By Judianne Jayme
Entering my 5th year of formal teaching, I think ahead to that first day of school – a new set of students in front of me. Even in those early days of school, it’s evident to me which students are the result of the dreaded summer slip, the loss of the skills and learning. The learning part is questionable, as I believe that meaningful lessons and activities from effective teachers will be memorable to most students.
But what happens when that teacher is no longer around for two months of break?
These are students who had spent a majority of their summer without being challenged. Please note, that I’m not saying that it’s spent on screen time. I do believe, that certain apps and games will challenge students to think critically – however, it should be balanced with their emotional and physical health as well. See my 5 steps below to help your child stay sharp over the summer.
Parent Tip: Challenge Children!
1. Healthy Habits
Summer is the time to have fun and is usually equated for kids as staying up late, being glued to their electronics, and eating all sorts of sugar. While celebrations of learning are a must, it should still be in moderation. Make sure your child is still having an adequate sleep, eating nutritious food, and getting some time to run around and, well, be a kid! Having healthy, meaningful conversations is also key to your child’s overall health, and I will focus on this in a later article.
2. Fitness Fun
My summers as a kid were filled with vacations filled with walking, exploring, biking, and a whole lot of play. This doesn’t need to change generations later. Kids are genuinely excited to be active as long as it’s treated as something exciting. Don’t make it a chore (“you have to get up and do something!”), instead turn it into a family event (“the sun’s up, let’s go explore the park/zoo/trail/festival/insert-activity-here”). This also doesn’t have to cost a thing – summer programming for students on summer break are everywhere, you just have to be resourceful.
3. Critical Questions
My next article will deal with this issue in depth. When your child asks you a question, don’t feed them the answer. Children seek affirmation regarding what they may already know. I return most questions with “Well, let’s see. Why do you think that is? / How do you think that works?” If they reply with “I don’t know,” try asking “Well if you did know, or if you were an expert in (subject), what would you think?” This keeps them thinking for themselves and gives them a natural inquiry-based type of mindset rather than seeking to be given the solutions. His/her next teacher will be so glad you had them thinking critically over the summer.
4. Real Reading
The more students read the better they write. This also correlates with their abilities to process information, think critically and communicate in various ways. If your child isn’t the biggest fan of reading, have them read to you in meaningful, realistic situations. Have them read out that phone number for you, or read the recipe as your make dinner. Have them quickly read out the directions from your GPS, or read you the Google search results of something you’re wondering. The same can be said for writing – they can help you out by recording or scribing what you say out loud. You can take this a step further by letting them summarize your ideas. This may seem trivial, but for non-readers, if done consistently, they will be more ready for September than without it.
5. Meaningful Math
“When am I ever going to use this?” My students ask me this a lot. I reply (refer to #3) with: “When have you seen this in real life?” Decimals in money and prices when ordering off a menu. Doubling/halving fractions when doubling/halving recipes. Comparing ratios when comparing sales prices. Ask your child how much you can purchase with $20.00, or better yet, have them help you with groceries and let them estimate what the cost may be.
There are tons of ways to keep your child from suffering summer loss in these two months. Hope these are helpful. Happy learning, and stay sharp!
I am a Grade 6 educator wrapping up my fourth year of teaching in the Winnipeg School Division. Voluntarily, I am also a trained mentor for new educators. My involvement in the community focuses on empowering youth, women, and assisting immigrants. I serve as a Member at Large on the board of directors for the Manitoba ENTRY program.
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