Most people tend to think of academic slide, the concept that children lose knowledge they’ve amassed in school, as only happening over the long summer break. However, for many kids, the shorter breaks given at the holidays and in spring can also have adverse effects.
Preventing this slide is challenging, especially when parents work and teachers cannot physically accompany their students back to their homes. Any attempt to remedy the problem must take into account that some kids will spend time alone, as well as the fact that bringing “schoolwork” home is unlikely to be enthusiastically greeted by kids.
So what’s the answer? While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, here are several tricks that can help keep kid’s learning going over breaks.
Encourage Parents to Read Aloud
As a teacher, you cannot make parents read aloud to their kids. You can, however, strongly encourage it by talking to parents at conferences and when they come to visit the school. Many parents might not understand the correlation between reading aloud and learning, but would happily do more for their child if they knew how important it was. For kids whose parents work, try to impress upon moms and dads the usefulness of a CD player, laptop or iPod that kids can put stories on and listen to. The spoken word is a powerful tool for learning, even if it isn’t coming from parents.
Encourage Kids and Parents to Build Libraries
When kids have books to read, they’re less likely to backslide. Encourage both kids and parents to keep lots of books on hand. Since many parents can’t afford to regularly buy books for their kids, help your students check books out from the school library before they head home on break. Tell parents about the importance of reading, and encourage them to take their children to public libraries when school is out. Sending kids home with reading lists so they can mark off their progress can also help motivate them to spend time immersed in literature.
Send Kids Home with Flashcards and Educational Games
Before the break, set up a fun activity where kids can put together flashcards that cover a topic they’re learning. Use colored paper, stickers, bright markers and other art supplies to make the flashcards fun. Encourage them to practice over the holidays by telling them that you’re looking forward to seeing how far they’ve come. You can also make educational games at school before the break begins, such as board games or paper tangrams.
Talk to Parents about Limiting Video Games and Television
Again, you don’t have any control over what happens in your students’ homes, but assume that parents want the best for their children. Talk to them about the importance of educational computer games and television programs, if kids must watch them. Encourage them to rent learning-oriented DVDs from the library and download educational games. Children love electronics, and are often happy to play enriching games if their parents encourage it.