15 practical tips from Chicago teachers to avoid summer learning loss

Summer isn’t just about camps, beaches and play dates. Studies consistently show that students lose critical skills, knowledge and grade-level equivalency during extended breaks from school.

This is a real, systemic problem.

However, there is no need for parents to despair. Chicago-area families can combat this annual phenomenon by actively engaging kids in learning this summer.

A recent study showed that more than 75 percent of parents said they wished teachers would tell them more about the dangers of the “summer slide” and provide tips on how to keep their kids’ minds engaged.

Local educators are eager to help, since the amount of summer learning loss directly impacts where classes begin in the fall and the amount of progress classrooms are able to make in the coming academic year.

The bottom line: Parents need to think about learning opportunities in creative, unconventional and real-life ways.

Tips from teachers

1 Let kids choose. Every child should read something they choose to read. Video game magazines, travel brochures and sports articles online are all forms of reading. The more the child wants to read something, the more they will get out of it. Set aside time each day (or as often as possible) for kids to read something of their choosing. Janelle Thomas

2 Limit TV and video game time. Anne Koss

3 Make educational activities part of your routine like making your bed or brushing your teeth. I really recommend parents avoid the battle of “forcing” your children to do work. Signing up for something at the library or asking your child’s teacher for assignments, or using educational apps or computer games helps to take some of that struggle between parent and child away. Melissa Capizzi

4 Join a summer reading program with your child. It is a great way to encounter and discuss a variety of genres. Anne Goodman

5 Get real-life experience. Include time to be physically active every day. Research shows that active bodies help build active minds. Physical activity is a key part of child brain development and should be continued through the summer. Kevin Stein

6 Make sure you let your kids see you reading! Make it a part of your family routine. Koss

7 Build math problems into your everyday life. For example, bake together, using only the half cup measurement tool and ask them to figure out how many scoops are needed for three cups. Or do math problems, such as it is 10 a.m. now and we have to be at the park by 1 p.m. It will take us 20 minutes to get there and an hour to eat lunch before we go, what time do we need to start lunch? Capizzi

8 For students focusing on foreign language retention, download a movie in the language with English subtitles. Find a list of the 2013 Oscar language contenders for best foreign film at imdb.com/list/c-CTnVwxf70. Amy Bizzarri

9 Get together with other students to practice social skills. A huge aspect of life in school K-8 is the social emotional learning. Spending time interacting socially with peers can help students ease back into school life come September. Stein

10 Greate real-life learning opportunities. Go to museums, sign up for camps, watch educational TV, go on family trips, go on outdoor adventures, visit a farm, plant some seeds and watch them grow. Talk about what you see and do. Koss

11Visit museums, zoos, nature centers and libraries. These can all be great places for kids to go and learn something while they’re having fun. Capizzi

12 Go online. Many book publishers offer online access. Also search the iTunes store for free or inexpensive apps under educational resources. Capizzi

13 Set aside time once or twice a week to practice basic skills learned during the past school year. This can range from reviewing math facts (depending on the grade) to completing a few workbook pages. Often, teachers are more than happy to put together a summer practice packet if parents ask for one. Thomas

14 Practice your language skills Flashcards+ app allows you to easily create and study flashcards on your smartphone. Bizzarri

15 Connect. Parents need to connect with their child’s teacher and make sure they follow through with any recommendations the teacher might have for their child. Goodman

The panel of Chicago-area educators:

  • Amy Bizzarri, grades 9-12, 10 years experience
  • Melissa Capizzi, assistant principal, 12 years experience
  • Kevin Stein, fourth-grade teacher, four years experience
  • Anne Koss, K-8 visual arts/fourth-grade language arts, 15 years experience
  • Janelle Thomas, fourth-grade teacher, eight years experience
  • Anne Goodman, K-5 reading interventionalist, 38 years experience

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