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Prevent Brain Drain for Middle School Students

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You’ve probably heard the phrase “brain drain” used when educators talk about the importance of summer learning. It’s the number one reason we encourage students of all ages to tutor over the summer.

Brain Drain Is a Big Deal!

If children don’t continue reading, writing, and doing math during summer break, it’s a double whammy. First, their learning doesn’t just stall; they actually lose skills. Second, when they return to school, the gap between them and their classmates who did keep learning over the summer widens. The child who lost skills over the summer is playing catch up, while the student who gained skills over the summer is advancing.

We know that it can be difficult to motivate kids to keep it going during break, but we also know how grateful they are when school is not a struggle. Here, we dig into math, reading, and writing, and share some activities and resources for your child to use in the coming weeks!

Make Math Familiar

It’s not unusual for students to have a tough time in math class because of its quick pace. The building block nature of math lessons means that if you miss a piece along the way, you’re going to have trouble here on out.

There are two things we like to do during summer learning:

  • Solidify foundational skills – We want students to master their mental math skills like basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. We also want them to feel comfortable working with fractions, decimals, and percents, as well as just have good number sense. When this sort of material is automatic, brain space (and time) is freed up to concentrate on the new and/or complex learning.Don’t assume your child has these fundamentals down pat – even if they’re in a high level math class. We work with many students who rely on calculators and can’t do the simple equations in their head, or recognize when an answer is off.
  • Preview new concepts – Introducing first semester concepts and processes during the summer will make them less intimidating when they come up in class. Your child will more readily understand the material when they already have a framework.

Here’s how we do it:

  • Summer math packets – If your child was assigned a school math packet to complete over the summer, help them make the most of it. Rather than just going through the motions to finish it (or rush through it a couple days before school starts!), use it as an assessment. Ask your child to circle the questions that were particularly difficult, and then have them do more work with those types of questions. Using the packet as a jumping off point will help your child get a better sense of their strengths and weaknesses, and a chance to see that they can develop skills once they identify them!
  • Online resourcesALEKS is an online learning system that adapts questions as the student moves through a course. Khan Academy offers free instructional videos and practice questions. Both consistently get positive reviews from our tutors and students!
  • Textbooks – We recommend that students work through the first few chapters of the textbook for the upcoming class. Some schools make books available, but they can also be found at the library and online.
  • Everyday application – Your child should also take advantage of daily opportunities to practice math. They could plan, budget, purchase, and make a family meal. Have them hang those frames that have been waiting for you to find the time! Can they teach you about their favorite sports teams or players using stats? Math can be really fun!

Write More to Read Better

Obviously, children should read throughout the summer. But to make a bigger impact, they should also write about what they read. Writing leads them to think more deeply about what they’ve read, which in turn will improve their ability to summarize and identify main ideas, understand story structure, make inferences, and make connections within and between texts. In addition, their vocabulary will grow, and they’ll improve both reading and writing fluency!

Here are some of our favorite reading and writing activities:

  • Read high interest materials – For some students that might be historical fiction, for others it might be graphic novels or sports magazines. The point is to get them reading so that they’ll do more of it!
  • Summer reading assignments – Similar to the math packets, help your child use the school reading assignment as an opportunity to learn more. You can read together and discuss, or even have them give you chapter quizzes. They could do a book club with friends and compose a group email to the author. Are there any field trips they could take based on the content of the book? There are lots of opportunities to bring the text to life.
  • Join – On this website, your child can keep lists of the books they’ve read and those they want to read. It’s also fun to rate and review books, and they can even share notes about what they’ve read with any friends with accounts.
  • Go old school – Have your child write a letter to one of the book’s characters. They can make it even more fun by writing the letter from another character rather than from themselves!
  • Be the expert – Write a Wikipedia-style entry about a person or event they’ve read about. If your child’s into coding, they can even create a whole website about a given topic!

Need some extra support to keep your kiddo on track? Our tutors are so good at making tutoring fun and keeping students motivated. Contact us to learn more!