Monday, June 16, 2014

The Summer Slide

This summer I have a looping class which means that the children I taught in kindergarten will loop up with me to first grade. Although there is always some natural attrition- parents separate and divorce and move away, parents are transferred, families move back home- about two-thirds of the class end up staying for the second year. I've looped classes before and one of the things that I have seen over and over is what is now being described by Richard Allington as the "summer slide."  It's simple. Children that don't read over the summer most often fall back a reading level when they are tested at the beginning of the new school year and those that read regularly, often visiting the public library weekly, move ahead a level. As you can imagine, the students that fall back are often those that are already behind.

So this year our Leadership Team thought they'd try to do something about it. Reading Allington's research is all it really took to light a fire under this Team. . Before I knew it, our media specialist had met with the Scholastic rep and designed an online summer reading program. She met with teachers and encouraged them to get kids logging in the last week of school. Several of our children were on the computer logging in the minutes they had read that very night. Of course, as you might expect, the students that were first to log on are also the ones that are already ahead and whose families  already furnish a rich language experience in their daily lives.

The challenge has always been how to encourage the others. Fortunately this program offered handouts in Spanish which helped many of my second language learners understand the expectation.  It even provided a paper version that the students could hand in at the end of the summer for those that don't have computer access. We were fortunate to have the Principal's support so she has offered a "prize" to any student that logs in 1500 minutes during the summer. We have pushed summer school teachers at our school and the two camp leaders that meet at our school to become involved.

Now I need to take responsibility for inspiring my own students and keep them reading throughout the summer.  My goal is to have 100% of the students log in at least once during the summer or to bring me a list of minutes at the end of the summer - no small task. This week I sent a personal post card to every student who has already logged in to congratulate them on their summer reading.  I am hoping to start an exchange with those students to encourage them to not only read, but to write.

I sent a letter to those that haven't logged on yet, urging them to give the program a try and sending them their user name and password again and a log sheet just in case they haven't logged in because they don't have computer access.  Now this will be the third time I have sent this information on how to log in, but I figure if their parents keep seeing it, they might decide that it's important.  And besides most of these students (and their parents) will have to face me again in the fall! I don't know if this extra effort will really pay off but I certainly believe it will. In two weeks I will be sending encouraging emails - instead of using the postal service - and then two weeks after that I thought I'd start sending selfies of me reading at home, in the car, at the beach, to my grand kids, and every other way I can think to read.  I'd do a headstand while reading but I can't do a headstand! I  am hoping the children will begin to send me selfies back of them reading!  Can't wait to see if this eliminates the summer slide in my returning students!


Melanie Holtsman said...

I never understand when people say , "Let them relax! It's summer! " They have the whole entire day to do anything they want. If 30-60 minutes of reading or educational activities could give them an advantage with achievement and progress why would you not do it? I will tell you why, Too many parents take the easy way out. You can make it fun, you can offer easy incentives! It's worth the effort!

Kk Cherney said...

Thank you for embracing literacy. The Book Fairy

Karen Sawyer said...

I can't wait to see the selfies that your students send in. This is a great summer for everyone at Chets and your students will do a great job sliding into first grade. Thank you for sharing and encouraging all of your students. ~Karen (the Scholastic rep)

Karen Sawyer said...

I can't wait to see some selfies and hear about all the reading your students do over the summer. This next school year will be great for all the students at Chets. Thank you for sharing and inspiring your families. Thank you for letting Scholastic be a part of your summer! ~Karen (the Scholastic rep)