POW! Take That, Summer Slide!

May 22, 2014 BY Kelly C. Bawden, MS, CCC-SLP

Can you hear that? It’s the giant, ticking clock, counting down the days, hours, minutes, seconds until school is out for summer. Now, we know that our readers come from all different sorts of places and spaces and are active in traditional schools and homeschools and every kind of school in between. The so-called “summer slide,” though, is pretty universal. It is likely mitigated by school models that don’t have the traditional 10–12 weeks off during the dog-days, but anytime you take a break from instruction you’re likely to see plateauing of skills at the very least, backsliding and loss of skills at worst. Don’t believe me? Check the research, yo. Students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer (White, 1906; Heyns, 1978; Entwisle & Alexander 1992; Cooper, 1996; Downey et al, 2004) (more cool facts available at The National Summer Learning Association). And hey, guess what? Kids lose reading skills, writing skills, math skills, and speech-language skills.

No es bueno.

The good news is that you can do battle against that dreaded slide! I’m the sort of lazy mom who likes to work smarter not harder (‘cause work is somethin’ I’m not short on, amiright?!?), so here are 6 easy peasy things to help keep the summer slide at bay:

  1. READ! This might be classified under “Duh,” but it really is the easiest way to keep all sorts of skills sharp. ReadWorks (one of our favorite sites around here) has provided some great passages for rising 1st graders and 2nd graders, and 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders, and 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. The built-in comprehension questions at the end of each passage make these a no-brainer for increasing comprehension skills, but they’re also great for vocabulary work (highlight unknown or key words, make guesses, confirm definition), sequencing work (retell the story in order, cut apart the story and put it back together), and even artic (highlight all the words with the target sound)!
  2. Do a Project – Summer is perfect for Project Based Learning (PBL). At it’s root, PBL really just means doing projects and weaving learning targets into them. So, my kid is really into king cobras right now (I KNOW). If he had a language goal for sequencing, PBL would tell us to do some research on the life cycle of the cobra (online or at the library or zoo or wherever), and then print out or draw some pictures of the life cycle so that we could practice putting them in order. A more artsy mama might even do some papier mâché action. Then he could call grandma and tell her about the lifecycle. And maybe even write about it. The point here is that kids can learn about what they want to learn while you secretly help them learn what you want them to learn. Sneaky.
  3. Make a Picture Book – This is a variation of the PBL idea. We all take pictures all the time. Lots and lots of pictures. Why not incorporate a child’s speech-language goals into the picture taking? If it is sounds they’re working on, take pictures of things that start with their sounds. If it’s language, let them take pictures for a day. Either way, help your kiddo take those pictures and make them into a book. You can do it online, of course, but you can also print the photos at the grocery store and do some cutting and pasting and even book-binding if you’re into it. I know. Olde-timey. How quaint.
  4. Word o’ the Week – Sit down right now and make a list of 12 words. You can use one of these lists to help you. Now, transfer each of those words on to their own index card, and write the definition on the back. Put them all, except for one, in a paperclip. Take the one you didn’t put away and stick it to the front of your fridge (or inside the front door, or on the car dashboard, or on the dining room table, or … ). Switch it out every week. If you wanna get all pinterest-y and craft-y, you can make it a cute frame or whatever, but that’s certainly not a requirement.
  5. New York Times Vocab Boost – Read this post for 12 insanely easy ways to boost vocab using either the online or print version of this venerable publication.
  6. Do Summer Speech Therapy – This is, of course, the most sure fire way to be sure s/l goals are addressed over the summer. Depending on where in the country you’re located, there may or may not be options for seeing a private clinician over the summer. So, file this under shameless self-promotion if you please, but we would be remiss not to mention our sister site, The Hello Clinic Private Online Therapy. Clients can sign-up with one of our clinicians for 5 or 10 speech therapy sessions over the summer and head back to school in the Fall actually ahead of where they left off. And the best part for mom and dad is that there’s no appointment to drive to!

Now you’re fully equipped to go into battle. Here’s to a summer full of no-sweat, summer-slide-beating good times!

(a version of this post also appeared on our sister site, The Hello Clinic)