Education Solutions: Tips to support summer learning for families, part 2

Traditionally, summer has been seen as a carefree time for students. Nostalgic images of children playing in their neighborhoods until their parents call them home at dusk might come to mind. But the result of this easygoing attitude toward summer has often been “summer slide;” many children lose academic ground while they are away from school. In recent years, there has been an effort to reframe summer as a time for learning.

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Educators can impact how families approach summer. They can help families practice academic skills to minimize summer learning loss. Similarly, they can support families in taking advantage of low-cost and free opportunities in the community, which can build students’ background knowledge.

Below are some techniques from seasoned educators for encouraging Summer Learning:

  • Introduce families to Family Trails. Encourage families to look for adventures in their local communities: a walk in the park, time spent at a community garden, or a visit to a historical site. Family Trails focuses on learning through experiences. It also provides free resources for families to use in exploring the outdoors together.

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  • Become a summer pen pal! Provide families with self-addressed stamped envelopes so that students can write to you throughout the summer. It provides students with an audience as well as an authentic purpose for writing and drawing. And what is more encouraging than opening your mailbox over the summer to find stories and letters from some of your biggest fans? Take the time to write back. (If you are traveling, pick up extra postcards to send to students.) Keep your families connected to your school or program.
  • Encourage families to create accounts on Endless Bookshelf. Families can set goals and track their summer reading using the Reading Challenge section of the site. Early readers can read free ebooks. Young people can also set up and join virtual book clubs so that they have opportunities to discuss what they are reading. These clubs are a great way to motivate tweens (children ages 8 to 12 years old) to participate in summer reading.
  • Host an end-of-the-year family workshop focused on simple games that families can play to review academic skills. Consider games that students have played in class, such as dice games in math or card games with questions for reading. Encourage families to make and take the materials necessary to play the games at home.
  • Reach out during the summer. Families appreciate reminders and encouragement even when school is not in session. Use your normal methods of communication, such as apps, websites, emails, and recorded phone calls, to offer weekly ideas for community events or at-home learning activities.

Teachers, adult educators, caregivers, and family learning staff all dedicate a great deal of time to families during the school year. Families also need support as they gear up for summer. Little nudges from trusted educators can be the difference between families disengaging from learning for eight weeks and families engaging in new ways.

Do you have something that you use to engage families during the summer? Share ideas or links to sites you recommend in the comments below to help our community of practitioners build up their toolkit of summer learning activities.