Summer is coming up quickly! I love summer break because it helps me recharge for the next school year. But summer break doesn’t always have a positive impact on our students.
Some of our students spent most of summer break playing video games and watching television. Kids can definitely learn from video games and T.V. shows. But those activities are not as enriching as reading, visiting museums, and practicing math facts. Unfortunately, our students don’t all have equal opportunities to extend their learning during the summer.
Here are some other sobering facts about summer learning loss (from http://www.summerlearning.org):
- Students take a significant hit in their math skills over the summer. The majority of students lose about 2 months of grade level equivalency in math computation skills (Cooper, 1996).
- Reading achievement also declines over the summer, typically for low-income students. Most low-income students lose over 2 months in reading achievement (Cooper, 1996).
- More than half of the achievement gap between low-income students and their higher-income peers an be attributed to unequal access to summer learning (Alexander et al, 2007).
Yikes. These statistics are scary! We also have to consider that in addition to the summer learning loss that students experience, we use up instructional time re-teaching 2 months’ worth of skills. That re-teaching cuts down on our instructional time for the year, which means students learn even less than they could be learning during those nine months that we do have school!
We work too hard during the short time that we have our students to let them slide back during the summer! Although we don’t have control over what happens at home during the summer, we can definitely take steps to minimize summer learning loss.
In this post, I’ll share FREE parent letters with suggestions for summer learning activities, and I’ll explain why I give my kids pizza boxes to take home over the summer! I’ll also provide links to my summer homework packets.
The first thing we can do is educate parents about what they can do to prevent summer learning loss. I always provide my students’ parents with a list of 10 fun learning activities that they can do over the summer. These activities are enjoyable, simple, and usually free (for example, a car game that has students reading license plates). These lists also have book suggestions for students to read over the summer.
You can download (for free!) the summer learning tips here for your Kindergarten, first grade, or second grade students. Each packet is designed to be parent-friendly, so you can send it home “as is.” Click on the image(s) below to download the handouts that you need – they are included in both English and Spanish.
Another action we can take is to educate our students about the importance of summer learning. For the months leading up to summer break, I talk with my kids about how learning can happen at home and at school. I tell them how important it is to continue reading, writing, and practicing math over summer break.
Then, toward the end of the school year, I begin preparing their take-home pizza boxes. I ask a local pizzeria if they would be willing to donate one (unused!) pizza box for each student. They always agree – maybe because it’s free advertising! Then, I begin filling the boxes with leftover school supplies. If necessary, I purchase more pencils and crayons to fill the boxes. The boxes are great because they’re sturdy and relatively large (less likely to be lost over the summer).
In the box, I also include a summer homework pack for each of my students. The summer homework pack provides a review of key reading and math skills that we’ve worked on throughout the year. Since I’ve taught Kindergarten through second grade, I’ve developed materials for each grade level. Here are some photos from the packs:
If you’re interested in any of these summer homework packs, click on the images above to learn more. You will probably not want to send home everything in each packet (there are tons of materials!) so you can also use some of it for end-of-the-year review.
Once the supplies and summer homework packs are in the pizza boxes, I close ’em up and send ’em home! I make the “pizza box presentation” kind of a big deal. The boxes do sit in the room for a day or two before I give them out, and the kids are just filled with curiosity…most of them think they are getting pizzas. Ha! But they are still super excited when they find out what is really inside.
I am thankful that my own upbringing was such that I did not stop learning during the summers. I feel very strongly that we need to do everything we can to provide similar experiences for our students! We certainly can’t control whether or not they actually DO the activities we suggest, but we can make our best effort to help students extend their learning into the summer.
Have you seen the effects of summer learning loss? What do you do to prevent it?
Thank you for these great ideas. In Australia we do not give holiday homework but some children need it and those are the children that I will encourage to use these ideas.
Hi Margaret! Yes, I agree that some children definitely do need it. 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting!
Hi Allison, I am interested in reading the research from Alexander et al, 2007 regarding the comparison of low income students not being offered summer learning programs. Could you tell me the name of the article so I can read it? Thanks, Amie
Hi Amie! I believe this is the correct one: Alexander, K.L., D.R. Entwisle, and L.S. Olson. 2007. Lasting consequences of the summer learning gap. American Sociological Review 72:167-180.