Homework, book reports and final exams are over, but East Valley educators say summer is not the time for kids to stop learning. Instead, they urge parents to keep children involved in activities that stretch the mind and help them remember what they learned during the school year.
"Math is the number one area where they retain less," said Tammy Hove, dean of students at Chandler’s Andersen Junior High School. "The second one is grammar and conventions used in writing. They’ll forget what a transitional sentence is."
Research shows that while students make measurable academic progress during the school year, some students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, "slip back" during the summer, said a Tuesday news release from the American Federation of Teachers.
To help combat this "summer drop-off," the AFT has created an interactive Summer Learning Calendar Web site with educational activities from stargazing to games.
East Valley teachers also have ideas for keeping the summer educational.
"Read, read, read," Hove said. "This is probably the skill students need the most, and they don’t do it enough."
Hove and other educators suggested parents sign up their children in reading programs offered by public libraries. Hove said kids could set goals for how many books to read in a week and write mini book reports for their parents so they can practice their writing skills.
Howard Oechsner, principal of Tempe’s Meyer Elementary School, also encourages families to use the public library during the summer. But even simple everyday activities provide opportunity for learning, he said.
"Kids can help make the grocery shopping list, estimate prices, total things up. That all uses math skills," he said. "You just want to keep the kids thinking all the time."
For example, watching a movie together offers the opportunity for parents and children to discuss the decisions characters make, he said, and what it means to be a good citizen.
Linda VonLaven, dean of students at Chandler’s Willis Junior High School, suggested that parents have their children keep a journal of their summer activities, whether it’s going on vacation or going to the mall.
"You might even keep the journal and give it back to them when they have a child of their own so they can see what life was like back then," she said.
The key to summer learning, especially for junior high students, is make sure the activity holds their interest. "If they’re not interested, they won’t do it," VonLaven said.
Beat the drop-off
Parents can keep children learning all summer long by:
• Starting a silent family reading period, even for just 15 minutes a day.
• Teaming up to build models from kits.
• Using travel as a time to teach about geography, map reading or how to calculate mileage.
• Letting children compute the cost of a back-to-school wardrobe when advertisements come out.
• Providing paper, modeling clay, crayons, finger paints and scraps of cloth for creative projects.
Source: Mesa Unified School District
To find out more
To visit the American Federation of Teachers’ Interactive Summer Learning Calendar, go to www.aft.org/calendar.