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Fun in the Sun – Combating Summer Learning Loss

Vikki Rimmer – July 2013

I have read a lot recently about ‘Summer learning loss’ and how many students, over the six-week holiday period, lose knowledge and skills learned before the summer holidays, with some losing up to 3 months of learning. It seems extraordinary to me, as the parent of a 4-year old, that after all the work we’ve put in over the preceding three terms – learning our sounds and how to form them, learning to blend and segment – that we let go, in a way; put the books and flash cards aside to embrace the sun (or drizzle!).

We seem wedded to an out-dated agricultural calendar that harks back to the days when our children were needed in the fields.  The six-week summer holiday is popular with many, (I have wonderful memories of going feral during the summer holidays!) but as a Mum, I am worried that if we don’t revisit some of our work learned in the last year, then it will be more difficult for my daughter when she returns in September.

So this year, top of my holiday shopping list isn’t trunks, rubber rings or word search books, it’s ‘My Jolly Phonics’: a small yellow suitcase that contains a world of learning.  School may be out for summer, but Inky, Bee and Snake are definitely coming with us when we go on holiday this year.

Even without spending any money, there are some basic things we can do as parents to ensure that we make the most of our six-week break, while keeping our children’s knowledge of phonics as buoyant as a rubber ring in a paddling pool.

Plan ahead

Talk to your child’s teacher about the forthcoming curriculum.  If dinosaurs, or prehistoric man is going to feature on the curriculum, then a trip to the Natural History Museum (free) is a good way of introducing what will be learned next term.

Real Life Skills

Try to relate what your child has learned to holiday activities.  Use the mathematics they’ve learned to help with map reading. Talk about everything that you have done to build not only vocabulary and knowledge, but also to develop your child’s social skills and ability to express themselves.

A Big Project

A summer project that you can keep for posterity is a good way to engage your child’s attention.  Perhaps you could write a story together and illustrate it, then scan it and publish it online.  You could even publish to Kindle and encourage your child to count the money as it rolls in!

Reinforce what you learned together last term

Reinforcing at home what a child has learned in school is the very best way to help your child during school time and during the school holidays.  It’s tempting for parents as well as children to put the books to one side during the summer months, but dipping in and out of what we learned together last term, be it just for ten minutes a day can make a real difference.  It’s especially important with synthetic phonics.  There are many fun ways of doing this.

Play

If your child is just finishing a book (or you finish reading one together) either act it out with teddies (if you’re child is very young) or encourage them to put the story on as a play, with friends. (English, Arts)

Hunt for birds’ nests and note down or take photographs of the materials the birds used. (Science)

Plan a scavenger hunt; you could do it on the way to the park or to a friend’s house.  Plan beforehand what your child needs to find.  Be very specific; ‘a leaf nibbled by an insect’ or ‘a plant that has seeds you can pick’. (Science, Language Arts)

Whatever you do this summer, there are lots of ways to help prevent summer learning loss without sacrificing the all-crucial element of fun (or the glorious weather, while it lasts).

These Jolly Phonics Finger Puppets are a great free resource to play with children.

Vikki is mum to a 4-year old girl and also works as a freelance PR Agent – July 2013