Stamp out summer brain drain with these tips from Chicago teachers


Summer is for lazy days at the beach, barbecues, baseball games, picnics and the pool. It's time to unplug from busy school year schedules, to relax, to get outdoors, to play.

Unfortunately, research by the National Summer Learning Institute has shown that many children lose one to three months of learning over the summer. So summer is also the ideal time to encourage learning through hands-on, fun and active fieldwork and projects.




  • Gardening is a great way to introduce children to the science of nature in the summer months. Germinate and plant seeds (save seeds from your produce) and grow your own vegetables or herbs.
  • Keep a weather log. Note temperature patterns and weather changes. Learn more about the science of summer storms by visiting the Museum of Science and Industry's newest exhibit, Science Storms, or check out related online activities at
  • Have your child research animals they are interested in and create a scrapbook containing information and pictures of each animal. Follow up with a visit to see the real deal at your local zoo.

--Eloise Roche
Science teacher, Chicago Public Schools

Next: Culture



  • Summer is a good time to further investigate the culture of the language your child studies at school. If your school doesn't offer world languages, seek out a summer language program at one of the many area language schools (Alliance Francaise, Language Stars, Multilingual Chicago, Italidea, Instituto Cervantes, etc.)
  • Prepare recipes from different countries or visit restaurants.
  • Rent some "foreign" films ( is a great Chicago resource) or watch your favorites from the United States with a different language track.
  • Visit ethnic museums in the city (Swedish-American Museum, Mexican Fine Arts Museum, etc.).
  • Go on a Web quest and make a scrapbook of different countries or regions where a language is spoken.

--Samantha Godden
World language teacher, Chicago Public School

Next: Reading



Read, Read, Read! Reading out loud to your kids increases reading fluency, expands your child's vocabulary, models good reading habits and increases reading motivation. If your child is 2 or 12, reading aloud is a powerful connection between home and school. When selecting text to share with your children, here are a few handy tips:

  • For pre-readers: Select text that has predictable word patterns, rhyme patterns or repeated verses or phrases. This will help your child read along and understand how words sound and link together.
  • For early readers: As you read together, ask your child to make predictions, connections or figure out what the author is trying to teach them, "What do you think will happen next?" "How would you feel if this happened to you?" "What do you think is the most important part of the story so far?" These conversations get kids thinking about what they are reading and increase comprehension.
  • For older readers: Young adult literature has really changed since Judy Blume. Young adult lit authors are taking on very challenging issues.
  • Choose a novel that you can really talk about. It may be easier to discuss important or sensitive topics with you pre-teen or teen if you can relate the issues to a character or plot twist. Topics like body issues, peer pressure, loss, depression, love, bullying, race relations, sexuality, drug/alcohol use are just the beginning. These stories can really open doors for you and your child. Read them together out loud and ask each other questions. Or, get two copies and read the books on your own, then come together after dinner, on the way to soccer practice or before work to talk about what you've read and to plan the next section. You'll be amazed at the conversations you'll have. If you don't know where to start, go to and type in 2010 Best Books for Young Adults.

--Christine Lord Voreis
Language arts teacher, St. Charles Public Schools

Next: Math



  • I developed my love of math by analyzing baseball statistics with my stepdad. It's the perfect way to bring math into the lives of your young Cubs or Sox fans. Compare batting averages and wins vs. losses; predict season outcomes. Check out for some great activities connecting math and sports.
  • Take your child to your bank and set up a child's savings account to introduce basic calculation, interest accrual and the importance of saving.
  • Brush up on math skills with a workbook series tailored for summer learning. Encourage your child to do a page or more a day. Create a rewards system for each chapter or set of pages completed. The McMillan/McGraw Hill Math Daily Practice Workbook with Summer Skills Refresher series is available on for all grade levels.

--David Arter
Math teacher, Chicago Public Schools

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