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Tips and activities to prevent summer learning loss

By Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist

An introduction

In Wisconsin, the warm summer months are welcomed with open arms after endless months of snow, sleet, and bitter cold. It’s a nice feeling when I can feel confident moving the knob in my car from heat to A.C. With summer comes the end of school for students in not just Wisconsin but all over the nation. From each week on at this point, educators are saying goodbye to their students for the year and wrapping up their lessons. However, despite students’ achievements this year, they risk losing a significant portion of what they’ve learned this summer.

Decades of research confirm that summer learning loss is real. In a recent article published by The New York Times, Smirk (2011) says, “The American ideal of lazy summers filled with fun has an unintended consequence: If students are not engaged in learning over the summer, they lose skills in math and reading. Summers off are one of the most important, yet least acknowledged, causes of underachievement in our schools.” Unfortunately, summer learning loss affects a significant portion of the student population. However, summer learning loss affects low-income students even more—and it can lead to a significant achievement gap.

Smirk sums it up when he says, “We cannot afford to spend nearly 10 months of every year devoting enormous amounts of intellect, energy, and money to promoting student learning and achievement, and then walk away from that investment every summer.” That’s why it’s crucial students remain engaged and continue learning throughout their summer vacations.

“We cannot afford to spend nearly 10 months of every year devoting enormous amounts of intellect, energy, and money to promoting student learning and achievement, and then walk away from that investment every summer.” (Smirk, 2011)

Keeping students engaged

That responsibility falls on our shoulders. It’s up to us to help students understand that learning doesn’t stop once they walk out the school door. Below, we’ve highlighted a few ways to keep students engaged.

  • Take a moment to explore your surroundings.
    Whether you’re at the zoo or a park, take a moment to read plaques, signs, and everything else. Ask questions. Take a moment to Google the places you visit beforehand. Afterwards, go to your local library and check out books on those places to learn more.

  • Incorporate math into everyday tasks.
    Mathematics are all around us: at the restaurant we just ate at, behind the game of catch we’re playing with our friends, in the software running our iPhones. The list goes on and on. Ask students how much their lunch will cost. Ask them what angle they need to throw a football at to get it to their friend. Helping students realize that math is all around us keeps them on their toes and their math skills sharp throughout the summer.

  • Feed and encourage students’ natural curiosity.
    Students are naturally curious about the world. If they express an interest in something, encourage them to explore it! Have them visit the local library and check out books about their newfound interests. See if there are any events going on that might be exciting. What about YouTube videos or podcasts? Encourage students to Google their interests and see where the results take them.

A summer full of exploration

It’s clear that students need to remain engaged throughout summer—whether it’s exploring a local library or exploring the vast distances between planets in the solar system. Each week through the end of August, we’re highlighting different math and reading activities for students. Our student activities combine warm-weather topics and fun activities to motivate students and celebrate the joy of learning over the summer months, leading to success in the fall. Whether you’re looking for summer activities to share with parents or teaching summer school, we encourage you to take a look at our student activities and bookmark the page, since we’ll be releasing a new set of activities each week. Go ahead, explore!

How do you keep students engaged throughout the summer? Let us know in the comments!



Smink, J. (2011). This Is Your Brain on Summer. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist
Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist
Ken Stoflet is the communications specialist at Renaissance. He has been with the company since 2015 and can be found crafting anything from a press release to a tweet. In his spare time, Ken enjoys spending time with his friends, lifting, and making trips to the Frozen Tundra to cheer on the Green Bay Packers.


  1. Jody Steinhaus says:

    Love the summer exploration ideas and suggestions. Thank you!

  2. Mario Sanchez says:

    I am a 5th grade teacher and I always work in summer school. The way that the students stay engaged during the summer is by continuing their education to get ready for the 3rd administration of the STAAR test. The students that have passed the exam is given a reading assignment that is issued by the 6th grade teacher. It will be a novel with a written summary of the book. If the student turns it in the beginning of the year, the student automatically passes the 1st marking period, if not, they fail.

  3. Rickeya Ware says:

    Great article. I plan on incorporating this this summer with my daughter, who is starting Pre-K in the fall.

  4. Megan Tillery says:

    Students won’t seek out summer activities if they don’t understand that summer learning loss is real. When I talk about it with students, I have been using Steph Curry as my example. I ask them what they think Steph Curry’s game would look like if he walked off the court at the end of the season, went home, played video games and ate Doritos all summer, and didn’t so much as walk around the block. They all laugh, but they sober a bit when I tell them it is the same for them and their brains!

    • Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist Ken Stoflet, Marketing Communications Specialist says:

      That is a great comparison, Megan. I really love the idea of highlighting someone that students are familiar with and resonates with them. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Dvawn Maza says:

    Great tips!

  6. Darrell Baty says:

    We are doing a summer challenge and a bookmobile

  7. Lisa Capon says:

    Great article!

  8. Rita Platt says:

    Yay for SUMMER!!!

  9. A Wheatley says:

    At my school, we give summer reading and math assignments. For reading, we have a book bingo project and, for math , we encourage our students to use their MobyMax and Dreambox accounts for 30 minutes each day.

  10. Renee Graham says:

    I keep my kids reading! I gave away 3 chapter books to each child and will stay in touch through Seesaw to encourage them to read!

  11. West Walker says:

    Thank you for the great article. I find the best way to prevent “summer slide” is the first day of school, all the way until the last, when the teacher builds the joy of reading and its importance, incorporating all stakeholders, especially the parents. With parent support and collaboration, monitoring reading is practiced all year, including the summer.

  12. Carly says:

    We have reading and math programs that we encourage our students to use for recognition when they return to school. Sadly the students who need summer enrichment the most don’t have computer access or the home support to take them to the library. Regardless, every student who is encouraged to read or practice math facts is a win!

  13. Ami Edwards says:

    Great ideas!

  14. Jason says:

    Good Tips. I like the idea of having learning take place in small chunks such as using math in everyday lessons. I feel the kids should get a little break during the summer, just don’t let their brains turn to mush.

    • Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist Ken Stoflet, Marketing Communications Specialist says:

      Agreed, Jason. It’s important that students take time to be kids during the summer as well! It’s all about balance.

  15. Andrea says:

    I give students a reading log before they leave in the summer and ask them to return it in the fall to my mailbox in the office. I come down to their next year’s room and give them a small prize.

  16. Sheila Shaffer says:

    We also “assign” summer assignments, but we can’t penalize if students choose not to complete them. So, typically, the students who don’t really need it (they’re already ahead!) complete the assignments and the students who need to complete at least some of them don’t. For us (small city school system), parental involvement is really the key!

  17. Laurie McNally says:

    Additional activities to build math skills:
    cook or bake with your kids and engage in discussions comparing quantities;
    game nights featuring card and dice games or traditional dominoes;
    apps like Sushi Math and online math games such as Prodigy make math fun

    • Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist Ken Stoflet, Marketing Communications Specialist says:

      These are great ideas, Laurie. Thank you for sharing!

  18. M. Ortiz says:

    Great article! Thanks for the tips.

  19. Laura says:

    Great Ideas!

  20. Lloyd Goldberg says:

    My previous librarian would open the library twice a week for two hours a day to have kids AR test and check out books. There was also a huge reward structure in place for them, and it also let her get a head start on preparing for the year.

    • Karen Tuthill-Jones says:

      Did the AR quizzes “count” toward student point goals the following year? I love this idea.

  21. P R says:

    I send home a list of activities that parents can do with their children over the summer. I also send home a list of websites where students can keep their skills sharp over the summer.

    Appalachian State University also partners with our school system for the Summer Read in which students are given a reading log to fill out over the summer and return to school in August for a reward.

    Great ideas on this comment section and interesting article as well.

  22. Heidi says:

    We kick off summer with a Reading Scavenger Hunt at a local mall where we give books away and have fun activities.

  23. David Keech says:

    Sharing opportunities at our library and summer school classes with area districts and technical colleges are what we do.

  24. Mary Suppe says:

    Great resource for summer ideas!

  25. Kimberly Bell says:

    I send home a summer reading list and a work packet.

  26. Alecia Walkuski says:

    My high school students have a required summer reading book, and they write a response to their reading when they return to school.

  27. Ann McGraw says:

    Thanks for the great article.

  28. Donna Nichols says:

    Love the summer tips.

  29. Carolina says:

    Love the Tips! Great article…

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