Are you ready for the Summer Slide?
Find activities that are fun and prevent learning loss...
-This post was originally written for publication in Fairfield Moms. You can
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"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."
It’s that time of year again. Today, Summer seems an eternity away, then suddenly, the end of the school year will be fast approaching! Of course, with all the eagerly anticipated fun of summer break comes the nagging threat of “Summer Slide.” On average, students will lose the progress they achieved during the entire last month of school over the summer months. Other students will forget up to 30% of the knowledge they obtained in the prior school year. So how do we manage to combat the summer slide and preserve academic progress while still protecting the magic of Summer? This often seems like a daunting balancing act.
It can be tempting to shelve anything resembling academics for these sunny months. After all, isn’t the entire point of a school vacation to give students time to stretch their legs and grow in other ways? It is possible, however, to adopt a balanced approach to academics over the Summer that allows students to maintain their knowledge with streamlined efforts. The key is to focus on the most pivotal skills your child is currently cultivating and maintain those with efficient activities. Below, we’ve outlined the three most impactful subjects that will keep students sharp without overwhelming them during their break, as well as the type of programming to look for!
Set-up for Success?
Rome wasn’t built in a day…
And we know our students’ education won’t be either. Numerous studies have shown that lessons distributed over time are always better than learning in one large session. This is primarily attributed to the ‘spacing effect.’ When a student immediately reviews a concept while it’s still familiar, they are unlikely to pay attention during the repetition; if familiarity with the concept has faded somewhat, students are more likely to engage even during the second exposure. This additional effort to recall information facilitates transitioning the material into long-term memory of the concept. Additionally, follow-up exposure after some time allows students’ brains to encode and process the information in a different way. Consequently, students develop a more thorough, detailed comprehension of the material because they understand it from multiple angles.
Should I DIY this?
For many parents, the DIY method of working through notebooks with their student during the summer months can be a painful process. Research has shown that children are more engaged, attentive, and focused when being instructed by an adult that isn’t their parent, while they tend to adopt an ‘observing’ role when working with a parent. Children learn from parents primarily through direct instruction and imitation, making them unlikely to take initiative or actively engage in lessons. This model of watching a parent or waiting for instructions doesn’t facilitate learning. Learning actually happens when we actively grapple with content, which students are likely to do when working with an instructor. This engagement is a necessary precursor to students synthesizing, analyzing, comprehending, and finally achieve ingrained knowledge.
An Alternative Solution
Learning should be effective…
We always want lessons to produce meaningful development, so we bring on extensively qualified instructors, target watershed areas of development, and align our program structure and curriculums with evidence-based methods.
· The instructors leading our new middle school programs have taught at institutions including University of Cambridge (UK), Brown University, and the Fulbright Scholars Program among others.
· Our programming is focused on the previously identified subjects that are foundational and high yielding/productive: foreign languages, reading, and math.
· We also do two things to ensure long-term, sustained benefits from our programming: utilize classroom structures that are proven to boost student engagement and harness the benefits of the ‘space effect’ by offering programming throughout the Summer. By prioritizing efficient programming, we can mitigate Summer Slide without infringing on the fun of summer vacation!
Learning should be fun…
Study after study has indicated that students derive more academic benefits when they perceive lessons as ‘fun.’
· A great way to achieve an atmosphere of productive fun is learning alongside others; students who learn with a friend present demonstrate increased working memory, retrieval of long-term memory, tolerance of novel concepts, processing speed, engagement and concentration during lessons. Our Summer programs harness this benefit by providing opportunities for students to work in semi-private or small group sessions. This enables students to avoid learning in isolation while capping group sizes to preserve opportunities to offer individualized attention.
· Additionally, we take every opportunity to teach concepts within topics and activities that students find interesting. Incorporating students’ interests helps us to encourage a particular type of increased excitement which improves students’ ability to encode, consolidate, and retain new information.
· Many studies have also suggested great potential for the self-determination theory; they’ve shown that when students experience a sense of autonomy, they benefit from elevated motivation and positive outlooks towards learning. We provide this autonomy by offering students opportunities to share feedback which shapes the curriculum. For instance, in our Spanish class, instructors often write lessons and introduce content using topics students have requested. In our Middle School Book Club, students are asked to use rank choice voting of a ‘shortlist’ to collectively select the next book the group will read. When we offer choices for students, there is an increase in motivation and engagement with that task.
Learning should work for the family…
Each course is designed to balance consistency with flexibility in the schedule.
· So, while each semi-private group will meet on a weekly basis at a regularly scheduled time for ten weeks, our packages only charge for seven of the ten classes! We know vacations, family visits, and summer camps are all factors to work around, so want to make it possible for families to enroll without paying for missed sessions.
· We’ve introduced virtual classes starting in middle school to allow students to join from anywhere. On request, we provide access to a taped replay of zoom sessions in the event of an absence. Together, these policies make it easier for students to regularly revisit and improve fundamental skill sets in a way that accommodates your schedule.