Students have many breaks throughout the year, including summer, a week off in November, 2 weeks off in December and 1 week off in spring. That’s a lot of off time. Should kids read during school breaks?
There’s quite a lot of research that shows breaks have harmful effects on learning. When kids return from breaks, their retention is poor. For example, at the end of summer, the beginning 3rd grader reads like a mid-year second grader: this means the student lost the ability to read as well as he was reading in the last third of the previous year. That’s a huge loss. Fluency data shows very clearly that kids lose ground during breaks.
In addition, it’s difficult to “make up” for breaks. Learning research, starting with Alan Baddeley, suggests that short daily lessons are much better than one long lesson (from Memory, 2009). For example, a student who has 3 one hour sessions in a week will perform a lot better than a student who has 1 three hour session in a week. When instruction is scattered across time, retention and performance improves.
I don’t want my student to experience a learning slide, but I want her to have some time off to be a kid.
Parents often feel mixed feelings about breaks. They see their child working hard when school is in session. They want their child to have some off time.
It is important to let kids be kids. However, when you’re aiming to prevent a learning slide, your student doesn’t actually have to do all that much. A little bit of reading time almost every day during breaks can go a long way.
Tell your student beforehand that she’ll read over the break.
You may not want to set your student up for disappointment. Many kids view breaks as a time to avoid reading and math.
Instead, be clear with your student ahead of time: tell her that she’ll read a little bit every day during her break. Maybe together you can designate a few days off, like on Fridays and holidays. However, tell her that she’ll review phonics sounds and read for less than 20 minutes.
Sound card activity: 2-3 minutes
During breaks, think about doing a daily sound card activity. Write all of your student’s phonics sounds on index cards. If you’re working your way through our printable phonics books, write the “focus sound” on the flashcards. For example, your student’s sound cards will have phonics units like the following: a_, e_, i_, o_, u_, sh, th, ch, _ck, _ng, ai, ea, ee… etc. Shuffle the cards. Then, have your student say the sound on each card.
This is a very quick activity that can help your student retain her phonics knowledge.
Have your student read a leveled book: 10-15 minutes
For young students, you can pick 1-2 phonics book(s) per day. Have your student read the book. Make sure she focuses on decoding the words sound-by-sound. As the educator, you want to strengthen her ability to unlock words on her own. When she makes an error, point out the phonics sound she missed. Review that sound together.
This is also a short activity. Yet, it can help your student maintain her decoding skills and fluency.
If you need phonics books, check out Reading Elephant’s printable phonics book series.
For young students, it can be difficult to find decodable books. Reading Elephant has an extensive printable phonics books library.
I hope your student stays strong in reading, even over her breaks!