How to Help Prevent Summer Learning Loss
Note: This blog was updated on March 16, 2020.
The end of the school year will be here before we know it. Having the summer off from school means that kids can play, relax, and spend time with their families. But it also means that they will lose a portion of the skills and knowledge that they learned this past school year. When teachers and parents work together, they can prevent summer learning loss and keep students growing and thriving.
Make the Most of Every Day Until the Last Bell
While it’s easier said than done, keeping students focused until the very last day of school is one of the best ways to prevent summer learning loss. Here are some tips for keeping your classroom productive and under control until the final bell rings!
Enforce Normal Behavior Standards
There’s a lot going on at the end of the year, and it can be tempting to relax the rules a bit. But, the key to keeping your class engaged is sticking to the status quo. Rather than easing up on behavior expectations, offer increased rewards to motivate consistent and appropriate classroom behavior.
Younger students love helping their teachers, so try offering incentives that do double duty like:
- Helping take down bulletin boards
- Washing chalkboards
- Counting and inventorying books in the classroom library
- Handing out art or assignments that were hung up for the year
Provide Fun (But Structured) Lesson Plans & Activities
When it comes to lesson plans, look for structured activities that are also fun and offer something they don’t get in a normal school day. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Get outside for a nature walk or an educational game.
- Write thank-you notes to school staff members.
- Complete a community service project.
- Write letters about what they learned this year to welcome next year’s students.
- Create summer to-do lists or reading lists.
- Research summer topics like tropical countries or how roller coasters work.
The last few weeks of the school year are also a great opportunity to experiment. Try a new lesson plan, writing assignment, or science experiment. If students respond well, you’ll know to use it as part of your regular lesson plans next year. If not, you won’t feel as though you wasted time when you could have been teaching a tried and true lesson.
Don’t Go Overboard
The last few weeks of school can sometimes feel like a competition. Offering special end-of-year activities is great, but there’s no need to “out-do” what other teachers might be doing. The key to maintaining control is preserving a sense of “normalcy” and keeping things low-key. A fun activity on the last day will surely be remembered, but there’s no need to go overboard with activities every day for the last several weeks of school.
Give Their Brains a Break
Keeping the last few weeks of school as educational as possible is important. But if your students simply can’t focus in school to begin with, your efforts to prevent summer learning loss over break will be for nothing.
Rather than half-heartedly enforcing behavior standards all day long, try alternating an hour of focus time with a 15-minute brain break. This will help students differentiate clearly between work time and playtime, and help you with your overall classroom management. Emphasize that classroom rules (like inside voices) still apply, but also recognize that students have extra energy they need to expend.
Combat Learning Loss Over Breaks
The other key component to preventing summer learning loss is keeping students’ minds working all summer long. With a little buy-in from parents, you can make summer break educational as well as fun.
Create a Summer Reading List
One of the easiest ways to prevent summer learning loss is to provide a summer reading list. There are hundreds of lists on the web, and many public libraries also have curated summer reading lists by grade level.
You can also ask your school librarian for a list or allow students to create their own lists and recommend books for their peers.
Make Limited Screen Time Productive
Technology can be a double-edged sword, especially during the summer months when students have more free time. There’s no denying that technology and digital devices with the right learning content (or opportunities) can be important educational tools.
The best way to combat unproductive screen time is to support educational screen time like reading a digital book or listening to appropriate podcasts. There is so much educational digital content out there that can combat summer learning loss in a fun and exciting way. Here are a few of our favorite resources:
- SciShow Kids: This YouTube channel explores all sorts of scientific topics through experiments. If you have a student who can’t stop asking “why?” these videos have the answers!
- Scratch: Scratch is an incredible tool from MIT that can help teach young students the basics of coding. There are kid-friendly tutorials, as well as an open-play “sandbox” for kids to learn on their own.
- MathGames: This resource is exactly what it sounds like — thousands of fun math games for children to play. There are games for every age level and skill, and many of them tie in with math standards used across the country.
You may also want to encourage parents to put limitations on screen time at home. There is no hard and fast rule about how much time children should spend watching TV, playing video games, and exploring the Internet. But there are a variety of ways to limit the time they spend, like:
- Creating technology-free zones (bedrooms, the kitchen table, the backyard)
- Allowing children to “earn” screen time by completing tasks like reading or writing in a summer journal
- Being a good role model by limiting their own screen time in front of their kids
- Using the computer with their children to help them find fun content that is also educational
Help Parents Become Teachers
By mid-July, many parents are grasping at straws for fun activities to keep their children busy. Consider compiling a list of local resources, like libraries, museums, science centers, and camps that offer summer activities and programs. Encourage parents to use the resources around them to make a summer full of meaningful experiences rather than just screen time.
You can also send home a “summer folder” full of optional activities for students to complete with their families. Parents will thank you for the ideas and inspiration, and next year’s teachers will thank you for keeping students’ brains working all summer long.
Keep In Touch
While you will have hundreds of students over your career, your students only have a handful of teachers in their lifetime. Students love to keep in touch, and it can be rewarding to see what they accomplish after they leave your classroom.
Provide students with a self-addressed envelope and encourage them to write you a letter this summer. Not only is it a great way for them to keep in touch, but it will also keep up their writing and communication skills for the following school year.