School Holidays: Ways to Help Your Children Beat the Summer Slide

Did you know that over the upcoming school holiday break many students will lose approximately 20% of the academic gains they made in reading, and 27% of the academic gains they made in maths during the 2019 school year?

I need to admit that I felt quite sceptical of the ‘Summer Slide’ phenomenon, until I experienced ‘Summer Slide’ firsthand as a classroom teacher. I used to ask myself, if a student has really learned a concept or skill, is it possible for them to ‘unlearn’ it over holiday break? I didn’t believe it was possible for students to ‘unlearn’ concepts or skills. My opinion was challenged by a recent teaching experience.

From 2014 to 2016, I taught at an independent girls’ school in Brisbane, and I was fortunate enough to teach the same class of girls for 2 consecutive years. I had kept comprehensive records of the assessments the girls had completed, and of the observations I had made in regard to their learning throughout 2015. As I knew each girl very well as a young person, and as a learner, I felt very confident that the planning I had completed during the summer break, would provide a great framework in which to facilitate their academic learning from week 1 in 2016.

I recall feeling so surprised when I realised that most of the girls were not reading and comprehending at the same level that they had been at the end of the previous school year.

I didn’t let them know this, but I actually thought the students were ‘tricking’ me when they showed me the first draft of their written recount of their holiday break. The mathematics knowledge and skills each girl had demonstrated before the summer break, had also declined by the start of the new school year. I can now state with confidence that the ‘Summer Slide’ is real! *

As mentioned above, recent studies have proven that students lose significant knowledge over their summer break, which can have a snowball effect as they experience subsequent skill loss each year.

Professor James Kim, from Harvard University claims younger students are prone to the most learning loss during the ‘Summer Slide’, as students in the first three years of school learn a lot more than students do in the later years of school. Kim states,

“Things like decoding, letter knowledge and word reading skills are very susceptible to decay without frequent practice, as are math facts like addition and subtraction.”

Parents can assist their children to beat the ‘Summer Slide’ over the school holiday break in a number of ways that are inexpensive, can be easily done at home or are accessible in most local areas.

Activities include:

  1. Providing opportunities for your child to read every day. Whilst it is important for your child to read what they want to read over the holiday break, providing them with the opportunity to visit the local library or to share books with their friends is one great way to expand the range of books they have available to them.
  2. Cooking with your children. Cooking with your child provides them with an experience that involves reading, maths and science. Plus, most young people love cooking, and you may end up with a tasty treat that you can share and enjoy together.
  3. Taking your children to a local museum, a zoo or a local park that has walking trails has the potential to engage and motivate your child’s curiosity, which can lead to your child asking questions and thinking more deeply.
  4. Learning and using a new word each week as a family. Find an ‘unfamiliar’ word in the dictionary, discuss its meaning then write it on a piece of paper and display it in the house. Encourage each member of the family to use the word in a sentence each day.
  5. Making time for ‘smart play’. Play age appropriate board or card games with your child. Solving puzzles is another great way for your child to use their thinking skills creatively.
  6. Engaging in intentional and meaningful conversation with your child, to get them thinking and to expand their vocabulary.
  7. Listening to and discussing podcasts or audio books. Podcasts and audiobooks are great for listening to in the car, or at home, and parents can extend the potential for learning for their child by discussing what was listened to and asking their children questions.
  8. Encouraging your child to use their imagination. They could dress up or make puppets and perform a play or a show for the family.

Also, please note that in January we are once again hosting our popular ‘Beat The Summer Slide’ workshop programs for students from year 1 to year 10.

To set themselves up for a positive and confident start to the 2020 school year, students are able to participate in our ‘Beat The Summer Slide’ workshop programs at their year level. Each program consists of 4 consecutive workshops and focuses on revising key Mathematics and English concepts prior to the 2020 school year commencing. Workshops are live and taken by qualified and experienced teachers.

The cost per child is from $14.95 + GST for each workshop. If parents would like their child to complete the optional homework tasks in between each workshop, this can be organised for an extra $19.95 + GST.

Email us at info@optimiselearning.com to learn more. Be quick, as spaces are limited and in past years they have filled very quickly!

* After a series of intensive revision lessons, each girl quickly caught up to their previous levels of understanding and skills, so in this instance the effect of ‘Summer Slide’ was not permanent.

Tracey Hand
Optimise Learning Co-Founder