Getting students back on track

In response to research showing students lose academic skills over vacation breaks, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell released a list of tips for parents to help their children keep learning habits fresh.

"Research shows that children who don’t keep up on their skills over a long school break can lose up to two months of math and reading skills. When this happens, valuable class time in the new year must be spent brushing up on lost skills, rather than tackling new, grade-level material," O'Connell said.

"Parents are children's first and most important teachers,” O'Connell added. "It's my hope that these tips will help California parents instill everyday learning habits so that all students will return to school ready and eager to learn."

The following are a few suggestions from the State Superintendent:

  • Use the STAR student report to focus on skills: Under "Your child's strengths and needs," parents will find specific content areas shown by their child’s testing results to be areas in need of academic focus. Talk to your child's teacher or ask your local librarian for help finding materials to work with in these areas.

  • Make a weekly library date with your child: Check out a new book, go to a library activity, go online together or just browse in a new subject area. Pick a biography of an interesting person to read and discuss each week.

  • Start a neighborhood book club

  • Write and share vacation journals: Even if your school break is right in your own backyard, there's plenty to write about each day. Ask your child to write a paragraph or page each day. Get kids in the habit of describing their surroundings and activities in writing. Interview a neighbor, or find out and write about the plants and flowers that grow near your home.

  • Count and compute as you go: While shopping for groceries, practice counting change, budgeting, calculating best buys, and nutritional values of food. Calculate gas mileage and distances or time traveled in a car..

  • Learn the history of your neighborhood: Interview longtime residents in the neighborhood. Go to the library and research old newspapers. Take a family field trip to the local museum or city planning department.

  • Make mealtime a learning occasion: Figure out the nutritional value of your meals. Discuss current events from the newspaper, and relate them to history. Have students prepare food and calculate measurements (e.g. Doubling a recipe).

  • Encourage citizenship skills: Volunteer. Visit a nursing home, work at a food bank, do chores for someone in need. Help a neighbor with some yard work.

  • Learn about science: Pick a theme to study. Visit a park in your neighborhood and observe the animals, insects, leaves, and rocks. Make homemade ice cream or other foods to show children about the properties of salt, liquid, and solids.

    Visit http://www.exploratorium.edu/ or interactive online activities or ideas for easy activities to do at home. View Web sites like the Discovery Channel: http://www.discovery.com/.

    View the U.S. Department of Education site, "Helping your child learn science," http://www.ed.gov/pubs/parents/Science/index.html to obtain fun and simple experiments that you can construct with your child.

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