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35. Preventing Summer Learning Loss With Summer Slide Research and Activities
4th June 2024 • The Teaching Toolbox - A Podcast for Middle School Teachers • Brittany Naujok & Ellie Nixon, Podcast for Middle School Teachers
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Today, we will discuss the dreaded summer slide learning loss and how we, as teachers, can help prevent it. Let’s slide right in.

Topics Discussed

  • What is summer slide?
  • Why does it happen?
  • How can we help prevent it?


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Brittany 0:00

Hey Ellie, do you spend time reading in the summer or doing anything else like academic?

Ellie 0:07

I do read in the summer. And when I was a kid, I was always reading all summer long. I was active outside too. So it's not like I just sat in the house all the time. Although my brothers did call me. Well, they made fun of how pale I was. But I did go outside sometimes, but I read all the time, like reading was one of my main summertime activities. How about you?

Brittany 0:30

I read a lot. We went to the zoo quite often, and to the museum, usually once a summer. And then I did play a lot in the cul de sac right above our house, just north of our house. So but yeah, I always I loved reading. It was great. Well, welcome to the teaching Toolbox Podcast. My name is Brittany. And I'm here with Ellie.

Ellie 0:57


Brittany 0:58

And today we will discuss the dreaded summer slide, learning loss, and how we as teachers can help prevent it. So let's slide right in.

Ellie 1:10

That was good. As most of us know, students do lose a large amount of learning over the summer. In grades three to five students lose 1/5 of the material they learned through the school year in reading, and 1/3. In math. The term summer slide refers to the learning loss that can occur during the summer months when school is out. According to Scholastic a month of material is lost over the summer, while Scientific American says that according to NWEA scores, the loss can be up to three months. So depending on what source we're looking at, we could be you know, saying one to three months of loss. Another study by Cooper et al in the review of educational research, again says students can lose up to two to three months of academic progress over the summer. That means that when students return to school in the fall, they might not remember some of what they learned the previous year. How often do you start the year wondering why students seem to have forgotten what they should have learned last year?

Brittany 2:12

Yeah. All the time.

Ellie 2:14

Wait, didn't you learn this last year?

Brittany 2:17

Yeah. And we spend probably six to eight weeks reviewing stuff, which is just a waste.

Ellie 2:23

Yeah, absolutely.

Brittany 2:25

So why do many students experience the summer slide or summer learning loss? Well, for starters, during the school year, student brains are constantly being challenged and engaged, hopefully. But in the summer, if students aren't actively learning, their brains get a bit lazy. This happens with all of us, if we aren't using it, we're losing it. And so it's like, if you stopped exercising for the whole summer, you wouldn't be in as good a shape when you started again. So if you stop learning mathematics, you often revert to just knowing maybe basic algebra. And that trigonometry you actually learned in eighth grade, it's just gone. That that geometry, those proofs that you learned, they're gone. And that's why a lot of even teachers are like, I don't want to help my kid with something that's sixth grade math, because they don't feel confident anymore.

Ellie 3:23

That's true, haven't used it.

Brittany 3:26

So the National Summer Learning Association emphasizes the importance of keeping the brain active, just as we do with our bodies to prevent the summer slide.

Ellie 3:37

Sounds great. I mean, the brain has to be exercised and has to be worked out. So how can students beat the summer slide, we have a bunch of ideas for you that you can share with your students to help them keep their brains sharp all summer long.

Brittany 3:52

Preventing the summer slide can happen by changing the school schedule. Going to a year round schedule can greatly reduce the loss. But the term year round scares many people, because they tend to believe that they're going to be in session for 300 days a year, which just isn't true. Many year round schools tend to start right around August 1, then they tend to take a four or five day weekend around Labor Day. And then a two week break for fall break in October, right around when nine weeks have passed. So the first quarter. Typically Thanksgiving is a full week off. And then winter break. Right after another nine weeks have passed is another two weeks off. They might get a February break. That's another four or five day weekend or a full week. And then right around President's Day is common followed by spring break, which is another two weeks off late April or early May. You might get another A week off. And then schools released for summer break in mid to late June, giving students about a four to six week summer break instead of the usual 10 week break. So students and teachers are getting more frequent breaks throughout the year. And the breaks are usually a tad longer, but they're not so long that learning loss sets in. In addition, the summer break is much smaller, again, preventing that summer learning loss from running rampant over young brains.

Ellie 5:36

Did you ever have year round school?

Brittany 5:38

Um, I did not but a district right next to us, does it? Okay. And so we hear about it quite often you like in our news, and kids will often run into kids and families that have it.

Ellie 5:55

Okay, we've never had where I am. But I know once kids hit like that eighth or ninth, even maybe the seventh week of summer, they're they're starting to get bored anyway, you know. So to cut that a little bit short, and, you know, change the year schedule would be great.

Brittany 6:13

It also helps with, like teacher absences and stuff, because you have more breaks so you can do your appointments and everything during the school year, and you're not having to take off as often.

Ellie 6:26

Yeah, that makes sense. Well, although some of us might wish we could have that. We obviously can't control our school district schedules. So that might not be the option for us. But students can prevent their summer learning loss by engaging in various activities over the summer - activities that encourage them to read, use comprehension skills, use math, problem solve and more. To help this happen the first step we might need to take is to educate parents and guardians. Many parents have no idea what summer learning loss is, or how to combat the summer slide, they might think everything is fine and their kids are having a great summer when they don't necessarily realize that when their students get back to school, they're not remembering something because they're not seeing them in that setting. If we as teachers can share the importance of continuing education over the summer, more students are likely to get that education, sending home letters, having conferences with parents, and emailing home videos are always to reach out, share statistics and concerns, present ideas and try to solve this crisis.

Brittany 7:34

One thing you can do is tell parents and students to read every day, whether it's novels, comics, articles, the newspaper, having kids read regularly improves their literacy skills, and it keeps their brains engaged. So before heading out for summer break, help students set up a summer reading goal. They could join a summer reading program at the local library, if it's available, you can encourage them to write down all their titles of the books and stuff that they read. And then bring their list back to you in the fall. If you're going to be at the same school, and then share how they did in reaching their goal. Maybe give them a reward of some some sort.

Ellie 8:21

Kids so often would come back and visit anyway. You know, the seventh graders, they will come back and visit sixth grade. And so to have a reason to come back and visit and say, Hey, this is what I did. I think that's really motivating for some students. We were lucky as kids that our library offered a summer reading program. And our mom signed us up every year. I did that with my children as well. Yeah. And so every week, we would go and we'd check out books, we read them. And then you'd head back to the library then next week where they would ask you some questions about the book. So like a little spinner, and you'd spin it and land on a question or pull a question out of a hat or whatever. So they could verify that you actually seem to have read the book that you said you read. And then they would record the titles on a card for you. I'm sure now it's more computerized. And then they would move your tracker along the library wall to show your progress. And there was always a different theme like there would be hot air balloons or superheroes, that kind of thing. So that was motivating. Even if my mom hadn't signed us up for it. I still would have been reading but it added a little extra to that reading experience.

Brittany 9:30

Yeah, my kids did the same. And then Reagan actually worked the summer reading program when she got older.

Ellie 9:38

Sounds great. Yeah, so even if you can't, you know, if you don't have a lot of books at your house, hopefully there's a library close by, that students can get to to get some reading materials.

Ellie 9:48

Another thing that you can encourage students to do is to write regularly they can keep a journal of everything they did that summer if they don't know what to write about it just be like, This is what I did today. And Just keep that in their notebook or they could write stories or even start a blog these days, they could do that. Writing helps with memory comprehension, and analytical skills. I know I used to write stories as a kid. I don't really remember writing, but my mom kept all the things that we did. So somewhere in a box, there are stories that I wrote. And honestly, I can't tell you how many times I wish I had kept up with different journaling practices that I started over the years. Like, sometimes I kept track of things that happened during the day wrote them down in a journal and other times I did not. And so now I'm like, Darn it. If I had just kept up with that, and recorded those things, I could go back and look and see what it is that I'm forgetting. Because there's so many things I forget. How about you? Do you do a lot of writing? Or did you when you were younger?


I did a ton when I was younger, I would stop. And then usually three or four months younger, I would take all the pages that I had written, rip them out and throw them away.


I know I have a couple of things like from when I was in high school, I think that I ended up just throwing the my diaries away. Darn it.


But when Reagan was in high school, the counselors would actually encourage students to write, like every summer about what they did, and then use that, possibly, if they couldn't think of anything else as their college essay.


Oh, that's great. Yeah, yeah. So even teachers, listening, if you're not writing all the time, and it might be something that you want to think about doing just for your own life.


Another thing you can do with students is engage them in educational activities, or encourage parents to engage their students, their children in educational activities. So museums, science centers, zoos often have educational programs over the summer, these can be fun ways to learn something new. Not everyone can access these types of activities, although oftentimes, they will have free days during the year. So students might be able to do a virtual field trip instead using a computer.


Yeah, if they don't have transportation, perhaps or something like that. That'd be good things to research, see what kind of virtual things they could use. They're at least getting that engagement in those types of activities.


Yeah, you can encourage students to practice their math skills. You can use online resources or apps to practice math problems a few times a week, it doesn't have to be every day, but here in there is great, anything is great. This keeps math skills sharper, and can even help students get ahead for the next school year. I don't know about you, but I used to buy workbooks for my kids. And I did have them do math workbooks in the summertime. And I remember not too long ago, my brother's doing the same for my nephew, just to keep sharp and maybe get a little bit ahead. But even using flashcards, flashcards that kids make themselves. For all the basic facts is a great way for students to work on their brains and get quicker with that foundational knowledge that helps them in every other math area.


Were you better with those math workbooks or Summer Bridge books than I was as a parent?


I used to make them do some every day?


Did you make them use it every day?


I think pretty much. I've probably dated them and stuff,


we would get maybe 12 to 20 pages in and then we wouldn't touch it again.


I think we were pretty good. Most summers, they could argue with me and say that I'm wrong. I think that's one of the things I did not write down in my journal. So I can't remember for sure.


I was not good. As a parent at doing it. I just Yeah,


but if it's there, and even as a parent, the parent doesn't remember, the student still has that opportunity to take some responsibility for doing that, you know, if at least if they have it than they, they can try to take advantage of it themselves. Yeah, keep that practice going.


I taught my kids math skills in a different way. I taught my kids how to play poker.


Go. That's awesome.


Ellie has an awesome math Online Game Center. And so we will link that in the show notes because you can get online and play games.


There are different like about 50 different games and activities at this point, covering a range of different topics.


Yeah, so you can have your your child play games on there.


Yes, thanks for mentioning that kind of forgot.


Another thing you can do is encourage children and parents to stay curious over the summer. Have them ask questions, explore new hobbies, learn a new skill. Maybe they want to pick up an instrument or learn how to juggle or something. Curiosity leads to learning. And there are endless things to discover in this planet on this planet


that is for sure.


So both of us, Ellie and I have awesome blog posts with many different ideas for preventing summer learning loss


Britney's blog post has like 40 ideas there that you know teachers and parents can use to encourage students to prevent that summer learning loss.


There's bound to be something you haven't thought of before on on either of our blog posts lists. And if you need an editable letter to send home this spring to let parents know of the danger of summer learning loss. One is on my blog post as well. So take a look at those blog posts. They're listed in the show notes and you can check them out


Awesome. Students can return to school ready to learn and succeed by staying mentally active and engaged throughout the summer. Remember, the summer slide is not inevitable. And with some effort and creativity students can keep climbing upwards turning the slide into a leap forward in their education.


Hopefully all these new tools fit in your teaching toolbox, and you're ready to turn your students into academic summer rockstars. If you think yourself or someone else would make a wonderful guest, we are still hunting for guests and have tweaked our form for all to join. Please consider filling it out. We'll see you next time.






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