With the school year’s end fast approaching, so begins the “Summer Slide.”
While the term may conjure images of a hot new dance a la the Harlem Shake, and while it is all the rage with the kids these days, don’t expect to see viral videos on YouTube about it. It’s far more serious than that.
Students of any age who are no longer engaged in consistent scholastic activities can lose academic momentum and forget material previously learned, education experts say. Teachers could have to spend at least a month reteaching that material during the new school year. What’s more, according to Jessica Kim, creator of BabbaCo, which delivers age appropriate activities for kids via mail each month, “the impact of the Summer Slide can be cumulative.” This could eventually set students back years instead of weeks or months.
The number one key to avoiding problems in later years is to start kids on a summer learning routine as soon as possible, advises Bethany Haskins, a teacher at P.S. 133 in Park Slope.
“The sooner parents can make learning memorable — instead of reading about a place, actually experiencing it — the more likely they will carry these good habits through their college and work lives,” Haskins said.
Desiree Milin, the parent of a student at Midtown West Elementary School, agreed, saying she has worked with her son every summer since he began school.
“\[Even\] while on vacation ... we used that time to review basic skills, work on concepts he struggled with during the previous school year, read and learn things that the school does not have time to teach,” she explained.
Michael Apstein, CEO of Focus Education, a firm with the goal of bringing accessible educational material to students, says the Summer Slide comes in two different areas for students in any grade: the loss of specific material they have previously learned, and skills like the ability to focus, study and test well.
“Ideally there should be a combination of these types of activities centered around retaining specific math and reading skills, character development and cognitive exercises,” he said.
Renee Jain, CEO of GoStrengths, a SEL (Social & Emotional Skills) program, feels specifically teaching kids core character development skills — goal setting, self confidence, social connections, problem solving, resilience, optimistic thinking, character strength and emotional intelligence — can go a long way in helping students become self-motivated even without parental guidance.
“This encourages them to avoid the Summer Slide by self-regulation, which is key to keeping up academic momentum during the summer months,” explained Jain.
But as students get older, particularly when entering high school, they need extra outside help, especially preparing for the rigors of pre-college test prep. Eric Greenberg, president of the Greenberg Educational Group, a firm specializing in test preparation and tutoring, explained that as students reach high school, avoiding the Summer Slide becomes even more crucial.
Keeping testing abilities up during summer months is pertinent because students are applying earlier to college than ever before. What worked for students and parents a generation ago is no longer valid because of this acceleration.
“Because of increased competition to get into college, test prep skills as well as math, vocabulary and reasoning skills must be reinforced during the summer because older students are faced with an increased schoolwork load, standardized testing and increased extracurricular activities to round out their college applications,” explained Greenberg.
In essence, there is no longer time to play catch up as there is with younger students.
Tips to keep learning while on recess
-- Read books: Create a summer reading list.
-- Play games: Chess, word games or brain teasers combine fun with critical thinking skills.
-- Watch videos: Programs such as TED talks and YouTube videos are available online.
-- Take trips: Museums, parks, zoos and walking tours are all great ways to learn new things.
-- Hire a tutor: To keep up routine sessions or prepare students for standardized tests, parents may want to consult a tutoring service.
-- Take a class: Recreational classes are offered in a wide variety of topics throughout NYC.
-- Keep a blog or online journal: Writing can spark creativity and keep up vocabulary.
-- Make a list: According to Bob Makarowski, a technology teacher for adult learners at Baruch College, creating a goal list with a distinct deadline for each and reviewing them daily until completion can assist even adult learners