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Avoiding the summer holiday brain drain

Ok, I’m going to jump the gun a little here and fast forward a couple of weeks to suggest that you’ve all recovered from the end-of-term-4 tiredness, school break ups and Christmas/New Year festivities. At this time of the year it can be difficult (unless you’re a VCE student) to even think about study plans over the summer school holidays but let’s talk about why ‘switching off’ completely may be detrimental to your child getting the most out of their learning when school resumes.

What is Summer Learning Loss?
Research suggests that Summer Learning Loss, or the loss and/or decrease in academic knowledge and skills over long school holiday periods can equate to students academically falling behind by up to 4-8 weeks by the time school resumes. The research also indicates that this varies greatly by student and in topic areas with mathematical skills being most affected . This has a cumulative effect on students learning new material after school holidays and is problematic for teachers who spend many weeks having to re-teach material to students. For tutors, it is obvious that the gaps in their students’ knowledge only widens after long school holidays when they have not engaged in reviewing topics or previous learning.

So how do you encourage your child to avoid the summer holiday brain drain?
Let’s be clear for a moment. We are not suggesting that students engage in a rigorous study timetable, in fact that would be counter-productive. What we are encouraging students to do is engage in age/developmentally appropriate learning that supports their academic skills and avoids them ‘switching off’ and lapsing into brain drain that offers no benefits over the holidays or when school resumes. Take a look at this short list of general activities to benefit primary and secondary learners:

Primary learners:

– For very young children, reading at least one book a day as a family.
– Visit your local library and encourage your child to browse for texts that appeal to them or a current topic of interest.
– Read texts that are challenging and discuss them with your child to enhance comprehension and vocabulary skills.

Remember to use analytical question prompts to help develop your child’s skills; Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

– Think outside the box and incorporate maths and reading into everyday unstructured activities, field trips and holiday activities.

This can be as simple as helping your child read a map when you’re at the zoo to navigating their way through the grocery store looking for particular items on the shopping list:

– Reduce screen time and encourage outdoor fun; nature is a wonderful teacher.
– Structure some maths time with your child in a relaxed atmosphere.

Review times tables, count objects of interest, read the time (analogue and digital) and help your child make a list of what they do at certain times of the day, get the blocks out and talk about geometrical shapes while building with your child, cook with your child or do some water play to incorporate measurement skills.

– What is your child passionate about? Incorporate learning with their passion through books, trips to museums, libraries, zoos, planetarium etc. Keep a journal with your child filled with interesting facts that they can record, draw accompanying pictures and write accounts of their adventures.

Secondary learners:

– Younger secondary students can work on spatial and geometric maths skills such as architecture and engineering through building structures with a variety of materials…get creative!

Have a discussion about the effectiveness of the materials chosen using analytical questions as prompts; Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

– Get organised for English by reading the set texts before you start the new school year. Think ahead about characters, themes, context and setting.

– Older secondary students can review core maths concepts in preparation for returning to school. You can find a plethora of practice questions online to keep your skills in check.

– Help your secondary student to develop independent learning skills. Encourage them to take initiative of their own learning and make a list of topics they need to work on in each area of study.

– Reading, reading, reading!!! Yes, I can’t stress this one enough. Read often, read widely, think critically about what you’ve read. Whether this is an article in The Australian or a novel of your choosing, think critically about points of view, characters, themes etc. Challenge yourself and don’t just pick your usual familiar genre of text or one that you will easily cruise through.

Remember, it’s easy to avoid summer learning loss while you’re having fun on your summer holidays by including some of the above tips into your break!

Lastly, as the school year has concluded I would like to thank you for tuning into our blog and providing us with your feedback throughout the year! On behalf of everyone at Aptutoring, I would also like to sincerely wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a safe New Year! We thank you for your continued support in 2016 and we look forward to working with your child again in 2017 to assist them in reaching their academic goals!

Cooper H, Nye B, Charlton K, Lindsay J, and Greathouse S. 1996. The effects of summer vacation on achievement test scores: A narrative and metaanalytic review. Review of Educational Research 66: 227–268.