Some of the newness of summer has now worn off and the attention of many has turned to what lies ahead in our near future. One sign of things to come is the appearance of the annual “Back to School” displays in our local stores! But before we get too ahead of ourselves I want to stress that summer is not over. To the silent joy of many students I repeat … summer is not over! But I also want to repeat my annual message of fighting the summer learning gap!
For many years research has proven that if left dormant throughout the summer months the critical developing foundational skills of reading, writing, and math will take a nosedive and turn into what has become known as a the summer learning gap. Children can actually regress up to several months if they do not engage these foundation skills which have been carefully fostered and acquired throughout the school year! If a child returns to school in the fall with a significant summer learning gap they find themselves frustrated and behind for many weeks, months or eventually years! So before we get too consumed in “back to school” I challenge everyone to help our children activate their brains during the rest of our summer and fight the learning gap!
This fight of reactivation and engagement begins at home with simple implementation of reading, writing, and math incorporated into daily summer activities. Reading and writing can be easily engaged through kitchen activities. Have your children read the directions for a recipe and read the labels for the needed ingredients. Discussing quantities and measuring out ingredients serve as great practical enforcers of math skills including fractions. Hypothesizing potential outcomes of the mixing of ingredients is also a great way to have fun and engage the mind. Creating grocery lists initially followed by in writing helps to keep analyzing, predicting, thinking and writing skills engaged.
While television for long periods of time is not encouraged by anyone it can be reinvented into fun learning opportunities. One such option is turning the sound completely off on your television and engaging the “closed caption” command. This provides a wonderful reading enforcer for your child. Another fun activity is to turn the sound down on the television and challenge the entire family to become announcers or narrators in generating possible dialogue and scripts for the show or game! The potential story lines that can be created have great possibilities for family creativity, humor, and fun!
Beyond the home, if you are traveling have your child write postcards to relatives or teachers. It is always great to come back to school as a staff member and have student generated mail waiting. Challenge your child to write journal entries about the sights and sounds of your vacation. Free stationary and envelopes can often be found in your hotel room or at the front desk. Stop at the visitor information centers along the way and have your child utilize the abundant sightseeing brochures to research relative potential stops or for future trip planning.
If you are not traveling far keep in mind the many local resources available starting with our public library. We are blessed with an amazing children’s collection at the Piqua Public Library and every book is available free for your child’s reading pleasure! While at the library pick up a book for you! Parents can enjoy a book and also be a great reading role model at the same time. Spend time listening to your child read and also reading to your child.
Our county park district and the parks within our city along with the bike paths are also great places to visit and engage bodies and minds! At a minimum everyone, young and old, should have at least one hour of quality physical activity. Being outside can make those sixty minutes even better with the sights and sounds of nature. While experiencing the parks, make observations, count, read, write and talk about everything that is being experienced through the human senses.
The great thing about summer learning is that it can be easy and fun! Learning can also be accomplished through play. Games, sports, plays, puppets, music, and basic play all provide both physical and mental stimulation along with offering an opportunity for communication with others.
So before we succumb to the “back to school” movement let’s enjoy the rest of summer and incorporate great learning opportunities for our children and fight the summer learning gap!
Rick Hanes is the superintendent of the Piqua City School District. Rick continues to ensure that the Piqua City Schools show residents the “Good Schools, Good Value” that they are each day. You can follow him directly on Twitter @raheducator.