Keep Kids Sharp and Avoid the ‘Summer Slide’

Keep Kids Sharp and Avoid the ‘Summer Slide’

- in 2014 Editions, Education, June 2014, Magazine
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Avoid the Summer Slide in Northeast OhioSummer vacation is a welcome classroom break for most students. The downside is that many lose academic ground and spend weeks or months in the fall making up for lost skills.

Educators call it the “summer slide.” However, with standardized tests becoming increasingly important in school, students can’t afford to fall behind when summer arrives.

Retaining Reading Skills

Many parents who will have third-graders next fall might be feeling a little nervous. Their child will be taking Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which is a program to identify students behind in reading from kindergarten through third grade.

According to the Ohio Department of Education’s website,”a minimum score must be attained either in the fall or spring administration of the state reading test. Except for ­students with special circumstances, students must meet a minimum score on the state reading test to move on to the fourth grade.”

“It’s the first time that Ohio has tied grade promotion to a reading assessment,” says John Charlton, ODE spokesman.

Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee provides some exclusions as there is an opportunity for a child, if ready, to take fourth-grade classes in other subject areas while working on third-grade reading skills, according to the ODE website. Schools can move students to the fourth grade in the middle of the year, if the student’s reading improves.

This past year’s third-graders were tested last fall and again this spring to evaluate reading skills. Charlton says 66 percent of Ohio’s third-graders met the reading promotion score in the fall. However, the pressure is on for teachers, parents and students — no one wants to keep a child from moving on to the next grade level. As a result, most public schools are providing extra help for kids.

Districts also must tell parents about at least one approved tutoring provider whose services are free of charge to students who don’t meet the standards.

“Districts should be communicating with parents about the reading tests and how well their kid has done on it,” Charlton says. “If not, call the district and find out about the free summer tutoring and other options for getting your child’s reading skills up to grade level.

“We want districts to be as creative as possible (to help) students,” he says.

To prepare incoming third-graders next fall, he notes, ­parents can work with their children by looking at practice questions online through the Ohio Department of Education’s website (education.ohio.gov) and have students practice keyboarding skills.

Parents can look outside their ­districts as some area ­educational institutes offer summer programs in reading and other subjects.

For example, John Carroll University’s Summer Reading Program for Children and Adults offers five-week classroom instruction at their University Heights campus and other ­locations such as Cleveland, Mentor, Parma Heights, Solon, Strongsville and Westlake. The eight different programs, from preschoolers (age 4) through college-age and adults, provide comprehensive reading lessons taught by instructors from the Institute of Reading Development.

Learning Throughout Summer

Summertime offers a break from formal education, but that doesn’t mean that learning takes a break.

A handy link from the National PTA (pta.org) is titled, ­“Parents’ Guide to Student Success.” It has downloadable guides about what children should be learning at each grade level, how to build relationships with teachers and planning for college and careers.

Education experts remind parents that learning can and should take place year round in informal and fun ways. For example, a trip to the grocery store offers an opportunity for a math lesson by comparing prices. Storytelling and memory games are great conversation and recall skill builders. Board games and other traditional “toys” all are learning opportunities in disguise.

“What we would say to parents is to be creative, to make use of outstanding games like Stratego or Bop It!” says Steve Buie, director of Learning Rx Akron-Bath Brain Training ­Center. “These games are wonderful for keeping the edge sharp on their cognitive skills. They will help them keep their skill sets sharp. It’s not about information; it’s about keeping their skills sharp.

“To sharpen math skills play games such as Simon, which develop reasoning, math, processing speed and attention levels,” Buie adds. “Also, the game Battleship involves planning, logic, reasoning and memory. LEGOs are terrific for sequential processing and reasoning. Card games such as gin rummy or other strategy games like Sudoku and Clue are just a few others that help develop skills.” He also advises finding books that focus on your child’s interests. Parents of younger children should read with them daily.

The “summer slide” is a real threat to academic success, but parents have plenty of options to prevent it or at least lessen its impact. For example, area libraries offer specialized summer programs that offer a way for children to hone skills while ­having fun.

Programs such as Learning Rx can help. Students get ­specialized “brain training” that develops cognitive, one-on-one customized cognitive skills training. Tutors can also offer help to work on subjects such as math or reading.

In fact, parents can talk to their area educators as many conduct private tutoring during the summer months. If your child has a favorite teacher, ask if he or she is available.

This summer, make sure your child soars, not slides.

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