Educators can find fun and engaging ways to keep students’ brains in shape during summer break and avoid summer learning loss.

3 ways to avoid summer learning loss

Educators can find fun and engaging ways to keep students’ brains in shape during summer break

Key points:

When the school year ends, it can be hard to tell who’s more excited for summer vacation: teachers or students. While it can be easy for both camps to slip out of routine over the summer break, it’s important that students don’t get out of the habit of learning, lest they suffer learning loss.

A 2020 study shows that the average student loses 17 to 34 percent of their learning gains over the summer break–and this is a phenomenon that’s been studied since the early 1900s. While no child wants to study over the break, there are fun and creative ways to encourage students (and their parents) to practice the skills they learned without sitting down and studying.

Keep them reading

Students in grades 3-5 often lose an average of 20 percent of the reading progress they made during the previous year, so it’s vital that they choose to keep reading even when school’s not in session. When students read books they enjoy and that engage them over the summer break, they build stronger skills and feel more confident and motivated.

Many teachers and parents turn to reading programs that use research-based instruction (such as those from the Institute of Reading Development), which have been found to be effective in building reading skills over the summer. These programs also encourage students to practice the age-appropriate skills they learned in school so they don’t fall behind when classes resume in the fall. Plus, while this isn’t always the case in school, summer reading can be just for pleasure; if students find books they enjoy and that engage them, they’ll be more inclined to practice their reading skills because they’ll like what they’re reading.

Enroll them in summer programs

Whether it’s a daytime adventure or sleepaway camp, enrolling students of all ages in summer programs will ensure they’re engaged in learning even when school’s not in session. Many organizations offer summer programs for learners of all ages, covering everything from math and science to language and literature, sports and medicine, and more.

Selecting a summer program can be daunting. However, gravitating toward programs that combine learning opportunities with areas of a student’s interest will ensure they remain engaged with the material and look forward to attending the program all summer long. Many programs for middle and high school students will also offer them a peek into what life on a college campus is like, so if a young learner is already thinking about that next step, this could be a fantastic opportunity for them to get excited about their future.

Embrace technology

While many parents try their best to keep children from spending the entire summer on their computers, tablets, or phones, games and apps can be a powerful tool for combating learning loss. Platforms like Storygraph encourage readers to maintain a reading streak (reading a certain number of pages in a day or books in a week), apps like Duolingo reward students for practicing a new language every day, and hundreds of free games for mobile devices encourage math, language, and science skills–while also being so fun that students won’t realize they’re actually learning.

For older students, consider enrolling them in an online course training them in a skill like graphic or web design. Self-paced courses often empower teenage learners to learn at their own pace while also preparing them with applicable skills they could leverage in classes, extracurriculars, or even in their future workplace.

Combating summer learning loss starts the moment school gets out. By encouraging students to continue reading, enrolling them in enriching, educational summer programs, and embracing technology and all its ongoing learning opportunities, parents and teachers alike will be rewarded with lower learning loss rates even after their students are back in the classroom.

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