Whether or not your students are counting down the final days to the end of school, it is important that learning not end once summer begins. The “summer slide” is something that all young people experience when they do not continue their education into the summer months.
Research shows that, “students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of summer.” According to the National Summer Learning Association, “Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills.” Similar research into reading achievement loss shows that some students can lose nearly 6 months of grade equivalent reading ability. The achievement gap between lower- and higher-income students becomes even greater due to “unequal access to summer learning opportunities.” Needless to say, continuing to engage students in learning activities throughout the summer is imperative. To get started, consider the following free resources.
This free online reading program for children not only encourages kids to spend time in good books this summer, it motivates them to spend a lot of time in such books. In fact, Scholastic has dubbed this event as “The biggest summer reading challenge ever.” That’s because children who register for the Summer Reading Challenge will be working together to set a new reading world record for the most minutes spent reading during one summer (over 176 million minutes). While the goal is lofty, getting started with the Challenge is not. Children simply register on the Reading Challenge website, read their favorite books, log their minutes spent reading, and track their progress on their own virtual dashboard. As readers reach their weekly minute milestones, they are able to answer challenge questions to earn virtual rewards as well as enter sweepstakes for a chance to win books from Scholastic each week. Parents are encouraged to get involved as well by downloading the Reading Timer mobile app to track their child’s progress in addition to utilizing the many resources, such as levelled reading lists and certificates of achievement, that Scholastic provides for support.
Worried about not being able to take your family on a trip this summer? The Google Cultural Institute has provided a high quality alternative available to Internet users for free. The Cultural Institute was created to provide access for all to “find artworks, landmarks and world heritage sites, as well as digital exhibitions that tell the stories behind the archives of cultural institutions across the globe.” Whether in the Cultural Institute’s Art Project, World Wonders Project, or its Archive exhibitions, children can use Google Street View to explore “the interiors of landmarks such as the Palace of Versailles and the White House” in 3D. They can stand at the base of Stonehenge, visit the archaeological areas of Pompeii, and surround themselves with the Great Barrier Reef in simulations that seem like you are really there. Also, kids can connect further with Google Cultural Institute content by visiting their YouTube and Google+ pages. In addition to walking users through up close and personal interactions with world renowned Art Museums and cultural collections, The Art Project even provides a DIY curriculum that invites budding artists to curate their own collections of masterpieces in a digital Gallery based on numerous factors that an actual curator would have to consider.
With the resources mentioned above, summer doesn’t have to be a series of lazy afternoons. It doesn’t even need to be spent entirely on the computer. But when research shows that “parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do,” there’s no longer a need to wonder how kids can stay engaged with meaningful summertime learning experiences. Instead, the issue now becomes which experiences kids will choose to spend most of their time with.