9 Ideas for Preventing the ‘Summer Slide’

The 'summer slide' is about to become a very real phenomenon for many of our students.  A significant number of them will embark on a 3-month binge of time-wasting that ends with an actual loss of learning by the time they step back on campus this fall.  And while we can’t change this for all of our students, we can offer some structures and opportunities to help them make the most of their summer.  Here’s a list of ideas that can be low-prep and hands-off, or can be ramped up if you have a little more time and energy.

Design a scavenger hunt. The idea here is for this to be a summer-long project that keeps your students engaged. They could be tasked with recording different ways they encounter math in video games, taking pictures of errors in ads or billboards, or researching certain historical facts about their city. There could also be healthy living tasks like tracking their pace on walks or jogs or trying new foods and taking pictures of them mid-bite. The best part about it is that students could do this from anywhere, whether they’re camped out on the couch or a summer camp 100 miles away. The ramped up version of this could be getting the entire grade level or school to participate so that kids can team up to help each other out and make it more fun.

Enlist older students. Sophomores and juniors in high school might be a great resource for working with younger students this summer. And they also might be a free resource if they want to put some tutoring or mentoring on their resumes for college. See if you can find a few who want to commit to meeting students at the library once a week for math, reading, or other support. It’s amazing how much more willing students will be to study during the summer if the person helping them is a cool high school student versus a teacher. This could be informal where you simply match up the kids, talk to their parents, and see what happens or more organized where they meet on campus and you give more guidance and feedback on their work together.

Compile a list of free events. Take an hour or so and comb through community calendars to compile a list of free and low-cost classes and events students can take advantage of during the summer and distribute it to parents and guardians. Feeling extra motivated? Find some colleagues to each commit to attending one so that when you distribute the list, families also know a staff member will be in attendance. Better yet, plan on carpooling or driving the students to make it even easier for students to participate.

Get your boss on board. If you have a great idea for what to do with students over the summer, see if you can get your principal or other school leader jazzed about it, too.  Then they can support the idea by championing it during staff meetings and getting more people to volunteer or maybe even finding some left over money in the budget that can help the idea be successful.

Rally your families. No matter what idea you have, communicate it early and often to parents to get them invested. One idea is to have a parent meeting to let them know how beneficial it can be for students to stay engaged with math and reading over the summer and then making sure they know the details of the plan you have or the options you’re providing. Many parents probably would love to have their children studying and engaged during the summer, but lack the knowledge or resources to make it happen, so you can help fill in those missing pieces.

Start a book club.  A more fun spin on the typical summer reading assignment could be setting it up as a book club. You might have actual face-to-face meetings at the local library or have the discussion in an on-line forum or on social media.

Put it on social media. If your class or school has a Facebook or Edmodo page, this can be a great way to stay connected with students over the summer. You could have students post their scavenger hunt pictures throughout the summer, have weekly puzzles or word problems they post answers to, or share thoughts about the summer reading assignments or book clubs. Another option if you’re not using an official page is to have a hashtag that students and families use to share photos and answers.

Keep it optional. No matter how much we want to prevent the summer slide, if we require students to do something we’re likely to zap any motivation they may have had for it.

Don’t offer a big incentive. If you have a scavenger hunt or other competition, the idea of offering a cool prize is tempting, but raising the stakes means raising the stress.  You want to keep it fun, not serious.  If there’s a compelling prize, students will be tempted to cheat and your responsibility for monitoring the competition to make sure people are being honest will go through the roof.  If there’s not a prize, students are less likely to cheat. And if they do cheat, it’s no big deal because they’re still participating, which is the goal. Try having a fun awards ceremony at the beginning of the year instead of a big incentive so that you can celebrate kids’ success without the side effects.

The 'summer slide' is something we can all help prevent for our students.Whether you have some extra time to give this summer or opt to frontload your efforts before the school year ends, talk to your colleagues and put a plan in place to help students maximize their summer. Especially for our struggling students, this could help them hit the ground running next year versus facing an increasingly uphill battle.

For more ideas on end-of-year planning, try Maximizing the Month of May and Closing Out vs. Fading Out.

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