Summer time is for playing outside and going on fun outings, but that doesn’t mean your children can’t keep their educational skills up to date. By providing your kids with year-round learning opportunities, you help them keep their reading, writing and math skills sharp and ready to jump right back in when school starts again.
To help with ideas of what to do over the summer, I interviewed Jack’s 1st grade teacher, Cathy Wilson. Although some questions are specifically about early elementary school, families with older kids can take the ideas and adapt them appropriately.
What skill have you found in your years of teaching that kids lose the most during the summer? Reading, writing, math, organization, other?
Without practice during the summer, reading and writing can take a negative hit. First graders have worked daily in their progression from non- readers and writers to independence in both areas. A little practice each day will maintain their skills in these areas. I have found that math, organizational and social skills to not be affected as much.
What can parents do to keep kids from losing their reading and writing skills?
Provide your children with a variety of experiences to practice reading and writing. This will help build their schema (background knowledge). The ability to comprehend is strengthened when we can connect learning to our schema. The more schemas you have…the more connections you can make. Summer is a great time to practice the skills learned during the school year in a playful way with hands on experiences.
How can you keep your child learning during the summer without it feeling like school?
I call it casual learning. Give your child opportunities to build cognitive flexibility, increase vocabulary and encourage problem solving. Model learning for your children, read in front of them, tell them how you make your book selections, share your new learning. Children are “ever-watchful”; learning from the actions of those around them
- Visit the library. Find out what interests your child and select books on that subject. Participate in free library summer programs and make time to read every day. Have your child pick from both “just right”, using the five finger rule (if they miss five words on a page it is too hard) and interest level.
- Take educational trips. These can be low-cost visits to parks, museums, zoos and nature centers. Bring binoculars and a journal on a hike or walk, recording observations as you go.
- Practice math daily. Measure items around the house or yard. Track daily temperatures. Add and subtract at the grocery store. Time in the car is always perfect for a quick round of mental math practicing math facts, skip counting and problem solving.
- Make time for imaginative play and educational games.
- Play outside. Limit TV and video game time during summer, just as during the school year. Physical activity and exercise contribute to healthy development.
- Do good deeds, such as community service.
Do you recommend daily activities? If so which ones and how much?
Our district follows a homework policy of 10 minutes/day/grade in school. Your child would benefit from splitting this time between reading and writing on a daily basis. For enrichment and schema building, I would suggest creating a family “bucket list” of activities and set goals for learning during summer break. Use this list to schedule your summer activities.
Do you feel it is worthwhile to put kids in a tutoring or organized program such as Sylvan during the summer?
For success, tutoring must be tailored to the specific needs of the child. If your child’s teacher has recommended summer tutoring, be sure to know the specific skill area(s) that needs to be addressed.
What about educational summer camps? Have you found that they help?
If parents are not able to be home with their children during the summer, these camps provide them with enriching activities. Look for camps that have a low student to staff ratio, balanced programming providing recreation, enrichment and academics with high-interest and engaging activities.
As a 1st grade teacher what skills are essential to make sure your child is prepared when making the big transition from Kindergarten to 1st grade?
Ha…I could make a very long list of entry skills that would create the perfect first grader, but that would take the challenge of teaching away from me! Many of our incoming first graders attended Kindergarten in schools other than ours, typically ¼ of the class; creating a diverse range of academic experiences. More important than academic skills are the social skills of listening, following directions and working together in groups. Of course it doesn’t hurt if they know how to read and write numbers and letters!
What are the essential skills for starting 2nd grade?
Beginning second graders should be reading and writing independently. The ability to summarize and retell a story is also important. Math skills range from addition/subtraction facts, measurement (time and money) and problem solving. All of these skills are easily practiced during the summer….keep a journal; visit the local library, set up book trading with some of your friends, play board games and learn something new every day!
Are there any good websites that can help parents find fun and educational activities?
- www.everydaymathonline.com (need login/password)
- www.raz_kids.com (need login/password)
Enjoy your summer and keep learning!