April 16, 2024
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April 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Experts call it “summer learning loss.” It’s the educational tar pit that sucks kids’ learning out of them during long days of unfocused activity and can set students’ learning process back two or more months. What’s worse: The losses seem to be cumulative with summer after summer of loss adding up to two years of educational backsliding by the end of high school. Catherine Augustine, senior policy researcher with the RAND Corporation, recently pointed out that summer learning loss “contributes to a stubborn and long-lasting achievement gap.”

It is unsurprising that learning loss is far less pronounced for children who participate in summer programs that include an educational component of any kind. For many of our children, this includes summer camps with Chinuch (education) programs.

For many, though, the summer months are devoid of any learning, and this has lasting impact on future success. However, the research reveals that summer learning loss is mainly in the areas of skill, not knowledge. For example, over the summer, students’ math skills atrophy, as do reading fluency and spelling. Although no specific research has focused on this phenomenon in Jewish Day Schools, one would imagine that the same type of learning loss would be found, especially in Kriyah (Hebrew reading), for example. Just ask any Judaic Studies teacher in September.

This is actually good news because it points to a relatively simple solution that allows families to combat the summer learning loss while staying true to the notion that summer break is indeed a break for kids. Simple tasks that can be integrated easily into a child’s daily routine can stem the tide of learning loss.

Kriyah is one area that teachers have anecdotally reported suffers from significant summer learning loss among their students. In response, younger children can sit with their parents for 5-10 minutes per day reading anything in Hebrew, from Chumash to the Siddur to Hebrew stories found on the web. And you can make it fun, too. Have your child record himself reading on your smartphone or iPad. Then you can listen to it together at dinner. Older children can read one Israeli news article in Hebrew a day and tell you about it or be encouraged to volunteer to read Torah at their local shuls. Of course, a daily Chavruta with a friend or parent is another great option.

An important point to consider is that summer learning doesn’t mean that your child has to be hunched over a book or laptop. Many of the things your kids might already be doing are great learning opportunities. Taking your kids to a baseball game is a great opportunity to practice math or, if you’re interested in higher-order thinking, to engage your kids in a discussion about what strategies each team manager should consider and what the outcomes might be. If your kids are helping you in the kitchen, have them figure out the quantities of ingredients, thinking about ratios and fractions. If you’re baking something, have them calculate what time the food will be ready. Perhaps they’d like to write out your shopping list as you dictate or take an inventory of what you’ve got in the fridge. Your older kids might be interested in figuring out the chemistry behind the cooking.

So, when your child says she’s bored this summer that just means she doesn’t know what to do next. Give her an activity that will stimulate her mind and help her close the learning gap come September.

Rabbi Maccabee Avishur is the Associate Director for Teaching and Learning at Yeshiva University’s Institute for University-School Partnership. He can be reached at avishur_yu.edu.

By Rabbi Maccabee Avishur

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