Guest Post by Suzanne Barchers, EdD, Chair Lingokids Educational Advisory Board
We have finally gotten through the school challenges brought about by Covid. Many children spent all or most of the past year in a more traditional school setting. They’ve had time to socialize and assume a more routine day. We may think we can finally take a breath and put the COVID-19 era behind us. But wait…the research tells us that our children haven’t totally caught up from two years ago.
The Brookings Institution recently published a study that confirms the losses in math and reading have been significant. Staff shortages, short-term quarantines, and absenteeism have contributed to the loss of instructional time.
Now that we are well into the summer months, students typically begin to fall behind due to fewer educational activities. Teachers expect that it will take a while to get students back on track in the fall, but with so many students even further behind, particularly in poverty areas, the summer slump is something we need to minimize. Fortunately, there are two areas of focus that will make a big difference: reading and math.
Reading Tips and Tricks
Make reading a priority this summer. Did you know that if children read a million words of print in a year, they will acquire 1000 new vocabulary words? A million words seems like a lot…but a comic book (or graphic novel) contains about 2000 words. A teen romance, such as the Sweet Valley High series, contain 40,000 to 50,000 words. Many schools issue a recommended summer reading list, or you can find good lists for your child at the library.
But how to keep them reading, especially when they just want to play outside. (And playing outside is critical—children benefit from at least two hours of outside play each day.) So, make reading a family time. Read with your children, perhaps for a half hour after dinner. Take turns reading aloud while fixing dinner, clearing the table, or doing other chores. Make the reading aloud a privilege—whoever reads aloud gets to skip sweeping the floor that night.
Choose a book for the family to read together that has a movie version. Examples include The BGF, Willy Wonka: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 101 Dalmatians, Matilda, Coraline, Harry Potter movies, and many others. Read the book together and then compare it to the movie.
Have a reading contest. Who can read the most books or words, adjusting the rules by age. Celebrate the efforts at the end of summer with a book party.
It’s always a challenge to keep kids busy when in the car—and it may prompt carsickness to read. Visit the library and check out some books on tape. There are sources online as well for listening to great stories.
Apps, such as Lingokids, integrate learning into play. A typical game includes a lot reading, with vocabulary acquisition a primary goal. Children love having screen time, so make it meaningful with apps that help avoid the summer slump.
Incorporate reading into other family activities: reading recipes, playing games, writing stories that you share, making scrapbooks that document summer adventures. A summer newsletter to send to family members is a priceless memento of the summer.
Math Tips and Tricks
When I homeschooled my kindergarten and fifth grade grandchildren during Covid, I was fascinated by how the fifth grader quickly used finger math to add and subtract. That’s fine for basic math, but it becomes too time-consuming for multiplication and long division. There’s nothing fun about the rote learning that comes with memorizing math facts. However, having those facts accessible eases the challenges of computation.
How can you make memorization of those math facts fun? Start with movement—sometimes the addition of movement to memorization helps “cement” the learning. Kick a soccer ball back and forth as you say, “2 plus 2 equals….” You can find charts of math facts online. Have your children take turns being the “teacher,” and if you are the student on occasion, make some mistakes to keep them on their toes!
Have your child help with math when you are shopping. Talk about the prices—if one can of corn is 99 cents, what will two cans cost? Teach comparison shopping, examining ounces, quantity, serving sizes, etc. It keeps your child engaged during a routine activity and teaches lifelong skills.
Incorporate math into cooking. I’m a big fan of family cooking, and learning fractions becomes natural in the context of putting together a meal. Even the youngest in the family can count out how many napkins are needed at the dinner table.
Make bath time math time. Gather plastic measuring cups, spoons, funnels, and containers of different sizes for the tub. Have your child compare containers—does a tall skinny bottle hold the same or more or less than a rectangular storage container? (Yes, talk about those shapes too-squares, rectangles, circles….).
In short, integrate math and reading into everyday activities and your child will return to school ready to learn.
Suzanne Barchers has a bachelor’s degree in elementary Education from Eastern Illinois University, a master’s degree in education from Oregon State University, and a doctorate of education in curriculum and design from the University of Colorado, Boulder.
After teaching for fifteen years, Barchers served as education director and deputy director of the Children’s Museum of Denver, designing exhibits and programs, obtaining grants, and managing staff.
After the publication in 1990 of her first book, Creating and Managing the Literate Classroom, she began her career in publishing. She built Teacher Ideas Press, the teacher resource division of Libraries Unlimited, into a viable profit center. She next developed a line of books for teachers, parents, and children for Fulcrum Publishing, a trade publishing company in Colorado.
From 1990-1999, Barchers taught graduate classes at the University of Colorado, Denver. Courses included curriculum development, children’s literature, language arts, and expressive arts.
Barchers was Managing Editor for more than four years at Weekly Reader in Stamford, CT, and she then served as Editor in Chief and Vice President at LeapFrog for more than three years. Barchers served on the board of directors for the Association of Educational Publishers for ten years. She also served ten years on the PBS Next Generation of Children’s Programming Advisory Board. Since 2016 she has served as Vice President of Curriculum at Lingokids (Monkimun), a company in Madrid that brings English to children around the world through gaming, stories, songs, poems, and live classes.
Barchers continued to write for the education market, completing approximately 250 books for a variety of publishers. Since the death of her husband, Robert C. Calfee, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, Barchers consults and writes from her home in Golden, Colorado. Connect with her via her website.