Brainy Parenting

By Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist  

An introduction

In Wisconsin, the warm summer months are welcomed with open arms after endless months of snow, sleet, and bitter cold. It’s a nice feeling when I can feel confident moving the knob in my car from heat to A.C. With summer comes the end of school for students in not just Wisconsin but all over the nation. From each week on at this point, educators are saying goodbye to their students for the year and wrapping up their lessons. However, despite students’ achievements this year, they risk losing a significant portion of what they’ve learned this summer.

Decades of research confirm that summer learning loss is real. In a recent article published by The New York Times, Smirk (2011) says, “The American ideal of lazy summers filled with fun has an unintended consequence: If students are not engaged in learning over the summer, they lose skills in math and reading. Summers off are one of the most important, yet least acknowledged, causes of underachievement in our schools.” Unfortunately, summer learning loss affects a significant portion of the student population. However, summer learning loss affects low-income students even more—and it can lead to a significant achievement gap.

Smirk sums it up when he says, “We cannot afford to spend nearly 10 months of every year devoting enormous amounts of intellect, energy, and money to promoting student learning and achievement, and then walk away from that investment every summer.” That’s why it’s crucial students remain engaged and continue learning throughout their summer vacations.

“We cannot afford to spend nearly 10 months of every year devoting enormous amounts of intellect, energy, and money to promoting student learning and achievement, and then walk away from that investment every summer.” (Smirk, 2011)

Keeping students engaged



That responsibility falls on our shoulders. It’s up to us to help students understand that learning doesn’t stop once they walk out the school door. Below, we’ve highlighted a few ways to keep students engaged.

  • Take a moment to explore your surroundings. Whether you’re at the zoo or a park, take a moment to read plaques, signs, and everything else. Ask questions. Take a moment to Google the places you visit beforehand. Afterwards, go to your local library and check out books on those places to learn more.

  • Incorporate math into everyday tasks. Mathematics are all around us: at the restaurant we just ate at, behind the game of catch we’re playing with our friends, in the software running our iPhones. The list goes on and on. Ask students how much their lunch will cost. Ask them what angle they need to throw a football at to get it to their friend. Helping students realize that math is all around us keeps them on their toes and their math skills sharp throughout the summer.

  • Feed and encourage students’ natural curiosity. Students are naturally curious about the world. If they express an interest in something, encourage them to explore it! Have them visit the local library and check out books about their newfound interests. See if there are any events going on that might be exciting. What about YouTube videos or podcasts? Encourage students to Google their interests and see where the results take them.

A summer full of exploration

It’s clear that students need to remain engaged throughout summer—whether it’s exploring a local library or exploring the vast distances between planets in the solar system. Each week through the end of August, we’re highlighting different math and reading activities for students. Our student activities combine warm-weather topics and fun activities to motivate students and celebrate the joy of learning over the summer months, leading to success in the fall. Whether you’re looking for summer activities to share with parents or teaching summer school, we encourage you to take a look at our student activities and bookmark the page, since we’ll be releasing a new set of activities each week. Go ahead, explore!

How do you keep students engaged throughout the summer? Let us know in the comments!

References

Smink, J. (2011). This Is Your Brain on Summer. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/28/opinion/28smink.html



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