Summer slide refers to the loss of academic skills learned over the previous school year during the summer. There’s a lot of literature on how parents can help their children avoid summer slide, but we figured we would go straight to the source: teachers. And while we were at it, we asked them what they really wish parents would work on with their kids before entering their classrooms this fall. Their responses might surprise you.
Reading is fundamental
Even if your child didn’t come home with a summer reading log this summer, I think by now we all know how important reading is to keep those minds active. According to Scholastic, kids in grades third through fifth lose about 20% of their school year gains in reading over the summer. Aurora Dominguez, a third-grade teacher from the Bronx who has also taught fourth and fifth grades, says reading is the most important thing children can do to avoid summer slide. “It doesn’t matter in what language, as long as they are reading!”
The New York Public Library offers some great summer reading lists. Check them out here.
Writing matters too
Monica Pagan-Guzman, a third-grade special education teacher, says to have kids do a free writing exercise every day for at least ten minutes. “I did this in middle school and though it was tough writing and it seemed like forever at first, it got better. It will help a child be able to write on the fly.” She says she wishes her students loved writing like she does.
Here’s a list of 37 summer journal prompts for kids.
But it’s not just books…
An overwhelming number of responses were not about academics. After all, we are preparing to send these little humans into the real world one day. When it comes to toddlers, Eileen Rella, an elementary school social worker from Long Island, says that parents need to make sure their kids are fully potty trained before they come into kindergarten. Stay tuned for an upcoming August newsletter geared towards incoming kindergarteners.
As for older students? Matthew Albert, a high school teacher in Chicago, says that time management and executive functioning are important. Executive function is a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self control. We use these skills in order to learn, work, and go about our daily lives. Here’s a great list of executive functioning skills by age.
As for time management, Harvard Summer School offers up the following time management tips for students:
- Create a calendar
- Set reminders
- Build a personalized schedule
- Use tools that work for you
- Make time for fun, and for yourself
- Find support
- Be realistic and flexible
But what about behavior?
Following the pandemic, many children have struggled to regulate their emotions. Parents need to work on having kids follow directions, sit at a table and practice basic manners. Photo: August de Richelieu
While we figured most responses would be about reading lists and summer workbooks, the majority of responses we received involved student’s behavior. One middle school teacher from Queens told us that “manners and respect” should be the main focus this summer, hands down. She shared how vulgar and rude some students have gotten over the last few years, noting a huge difference after the pandemic.
And it’s not just the older kids. Rella, the elementary school teacher from Long Island, says that children of all ages are “struggling to regulate their emotions. We are in the middle of a mental health crisis in our school systems.” She says that parents need to work on having kids follow directions, sit at a table and practice basic manners. According to the American Psychological Association, children who manage their emotions well are more likely to succeed in school. Here are some strategies that parents can use to help kids understand and manage their emotions.
One teacher of 23 years who has taught grades six to nine and wishes to remain anonymous, told us that she’d love parents to work on, “manners, time management, asking questions if they don’t understand instead of pretending to, and socializing and less device time.”
A former teacher from New York told us that parents expect teachers to be “their kids’ teacher, home attendant and therapist.” He also says that parents need to focus on teaching manners, how to enter a room, and how to act in public. “Some parents need the same lesson too, to be honest,” she added.
An elementary art teacher for kids in first through fifth grades, who also did not want to give her name, told us that, “one thing is apparent. Parents are not teaching limits or manners. ‘Please,’ ‘thank you,’ waiting their turn, trying things [they] might not want to, and being nice. These are all social skills but kids just do not understand how society works.” She says that it’s more than manners; kids are lacking the concept that others have feelings and that they can affect others.
When we asked how she thinks parents can address these issues she said, “I would just recommend limits on everything. Not too much TV or video games because once they get hooked it is impossible to use it as leverage for consequences.” Much like the middle school teacher from Queens, the art teacher believes the pandemic played a role. “I guess the bad thing that happened with the pandemic is that parents were suddenly in charge of kids 24/7 and couldn’t handle it so they let kids play video games and watch TV without limits,” she says.”I get it, it was hard- especially for city families- but now we’re suffering the consequences.”
We’re glad we asked.