Many students are entering summer, a time when there is already a documented slide for learners, behind academic benchmarks. This reality is linked to learning losses they may have experienced during an academic year marked by the pandemic. Past research on summer learning loss has shown that programs that support students in staying on top of basic summer skill building, or just “keeping the learning faucet on,” can lead to significant gains. For example, James Kim, a Professor of Education at Harvard, found that even a modest amount of independent reading over the summer could negate nearly all of the typical loss. In this post, the second in our two-part series, we examine practical ways we can use summer as an opportunity to help our children make up learning losses.

As caregivers, we can proactively identify lagging skills, and work with our child to create a motivating plan to bolster them. We can use our home as a valuable space for fostering executive functioning skills so that our children are more self-directed, confident, and goal-oriented learners in the year ahead. Additionally, we can create an environment that is socially and emotionally responsive for our children. Maintaining positive “full picture” thinking by setting goals can help prevent feelings of overwhelm. Modeling a healthy relationship with screen time and strategies for coping with distraction, resistance, and procrastination creates important opportunities for vital connection with our children.

Below are five tips for supporting your child in making up losses in their learning over the summer.

Reframe academic “losses” as growth areas. Communicate proactively with teachers at the end of the year to identify growth areas for reading, writing, and math for fall. Respect appropriate channels of communication.

  • Use the resources teachers provide to educate yourself on reading levels, and writing and math curriculum standards.
  • Collaborate with your child to identify areas where they would like to feel more confident in their learning.
  • Break learning goals down into clear steps. Praise their effort and focus on process versus result.
  • Model setting goals, staying on track, and celebrating completion as a family to inspire feelings of confidence and competency in your child. Big Life Journal is a wonderful growth mindset resource for caregivers and students.

Consider what is in your Circle of Control. While it may be tempting to let structure slide in the summer, creating a daily schedule allows for consistent skills work relating to academics, executive functioning, and independence.

  • Consider the physical space and structure you can provide to set your child up for successful outcomes. Collaborate on a calendar or “day map” that delineates tasks.
  • Implement positive behavior systems that allow you to track and celebrate growth, and build to meaningful rewards, such as earning points, marbles, or tokens for positive moments that can be exchanged for desired activities, choices, or “time-ins” with a caregiver.
  • Stay in control of the amount of time your child spends in front of a screen each day as these devices can sap motivation. Incentivize accomplishing less desirable tasks with screen time.

Adopt a “less is more” approach. Summer is an important time to celebrate accomplishments, recharge the batteries, and enjoy the inherent play of childhood. Opt for creatively integrating activities that help strengthen academic skills into your child’s regular summertime day-to-day.

  • Collaborate with your child to plan and prioritize what is most important to strengthen in the months ahead.
  • Build bridges instead of waging battles. Keeping up with skills building over the summer need not be a struggle. Focus on the core curriculum concepts your child needs to master. Build in practice that is connected to what your child enjoys doing. Creatively explore math and STEM through building, nature, or video games, for example.
  • Weave reading and writing into the routine. Select a weekly story night to read together, play word games, or enroll your child in a writing class or club they find exciting.
  • Peruse online resources such as outschool.com, education.com, wild math curriculum, baamboozle.com and Kahoot.com for additional inspiration.

Support deeper learning. Cognitive psychology research has consistently shown that inviting deeper learning can have a vital impact on how students process, retain, and apply information. Connect learning to real life and what is personally meaningful to your child to deepen and extend the experience.

  • Explore simple ways to enrich learning at home. Have conversations about what projects your child has in progress. Create shared experiences with friends and family.
  • Connect mind and body. Encourage your child to experiment with options for movement that spark internal joy. Adventure to new neighborhoods, take trips, and experience nature.
  • Have supplies for hands-on activities at the ready. Gather recycled tinker materials or objects from nature that relate to curriculum concepts that your child can use to show what they know and investigate further.
  • Support independence by helping your child plan out and break down larger tasks into clear, sequenced steps. Then step back and check in periodically. Self-directed work can inspire confidence and translate to strong academic self-efficacy.

Stay connected socially and emotionally. Social interaction in a physical classroom provides an essential source of feedback and connection, which most students went without during the pandemic. It is important to acknowledge and address this loss, the impacts of which may not be readily apparent.

  • Incorporate mindfulness activities, feelings check-ins, and reflection into each day. Schedule time outdoors for movement, exploring, and, particularly for younger children, imaginative play.
  • Organize “learn dates” with peers centered around shared areas of interest.
  • Swap books with students in the neighborhood.
  • Plan special experiences like museum visits, outdoor craft days, or participation in community events.
  • Reconnect with classmates in advance of the new school term.
  • Remind your child that the experience of the pandemic is one that local and global communities have navigated together. Take opportunities to vocalize appreciation for the resilience and flexibility we have all demonstrated to support one another through immense challenges.

Organizational Tutors offers a wide range of summer programs, packages, and one-on-one support to equip your student with the skills and strategies they need to enter the new school year as a more confident, organized, and independent learner. Please visit our site and reach out to us with any questions and for more information.

OT Team

Author OT Team

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