The “dog days of summer” bring more than just heat and humidity for school children, they also bring the dreaded summer slump. Between swim practice, sports camp, theatre programs and family vacations, students of all ages lose ground in the fundamentals of education: reading, writing and math. Teachers spend part of the first quarter assessing and re-teaching these building blocks before they can begin teaching new material for the school year. As a parent, what can you do to combat the summer slump? Here are some tips to prevent your student from losing ground, or perhaps, even gain some ground, while still enjoying summer break to its fullest.
AN HOUR OF POWER
Dedicate one hour a day to academics. For younger students, break this hour into smaller, more manageable chunks. For tough negotiators, trade an hour of screen time for an hour of academics!
DEDICATED DAYS FOR SUBJECTS
Along with “Meatless Monday,” make the first day of the week “Math Monday.” Use flashcards to review math facts. Do a page or two out of a math workbook. Calculate the distance from home to camp or to your planned vacation site. Chart activities such as a swim meet or sports practice, and calculate calories needed to replace energy expended. Cook together and double or halve a recipe to practice fractions.
Make Tuesday and Thursday grammar and vocab days. Use flashcards to drill on parts of speech or punctuation rules (Did you know there are seven comma rules?). Do a grammar worksheet printed from the internet. Buy or make grade-level vocab flashcards with the word on front and the definition and part of speech on back. A strong vocabulary is a major factor to success on standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT.
“Writing Wednesdays” will help take some of the trepidation out of writing. Writing assignments can be journaling about family trips or writing book or movie reviews. For those reluctant writers, read together an article on the web about a favorite sports figure or celebrity (pre-screened for objectionable material), and give your young writer some open-ended questions to answer about the article. Focus on sentence structure for younger children, and move up to paragraph structure for older students. Align paragraph length to grade level: five sentences for a fifth-grader, six sentences for a sixth-grader and so on. Look for a beginning, a middle and an ending to each paragraph.
Make Friday a “free day.” Let your student choose what to spend the hour on, and be flexible. As long as it touches on one of the basics of the core subjects, let them choose. Need suggestions?
• Have a geography bee. Using a blank map of the U.S., have your student find your home state and bordering states. Expand this exercise on another day to those states where friends or family live and label those as well. Make or buy placemats that have maps on them and discuss state capitals or national landmarks while eating. Hang up a world map in the playroom or family room and talk about the continents and major bodies of water. Discuss your family’s heritage and background to explore other countries without leaving home!
• Do a mini science fair in preparation for the real thing in the coming school year. Check the web for basic science labs you can do at home; most will require components you already have in your kitchen pantry or garage. Check the weather forecast for the next few days and chart temperature, precipitation and humidity. Measure velocity of a playground swing or rollercoaster from your favorite amusement park.
• Go to history.com and explore what occurred on that day in history. Pick a year or decade and discuss a major world event of that period and how it impacted our world today.
Weekend days can be for exploring as a family. Take a walk and observe nature, then return home and google the life cycle of an insect you saw, or research facts on an interesting flower or tree you spotted. Go to a museum and pick a piece of art. If permitted, take a photo of the artwork and its label. If pictures aren’t allowed, have your child sketch the piece of art and copy its label (proofreading carefully for accuracy, capital letters on proper nouns and any punctuation found in the label). On your next “Writing Wednesday,” use the artwork as the topic for a nonfiction writing assignment or for inspiration for writing a short story.
D.E.A.R! (DROP EVERYTHING AND READ!)
Of all the things that can help keep your child on track over the summer, reading is, singularly, the most important. Once a day, every day, drop everything and read.
Parents, lead by example on this one. Take a weekly trip to the library and stock up on books for free. Keep a basket of picture books and chapter books on the coffee table, along with current family-friendly magazines and newspapers, so they are visible and accessible. Don’t forget graphic novels and anime for your reluctant readers.
Download e-books on your child’s tablet or phone. Sign up for one of the many book deal websites to get alerts for discounted e-books.
Listen to an audio book in the car on family trips or even short trips to the pool or grocery. Most libraries now offer audio books in their digital catalog. And titles can be checked out for three-week periods, long enough to get through a good book, even on short daily trips.
Get a jump on summer reading assignments the first week after school ends. For reluctant readers, waiting until the last minute to start will only add stress to the perceived chore of reading.
Head to a used bookstore for the best deals. Hand your child $5 or $10 and tell them to go shopping. Google to see if your local library has a used bookstore, where donated books and books pulled from circulation are inexpensive. (While there, look for your child’s summer reading assignments!)
Have a family read-aloud. Pick a classic from your childhood favorites or one new to you and read a chapter or two as a family each night after dinner. Take turns reading aloud to practice fluency, or have your family’s strongest reader (maybe you?) do all the reading to keep the story moving. Use an audiobook if reading aloud is not your thing, make some popcorn and enjoy the book together!
The summer slump does not have to be an obstacle to your child’s success in the fall. Use the glorious days of no homework, tests or assigned projects to make learning fun and relaxing. Remember to exercise your mind, as well as your children’s minds, while you enjoy your summer sports, trips and activities!
Resources to Squash the Summer Slump
Flashcards: Quizlet.com is a free website to print or create flashcards for many different subjects and grade levels!
Educational Materials: Teacherspayteachers.com is a digital catalog of novel units, worksheets, activities and resources created by teachers. There are many free items as well as those available for a fee. Scholastic.com also has many free resources for parents.
Teacher Supply Stores:
• ABC’s & 1-2-3’s, Rockville, MD
• Lakeshore Learning, Alexandria, VA and Towson, MD
• Second Story Books, Rockville, MD and Dupont Circle, D.C.
• Wonder Books, Gaithersburg, Hagerstown and Frederick, MD
• Friends of the Library (MCPL), Wheaton and Rockville, MD
• Hole in the Wall Books, Reston, VA
Writing Prompts: Check out “This Day in History” at history.com. Also, scholastic.com has story starters for different grade levels.