7 Innovative Ways to Keep Students Learning During Summer Break

The amount of academic gains that are lost during the summer months is pretty alarming when you look at statistics. Summers off contribute to the achievement gap, predominantly for students from lower-income families who cannot afford enriched experiences or have access to high-interest books to counter what is commonly referred to as the ‘summer slide’. Socioeconomic disadvantages aside, summer learning loss affects all students if not addressed. After 10 months of continuous learning, summer break can trigger students to lose up to one month of overall learning, two months of reading skills, with the loss of math skills adding up significantly higher. What does this mean for the fall? It takes an average of six weeks at the beginning of the new school year for teachers to re-teach old material to make up for the significant loss of skills. Not to mention the cumulative effects of learning loss, summer after summer, that negatively impact students beyond high school.

How can parents and teachers combat regression to maximize time spent in the classroom advancing students to the next level, year after year? Instead of dreading summer break because of its setbacks, celebrate the warm weather and freedom from the confines of a brick and mortar by seeking out learning opportunities that are fun while helping kids retain everything they learned, and possibly even expand their knowledge. Kids can still enjoy their summer while keeping their minds stimulated. Weekly trips to the library, museums, aquariums, and the zoo are a great way for kids to have learning experiences.

We asked iTutor educator and retired NY State Social Studies and Special Education teacher Raymond Conklin for some ideas on how parents can keep their kids learning over summer break. “Working parents are, no doubt, extremely busy and might find it challenging to implement any of these suggestions. However, if ever there was a perfect time to attempt any of them, summer break is your best chance.” Pay it forward to your fellow teachers by sharing these seven tips with parents at the end of this school year for a healthy and productive academic year in the fall!

Take It Outdoors  

Summer is the best time for children to connect with nature for valuable learning experiences. Take advantage of warmer days by fostering learning opportunities outdoors. Conklin suggests, “Depending on the age of the student some of these activities might help to pass lazy summer days productively. Take a look at the night sky with your youngster and have them sketch the phase of the moon and record the date, each evening for a month. This should take under five minutes, and might provide valuable information for the Earth Science Regents exam. Similarly, looking at the southern sky, record observations of the position of the sun at different times of the day. A sentence or two should be all it takes to arrive at a better understanding on the path of the summer sun.” These are great ways to inspire observance in children about the world around them. There are many opportunities for learning outdoors. Conklin advised, “Pick up a rock from anywhere and have your child attempt to identify it through research. If you live near a lake or the seashore, one of the most fascinating things to do is to use a seine net to see what you can catch. Photograph, record and classify whatever ends up in your net. There are nice nature trails within easy reach of most communities. A walk along one of them is both educational and substitutes well for missed gym classes.” Finding innovative ways to get them to read should have elements of fun. Conklin recommended, “Create a makeshift tent, inside or out, and have them read their favorite book while using a flashlight!”

Control Screen-Time Through Negotiation  

This one is pretty obvious for its negative effects. One of the ways you can control the amount of time your child spends in front of the television is to have them earn screen time. Conklin suggested, “Exchange time spent watching The History Channel or Discovery Network for time spent viewing material of your child’s choice. Allow five minutes of extra time for every sentence they agree to write summarizing an educational program.” But don’t stop there! Conklin has an idea for taking your child’s love for media even further by cultivating a love for the arts. “Ask about the most enjoyable book they read in class and see if your child and his/her friends can recreate the story by filming their own on video.” If they don’t have a favorite book from the previous school year they can recreate a scene from their favorite movie, create a preview of the film, or even a sequel to it—in the form of a short film. This can all be done with a cell phone if a camcorder isn’t available. Have them first write the script then cast friends or family as actors in the movie. Take it a step further by creating an incentive for them to complete the project. Plan a day to screen the finished film with family and friends, and buttered popcorn!

Schedule Online Summer Classes with a Tutor  

iTutor offers personalized summer tutoring programs that are designed to prevent summer learning loss. Sessions are live and conducted online with a state-certified teacher. Classes are scheduled around your child’s availability, and can easily fit into their ever-changing summer routine. Planning two to three hours of reading, writing, or math sessions will make a huge impact to prevent overall learning loss, which is manageable even for the most active child.

Foster a New Skill 
Inspiring students to learn a new skill during summer break is just as significant as keeping them on track. Learning a new skill benefits their brain development and overall well-being. New experiences bolster mental growth, and the brain is an ever-evolving muscle that craves stimulation. Learning a new language not only has long-term benefits for your child’s overall success in high school and beyond, but also boosts mental agility that can be maintained. A 2016 University of Edinburgh study found an increase in mental alertness in students who participated in a one-week Scottish Gaelic course. When compared to a group that had taken a non-language course and a group that had not taken a course at all, it was determined that there are significant benefits to one’s cognitive development (attention, memory, and thinking) when learning a new language. iTutor’s roster of educators includes foreign language instructors certified to teach a foreign language. Send your child back to school in the fall well versed in a whole new language. Learning a new skill that involves physical activity is a great way to combine overall wellness and mental support. Inspiring a child to be more active, in the right way, will help to strengthen their ability to concentrate leading to improved learning. Studies show improved cognitive skills in children who engage in routine physical activity. Swimming is a valuable skill to learn and is highly beneficial for physical wellness.

Mathematics & Reading in the Kitchen  

Baking’s science-based methods allow your child to use their mathematical skills to measure ingredients, add up fractions, and even problem solve. Baking can easily be a new skill they learn which is great for boosting their level of confidence. Go the extra mile and encourage them to have a bake sale on the block from the goodies they make.

Pen Pal and/or Summer Diary  

This is an easy idea that shouldn’t take much convincing. Have your child practice reading and writing by selecting a family member or friend to be their pen pal for the summer. Weekly letters in the mail will be exciting for them and guarantee time spent reading and writing. A summer diary is another great way kids can practice creative writing. Purchase a journal with a themed design based on their personal interests which can help inspire them to want to write inside, and often!

Learning on the Road  

Plan a road trip to another state. Map out the steps you’ll make so your child can calculate the mileage between each stop to determine how much gas you’ll need along the way. While driving, have them take pictures with a digital camera of the landmarks or picturesque scenery that catches their eye. When you return home from your trip, the learning can continue. They can print the photos (a lost art that shouldn’t be lost) and write the landmark or location on the back of each photo, along with a memory from the trip. Writing postcards to family back home during the trip also helps to keep their creative writing skills fresh and caught up with their vocabulary.

The summer is a great time for independent learning because kids are more relaxed. Be creative in your approach to finding learning opportunities, and don’t forget to have fun!

Looking for educational summer programs? Contact iTutor to learn more.