Frank Schofield, superintendent, Logan City School District
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, children have experienced disruptions in their lives, including school. Although teachers, parents, and students have worked together to positively manage these disruptions, they have still had an impact on student learning. One impact was that the loss of face-to-face school days at the end of the 2019-2020 school year resulted in delayed learning for many students. During the current school year, school staff has worked together to address this delayed learning, and students have made significant progress.
The learning delays caused by the pandemic have increased the annual focus on how to minimize the learning losses that tend to take place over the course of the summer. Extended time out of school often results in forgotten knowledge which then has to be re-taught at the start of the next school year.
So, how can families minimize this “summer slide?” Dr. Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., shares a number of evidence-based suggestions for parents on her website, parentingscience.com:
GET STARTED ON A SUMMER READING PROGRAM, AND MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD IS READING BOOKS THAT ARE BOTH INTERESTING AND CHALLENGING.
Summer reading is important, but it doesn’t always boost skills. In one study, a summer reading program failed to have any effect on children’s literacy skills. Why? The children who participated got to choose their own books, and they consistently chose books that were too easy for them. So, when selecting books, it’s crucial to make sure your child is excited by the content. You also want reading material that will stretch your child’s skills — introduce some new words and ideas. One way to do this is by using the “Goldilocks rule” to find books that are “just right.” With your child, open a book to any page and have the child read it. Each time the child comes to a word they don’t know they raise a finger. If they use all five fingers while reading a single page, the book may be too difficult. If they read the page and only raise one or two fingers, the book may be entertaining but is likely too easy to build their vocabulary and comprehension skills.
SET ASIDE TIME TO REVIEW MATHEMATICS CONCEPTS.
It’s unlikely that most kids will spontaneously practice the sorts of skills that will prevent learning loss in mathematics, and practice really matters. Still, you don’t have to turn the summer into a tedious series of drills. Regular (not necessarily daily) practice can help students retain the knowledge they gained during the school year and help them become more mathematically fluent. This practice can be simply done using printed worksheets or using digital games that can be accessed online or through apps.
PLAY “UNPLUGGED” NUMBER GAMES TO HELP KIDS
SHARPEN THEIR MATH SKILLS.
Research indicates that young children can improve their intuitive understanding of numbers by playing certain board games. This simple strategy can be a highly effective way to develop a child’s “number sense” (a group of skills that allows people to work effectively with numbers). Number sense involves:
• Understanding quantities
• Grasping concepts like more and less, and larger and smaller
• Understanding the order of numbers in a list: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.
• Understanding symbols that represent quantities (7 means the same thing as seven)
• Making number comparisons (12 is greater than 10)
• Recognizing relationships between single items and groups of items (seven means one group of seven items)
• From simple games like Chutes and Ladders to more advanced games like Monopoly, many board games can help children develop number sense and strengthen their overall math skills.
TAKE TRIPS TO MUSEUMS, ZOOS, AND NATURE SITES.
Providing additional learning opportunities through visiting these locations can be highly effective when families do more than simply attend. Children learn more from museum and zoo experiences when they engage in hands-on activities, participate in family conversations, and are asked to interpret what they see. One of the best ways to help children consolidate new knowledge is to encourage children to explain what they have learned. A recent study reports links between parent-child conversations and retention: The more kids talked about a science lesson with their parents, the more they remembered later on. As parents and guardians make a conscious effort to preserve student learning, children will retain more of the knowledge they gained during the school year and will be better prepared to begin the next school year successfully.