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 theNational 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.

Research shows kids can lose up to three months of learning over the summer. Try these tips to keep brain drain at bay.

  • 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
  • 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

–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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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

–David Arter
Math teacher, Chicago Public Schools


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