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Seven Ways to Prevent Summer Learning Loss

Barbara Dianis

Author, Don't Count Me Out! A Guide to Better Grades & Test Scores PreK-12
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Summer is upon us once again, and parents are beginning to plan for their children's days without a school schedule. Dreams of days filled with family, friends, freedom and laughter are in students' heads as they say goodbye to another school year. However, a nonacademic summer can cause students at every grade level to digress two to three months in their academic skills. Half an hour to an hour set aside daily can help students close learning gaps and perform at higher levels during the upcoming school year. Summer is an ideal time for students of all ages to strengthen their academic skills while still having plenty of time left over for summer activities.

1. Make Time for Learning

Set aside time for your student to read each day during the summer break -- 15 to 30 minutes per day is all it takes! During the summer, students have more time to read for enjoyment, which also offers a great opportunity to preserve and strengthen their reading skills. Your summer activities should include taking your children or teenagers to the public library to check out books of interest and/or any summer reading groups they'd like to join.

A great way to track how much reading your child is doing during the summer months is a tally on your regular activities calendar. This will help keep the daily reading time from being overlooked because of other summer activities -- and we know there are many!

Parents of students reading below grade level should read with their children in order to assist with sounding out words they might not be able to decode themselves. In addition, keep a dictionary or online source close by to help students figure out those words by using the phonetic spelling provided.

2. Learn and Practice Affixes

Children and teens of all grade levels can improve their reading and spelling skills by learning affixes. Most multi-syllable words include prefixes and suffixes added to a base word. You can find a list of affixes and their meanings in a dictionary or in many online sources. To make this practice appealing, turn it into a game! Students can create flashcards of prefixes and suffixes. On the reverse side of each affix flash card, they should write the meaning. All children love guessing games and can point out what they think the affix means. You can also use this game to help them learn new vocabulary words.

3. Develop Math Skills

Though it may not seem fun to them at the time, working on just three to four math problems per day during the summer can prevent students' mathematical skills from getting rusty. They can look at it as a daily challenge that they must complete, or a daily "to-do" to proudly check off their calendar. Parents can purchase a math workbook for their child's academic level at most bookstores. Working on just a few problems daily (or more, if your child enjoys math) can help students of all ages close the gaps in their math skills, preserve what they learned during the previous school year, and prepare for the next.

4. Improve Reading Comprehension

To help your children better understand what they're reading, consider offering them a reading comprehension workbook to work on several minutes daily. These can be found at teacher supply stores or many online outlets. Students of all grades and ability levels can benefit scholastically by working with material that offers self-quizzes and high-interest stories. This practice helps develop their fact-retaining and inference-making skills.

5. Review and Build Grammar Skills

Review the past grade level's grammar concepts, and begin to work on the next school year's concepts. During the summer, students benefit from weekly reviews or pre-learning two to four lessons. Find workbooks geared to their grade or skill level, and encourage them to check their work using the answer key provided. Even if they make mistakes on their answers (and who doesn't make mistakes?), finally filling in the correct answers will reinforce their grammar skills.

6. Encourage Creative Writing

Creative writing is a great way to improve your children's written language skills while giving them a fun and imaginative activity during the summer! Have your student write a creative paragraph each week. As a parent, you can help by assisting him or her with choosing a "topic" (such as a family vacation, special outing or holiday memory) to write a paragraph about. Students can also benefit from using a thesaurus and changing several common words to more interesting words. This will make their writing more interesting while learning great new words at the same time.

7. Focus on Specific Skills

Pinpoint the subjects your child had the most trouble learning the previous school year, and make sure to fit in some practice in these areas. Summer is an ideal time to set aside just 15 to 30 minutes a day for helping your student on areas of difficulty. Again, use every resource available to you! Parents are not helpless when it comes to their child's education. Online resources and teacher supply stores offer a wide variety of learning materials, workbooks, computer games, and other types of games to reinforce and strengthen scholastic skills. Students may wish to play learning games with their friends to help make the time fly by and make learning more fun.

Over the summer, students and parents who practice the above tips can see great strengthening and improvement in scholastic skills, and avoid digressing two to three months in learning. Summer learning can be fun and challenging at the same time. Students may find learning to be more fun as they become more capable of meeting scholastic challenges and overcoming any learning weaknesses. By implementing a summer plan and igniting your child's passion for learning, he or she can enjoy a renewed sense of academic self-esteem and dignity -- wonderful benefits of learning not to be "counted out."

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Barbara Dianis

Author, Don't Count Me Out! A Guide to Better Grades & Test Scores PreK-12

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Debora Wondercheck's picture
Debora Wondercheck
Executive Director, Founder of Arts & Learning Conservatory

Know the theory of learning by doing. Arts and crafts offer children endless opportunities to learn by doing. And they are likely to remember what they learn! Brain researchers tell us that children retain more information when hands-on activities go along with that learning. Children learn:

10% of what they READ
20% of what they HEAR
30% of what they SEE
50% of what they HEAR and READ
70% of what they SAY and,
90% of what they DO!

Michelle's picture
Parent Educator for Union School District

I was truly inspired while reading this. I don't think parents truly understand how much information their children lose over the summer. I really enjoyed reading this and the seven ideas you have shared. I had just read an article that was written by Valerie Strauss called "How to Prevent Summer Reading Loss" ( and I was blown away at some of the information. This will definitely be a blog I will want to share with my parents. Do you think this could be something teachers could print out and share with their parents at the end of the year along with some other ideas on how they could work with each student?

Margarita Finkel's picture
Margarita Finkel
Social media for e-learning & technology

It was very useful, thank you Barabara.
I'd like to add to your list some information which I found useful too:
Here are some tips form Lorraine Allman "Some of the ideas I suggested with a technology focus included using technology to get the kids outdoors with activities such as Geocaching, using 'Ingress' (the new release from Google), or for younger children mission:explore. All these require children to use skills such as communication, team working, and decision making." To read more click here

Jennifer's picture
Kindergarten Teacher in St. Louis, MO

Barbara Dianis mentions in her blog post, "A nonacademic summer can cause students at every grade level to digress two to three months in their academic skills." I found on's article Primer on Summer Learning Loss, "All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Research spanning 100 years shows that 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). It amazes how much students can regress over the summer and especially how quickly! I've learned from being a teacher that it is true that student's do in fact have a summer learning loss if their parents don't help and support them over the summer. I've seen many times that where students come in far behind from where they've left off in their previous grade level. Summer is such an important time, not only to have fun, but also to continue to learn and sharpen those skills that have been previously taught in school. Many teachers are probably wondering what can we do to combat this summer learning loss? What can we do to help not only all children, but especially how can we help the low-income children experience less summer learning losses than their higher-income peers? We need to educate our parents at the end of each school year how imperative it is that they continue educating them over the summer. They can go to their local library to check out books, we can give our parents a list of safe educational Internet sites that the students can use, we can provide iPad/iPhone educational apps that are useful, we can give a list of tutors in the area to help fill in the gaps or give enrichment activities to the children. I also think it's important for parents to understand that even reading every day for 30 minutes and practicing math facts will driving to their summer vacation will be important to prevent the learning loss. To help prevent summer learning loss for our students and children, what about proposing the idea to our schools of possibly year round schooling, a modified calendar, or an extended school year?

Below are some more links to help provide information on what we can do to prevent this summer learning loss.

Ashlie Forchione's picture
Ashlie Forchione
Content Manager at Ingenex Digital Marketing

These ideas are fantastic goals to prevent summer learning loss! Thanks for providing them. To get tangible ideas on ways to accomplish these goals, check out the ThinkStretch blog. It's filled with activities and games to encourage creative writing, improve reading skills, develop math skills and find science in the world around us. If you're looking for ideas, you can find it here: Enjoy!

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I don't work for ThinkStretch, but I do help with their digital.]

Mr. Beierle's picture
Mr. Beierle
3rd grade teacher from Wisconsin

While I agree these are solid educational ideas, we must examine closely what is meant by summer learning "loss"; especially when such losses are determined by questionable and biased standardized tests (I'm looking at you MAP test). For a an interesting perspective on "learning loss", check out this article from Alfie Kohn. It sheds a new light on learning rarely touched in the education reform debate.

Patryk Wernicki's picture

Dear Teachers,
I am an EFL teacher from Poland. I teach English to my sister, a secondary-school student. She wants to continue to improve her English speaking skills constantly during the summer break. We both agree that it's no use working with books or copies in the summer. We have been doing it this way during the whole school year. Do you have any suggestions how to make learning more fun, but keep a thematic sequence?
I want to teach her outdoors and indoors, but possibly without sitting at her desk. I want to talk to her in any situation, but keep it thematically adjusted to one particular topic each day she learns. I would be grateful if you shared your ideas with me.

Katie Schellenberg, JD, MA's picture
Katie Schellenberg, JD, MA
Advocate, Lawyer, Teacher and Founder of Beyond Tutoring

Hi Patryk,

I will give you one teacher's perspective who has taught English overseas and learned other languages overseas. I would suggest taking your sister on English outings which would be immersive but also provide needed scaffolding and perhaps frontloaded vocabulary beforehand. By way of example, you can go to the grocery store and give her a few more complex words or sentence structures beforehand. As you go through the grocery store (or on a hike, library or museum), use the words and phrases often used and ask questions. I think this could be a great way to learn more practical English this summer.

Patryk Wernicki's picture

Thank you, Katie! Sounds great! If I do not manage to go to Britain or elsewhere this year, we can always create such situations/opportunities. Doing simulation (not role-play) activities is also great. What do you think?

Your suggestions will be very useful, I'm sure. Even if I don't go to an English-speaking country, I certainly will use them. Thank you very much!

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