Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer Slide

Summer is fast approaching, and your students are probably giddy with the thoughts of sun-kissed days and freedom from the classroom. Of course they – and their teachers – deserve a little downtime from the rigors of the academic year. But is an entire summer of downtime too much of a good thing?

Research has shown that students lose ground in their academic dexterity over the summer, particularly in reading, math, and verbal skills. Without the daily routine of the classroom and the repetition of concepts, students lose an average of one to two months’ learning over the summer. Teachers and education experts refer to this as “summer brain drain,” and find themselves spending a good chunk of time reviewing or re-teaching material to their students once school starts up again in September. To help stem the flow of information loss, it’s important that kids keep thinking, reading, and writing throughout the summer.

While summer learning loss is prevalent in most students, studies have found that lower-income students are hit the hardest by summers off from school. More affluent families often enroll their kids in expensive summer camps and enrichment programs to give them a competitive edge when they return to school, and such students can actually make wide academic gains over the summer. For many lower-income students, however, comparable programs either don’t exist, or are financially out of reach for their families. Studies have shown that low-income students lose the most ground in reading skills, which can take months to remedy once they are back in school.

Fortunately, some good options exist for all students, regardless of income. Many public libraries run summer reading programs for preschool kids through teens; this year’s theme is “One World, Many Stories.” There are also lots of free, high-quality online games and activities that are geared towards getting kids to use analytical and reasoning skills. This week, I’ve selected three Gateway resources that I hope you’ll include in a newsletter home to your students’ parents, encouraging them to set aside some time each week for student learning. These are free online activities that will challenge students in a fun and creative way. Please be sure to check our href=””>Facebook and Twitter pages throughout the week as well, as we’ll be featuring many more free resources to help prevent summer brain drain in your students.

Shape Poems
Subjects: Language Arts
Grade: K-5
Using this interactive tool, students create shape poems, which are poems that describe an object and are written in the shape of that object. Students may choose shapes from four different themes – nature, school, sports, or celebrations. By selecting a shape, students learn how to focus their writing on a particular topic. Additionally, students are prompted to brainstorm, write, and revise their poems, thus reinforcing elements of the writing process. Students can also print their finished shape poems. This resource is a product of
ReadWriteThink, which presents free, peer-reviewed resources in reading and language arts instruction.

Lure of the Labyrinth
Subjects: Math
Grade: 7-8
Lure of the Labyrinth is an interactive online math game for middle school pre-algebra students. Here, students embark on a mission into a shadowy factory populated by monsters to save a lost pet. Students assume the guise of "undercover monsters" as they work through math problems. In the process, students work with proportions, fractions, ratios, variables, equations, numbers, and operations. Lure of the Labyrinth is a product of the Learning to Go project (LG2G), which concentrates on creating essential resources for teachers, pre-algebra students, and their families.

Play a Virtual Market
Subjects: Economics
Grade: 6-12
After finding an old coin worth $100,000, it’s time for you to make some investments. In this online activity and simulation, students learn how to play the stock market. Players can trade in traditional stocks, and also use call options. This activity was created by Rob Meyer, a production assistant at NOVA Online. NOVA is the award-winning PBS science series, which offers a plethora of science-related lesson plans and activities for K-12 students.

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