The 2022-23 school year was truly something to celebrate. We continued the long journey of the “return to normal.” Students participated in social events like school families, Homecoming and Prom, Fall Festival and Spring Carnival, experiential learning experiences to Puerto Rico and Japan, and field trips across the Las Vegas Valley. As we review our year, the world is also reflecting on and learning about the effects of the pandemic. Not only have children missed out on social engagement, but much research has been coming out about the academic impact the response to the pandemic has had on our children. Research suggests that babies and toddlers born into the pandemic are achieving developmental milestones at a slower pace, especially in the areas of fine motor and communication skills. Similarly, scores on high academic tests show larger impacts than those of previous disruptions like Hurricane Katrina. In fact, some research speculates that this loss for kids who were already in school may even equate to a delay of one academic year or more.
Many families and researchers alike have called for “high-dosage tutoring” and continued education over the summer to remediate this. While a targeted response may be what the doctor ordered, there are creative ways to engage in learning. Downtime, too, is essential to replenishing attention, motivation, and creativity.
As we approach the end of the school year, students and teachers rejoice at the prospect of the long-awaited break. The summer break has long been seen as a time for rest, relaxation, and restoration. Researchers have warned that without constant exposure to the year’s newly learned concepts, experiencing a “summer slide” is possible. For some students, especially those from families who cannot afford summer engagement activities, this slump can cause a full grade level of regression. Because of this popularly cited research, other families have jumped to the opposite, overloading their children with little time to breathe or rest. Research again here steps in and highlights the importance of downtime. Instead of either extreme option—vegetating on a couch for three months or being enrolled in every opportunity possible—below are a few suggestions from the Student Support team to avoid the summer slide while allowing for the much-needed break.
Beginning School: Communication and Fine Motor Skills
- Increase the language. The more you talk to your children, the more advanced language skills they develop. Focus on back-and-forth conversations with your child and work more language into your everyday routines (rather than drills).
- Read to your child. Create a routine in which you read to your child at least once daily. Engage in dialogue about the book and allow them to make comments or ask questions (“dialogic reading”).
- Play, play, play. Follow your child’s lead in play and allow them to choose the activity and how the play goes (“child-directed” play).
- Playdough/Theraputty: rolling, pinching, squeezing, pulling—encouraging them to squeeze together using one hand.
- Tweezer games: Operation, Bed Bugs, Crocodile Teeth, Avalanche Fruit Salad.
- Construction Toys: Legos, magnetics, puzzles, marble runs
- Cutting with scissors.
- 4-point position.
Lower through Upper School: Preventing Learning Loss
- The Meadows School Summer Learning Packets for those entering grades K through 6.
- Camp Mustang.
- High-dosage tutoring.
- Explore local opportunities: check with universities, libraries, and recreational centers.
- Daily reading and summer reading lists or library challenges. Reading just 20 minutes a day, or 6 books total, can keep a struggling reader from regressing.
- Engage in brain exercise. Try switching writing hands, completing tasks backward, learning a new language, or trying anything else new.
- Engage in physical exercise. A healthy body increases the ability to focus and engage in school-readiness skills.
- Take advantage of teachable moments and life experiences. Keep a daily journal, play family crosswords and games, or read descriptions of animals at the zoo. Learning doesn’t have to be straight from educational books alone.
- Volunteer or gain work experience for “soft skills” that all employers are looking for.
For more ideas and resources, be sure to talk to your Director of Student Support Services for engaging apps, local learning opportunities, and any other resources to help you on this summer learning journey.
Dr. Kristin Withey
Director of Student Support Services