When my daughter was in first grade, her teacher set up a bulletin board in her class where each student’s name appeared below a construction paper cutout of an ice cream cone. As students learned their addition and subtraction facts, they were invited to the board to pin up cutouts of ice cream scoops, whipped cream, and a cherry. By July, my daughter’s cone was complete! As we headed off for a summer vacation visiting national parks, the recollection of her ice cream cone assured me that she was ready for second grade. Eight weeks later, she hardly remembered any of those precious math facts and we scrambled to review.
This is typical summer backslide and teachers plan for some review time each fall. This year will be an exception. With the abrupt transition to remote learning in March and the varied approaches taken by each teacher, school and district, students will be at a broad spectrum of starting points. In addition, districts will be taking an array of measures to ensure student safety when they reopen facilities. Taking time over the summer to help children review and prepare for the new school year will make it a smoother start, especially this fall.
Here are a few steps to consider:
• How did your student end the last year?
Reports are showing that a lot of students did not finish all of the content of a regular school grade. If that is the case for your student and you have last year’s texts, packets or online lessons, use some time over the summer to do some work. Whether it’s a little or a lot, working 30 minutes a day a couple of times a week will make a big difference. If you don’t have access to those materials or you want to limit the summer slide, order bridge books, online or from Barnes & Noble or your favorite local bookseller and have your student work through a few pages a day.
• Drop Everything and Read (DEAR)
Pretty much every elementary school teacher will tell you this and it is true—for all grades! Daily reading and summarizing is one of the most effective things anyone can do to improve their reading ability. Aside from comic books, let your student pick a book of interest, read for 20 minutes and summarize in a journal for 10 minutes several days a week. Summer reading programs at local libraries are a great way to do this and most community libraries offer virtual programs and some have curbside pick up. You can also start a socially distanced neighborhood book exchange and hand off desired books when you are walking the dog. Again, reading and journaling is one of the most effective, proven ways to improve student’s reading ability—from first grade through high school.
• Distance Learning Will be Part of the Plan
The California Department of Education has announced guidelines for schools to reopen and while districts have a variety of options and plans, all are likely to include continued use of distance learning and some in-person time. The summer break gives you time to gear up. Make sure your student has access to a computer and internet services. Equally important, if you weren’t comfortable with Google Classroom, Zoom or Canvas, take some time to familiarize yourself with it now, when there’s no pressure.
• Got Mask?
When students are on campus, they will be required to wear masks. Trying to concentrate with a mask on is a big change for kids. Take some time to find or make masks that your student can be comfortable with if you haven’t already done so. Consider masks that can be lowered and left around your student’s neck so they can leave it on while eating and aren’t putting it on a desk surface. Once you have the type or style selected, buy or make enough to get you through a few days so you don’t need to worry about daily laundry.
• Get Supplies
District guidelines will also limit students from sharing supplies and will require students to eat snacks and lunch at their desks. Make sure your children get the items they prefer by ordering school supplies now and avoiding lines or a last-minute panic.
• Plan Now
Check your district’s plans and make sure they are in line with your family needs. If they aren’t, take some time to look for other charter or private school options.
While school is out for summer, using a little bit of time for reviewing and preparing will help your student get off to a good start.
Daveen Meyers, Ed. D is a business executive turned educator, currently serving at an online charter public school and is a contributing writer to Jlife magazine.