Educators:

  1. Speak with parents about their child’s academic progress and provide intentional strategies that they can use to support and ensure learning over the summer. Encourage other teachers and administrators at your school to have these conversations with parents.
  1. To create a productive summer guideline for students, set both classroom and school-wide goals for students. For example, encourage students to: solve one math problem and read for 20 minutes each day; engage in new activities; and perform daily physical activity.
  2. Collaborate with parent groups to distribute grade-appropriate reading lists, math games, and other learning resources that students can use to continue their learning over the summer.
  3. Consider ways to keep school spaces like the library and gymnasium open during summer months, if only for designated weekly times, to provide students a safe place to play, run around, and continue learning.
  4. Partner with local community groups to organize and facilitate summer programs at your school and/or collaborate on summer activities. Work with local businesses and organizations to provide summer internship opportunities for older students.
  5. Help students get access to public library cards, and work with families to provide information and connections to summer programs and discount/scholarship opportunities. Connect students and families who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches to summer meal programs so that kids don’t go hungry while school is out. Kid’s basic needs must be met so that they can continue learning.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can explore additional information and in-depth resources by colleagues at Learning Heroes and the National Summer Learning Association.

Christy Grubb currently serves as a Kindergarten teacher in Sevier County in East Tennessee. With a tenure of twenty-five years as an early elementary educator, Christy is dedicated to the development of early literacy as a foundational lever and predictor of reading success.