By Dr. Liz Kwo
School’s out, but the learning shouldn’t stop. Students can benefit tremendously during the summer months from activities outside the classroom. Students of all ages digress two to three months in their academic skills during the summer if they do not have intellectual stimulation.
Research shows that students score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer. Learning loss is cumulative, summer after summer. It impacts post-secondary education and work force preparedness. High-quality summer learning is essential to preventing “summer learning loss” and encourages students to be lifelong learners, rather than only classroom learners.
A few academically engaging hours scheduled daily can close learning gaps and help students perform at higher levels during the school year.
Here are some tips to prevent summer learning loss:
1. Work on Reading Comprehension and Grammar
Set aside time for students to read one hour each day. Books should be challenging. Set a goal and tally the number of books on a calendar. Read an interesting series, but also classics, new fiction, poetry, and technical books to learn new ways to think. If the student is a teenager, ask them to consider reading difficult stories in international newspapers and magazines such as the New Yorker or The Economist.
Parents of children reading below grade level should read with their children in order to assist with sounding out words. Parents can also consider purchasing reading comprehension workbooks and grammar books, as students can benefit from self-quizzes that helps develop memory and inference skills. Review the past grade level's grammar concepts, and begin to work on the next school year's concepts.
2. Improve Vocabulary
Ask students to write down words they don’t recognize in a notebook and look up the meaning later when they are reading. Students should also set a goal of learning a specific number of words and use it in their speech and writing. Students can also create flashcards of words, prefixes, and suffixes.
3. Develop Math Skills
Set aside some time to review math concepts, practice computational skills, and improve problem-solving skills. Worksheets are useful, as are computer-based games, spatial games, and toys. Spatial skills predict achievement in the "STEM" fields - science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Parents can purchase a math workbook for their child's academic level.
4. Focus on Specific Skills or Subjects
Many students take extra lessons in specific subjects or in the arts. Online resources and teacher supply stores offer a wide variety of learning materials to strengthen and improve their specific weaker areas. Students may find learning to be more fun as they become more capable of meeting challenges and overcoming any weaknesses. This boosts academic self-esteem.
5. Enroll in Camp or Travel
Good summer camp programs with individualized instruction, parental involvement or small classes can allow students to discover an academic subject they are passionate about. Let students explore their curiosities -- paleontology, astronomy, rock collecting, the geology of Mars, the search for extraterrestrial life, or ancient history.
If the family is vacationing, make sure the trip also has an educational component, whether the student is in charge of planning at least one aspect of the trip or asked to learn about the culture. Give them maps, brochures and guides, and see how they use their skills to figure out a plan.
// Dr. Liz Kwo has more than 12 years experience in higher education with degrees from Harvard Medical School, Harvard Business School and Stanford University. This column is sponsored by New Pathway Education (www.npathway.com).