My very first year teaching first grade, I spoke with some very angry parents. Their child’s kindergarten teacher had assured them their child was on level and ready for first grade. I insisted that their child was below level and needed to improve quickly. When we looked at the child’s scores from the spring and compared them to their recent fall scores, it all made sense. They had been on level, but they weren’t any longer. The child had left kindergarten at DRA level 4, but had not practiced reading over the summer. He was still reading at a DRA 4. However, he was now considered below level.
I was flabbergasted to think that whoever determined the levels students “should be at” had also determined that a student entering first grade should have a higher reading level than they did at the end of kindergarten.
Did you know that test scores are expected to rise over the summer?
How do you know if your child is on level? How do you know if they are ready for the next school year? Perhaps your school does not use DRA testing. However, the NM Public Education Department (PED) does require public schools to use istation testing. Just looking at the istation correlation charts can be daunting.
My advice: who cares if they are “on level” or not? No matter what level they are at, or what skills they are practicing, help them continue making progress over the summer.
It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort.
Here are a few simple things you can do:
#1 Encourage them to read.
You might have to turn off (or unplug and hide) the video games. Or, perhaps you will invent a way to exchange reading time for screen time. You may have to set aside a special time of day. You might have to go to the library. Whatever you do, help your child pick up a book and read.
If you’re not sure what level of book your child needs, ask them to read the first page or two out loud to you before you check it out. Then, if they struggle with every word, then they need a better fit. However, if they have to pause and think about what a word is but they can read most of the words on the page pretty easily then it is probably a decent fit.
#2 Encourage them to write in real and meaningful ways.
A child’s reading, vocabulary, and comprehension abilities are often mirrored in their writing. If you want to see your child’s abilities skyrocket, then help them structure and increase their writing skills.
Also, kids are more likely to be engaged in their writing if it has a personal meaning for them. So, consider helping your child develop a purpose for their writing. Perhaps they can become a pen-pal with a grandparent or cousin and tell that person all about the books they are reading or what they are doing during the summer. Or, maybe after they read two stories, then they can do a story-book mash-up where they take story elements from one and combine them with another to make a new book for their sibling to read. (I for one would love to read a story about Cinderella visiting Hogwarts.)
If your child is entering first grade, it’s okay for them to focus more on drawing a picture response with details and adding a few words to describe it. My kids are working on daily journals describing the landscape and fun things our family sees on our vacation. Try to tailor your request to your child’s personality.
#3 Encourage them to use mental math skills.
EVERYBODY has to brush up on math skills. If you don’t use it, you lose it! I’m not saying you have to go print hundreds of math worksheets and stress about it. I AM saying, ask your child to solve problems as you see them arise around you. “How many cars can you see on the freeway?” “How many houses do you think are in our neighborhood?” “If every aisle of the grocery store has 600 items, how many items would there be on 18 aisles?” “Would it take less time to get to the moon or to the sun? How do you know?”
You know your child. You know their struggles.
Don’t let them rest those struggles over the summer.
Use this time as an opportunity to help them GET AHEAD!
Help them turn those struggles into strengths, so they can go back to a brand new year, confident and ready!
I know these aren’t the only ideas out there. What are you doing to help your child get ahead over the summer?
Originally published July 2018.