Features & Resources

Summer slide: Tips and resources

Worried about your child’s learning through the summer? Looking for ways to incorporate some practical activities and learning opportunities into slow summer days? The below article and resources have been put together by our District Teacher-Librarian, Kristie Oxley. She has a long list of tools and tips to help keep your kids engaged through the summer months (if you’d like to) … with some great suggestions for probing questions that may serve you well all year long as well! 


The dreaded Summer Slide

The term has become synonymous with June, prompting worries that our children will lose hard won skills gained during the school year. Parents debate the merits of enrolling their children in academic camps and consider purchasing academic workbooks while standing in line at the grocery store.

Summer slide refers to the loss of academic skills over the months of July and August. Decades of research has been done on this phenomenon, and the results are mixed. Some studies point to losses in rote knowledge or discrete facts, as well as a slide in literacy skills in populations with less access to reading material during the summer months. Others actually show gains in literacy skills when children are provided with the opportunity to read and discuss books during vacation time. In his Psychology Today article, Peter Gray, Ph.D., points out that while some studies indicate a slight loss in math calculation skills over the summer months, significant gains in math reasoning skills were also noted. He goes on to state that “summer is a time for immersion in real life,” and questions whether skills lost over summer months were truly learned.

The fact is, students have been enjoying summer break for decades and still managing to pass each grade, graduate and live productive lives. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break from all academic activity during vacation months and focusing on immersing yourself in a good book, visiting with family and friends or enjoying lazy days outside. For those looking for ways to fill the days, the following fun learning opportunities might be what you and your child need.

Indigenous Education

Every part of the curriculum includes an element of Indigenous education. The First Peoples Principles of Learning are a set of guiding principles that educators use to infuse Indigenous knowledge and content into lessons and units. Take some time to look at this document. Try picking one principle and discussing it with your child.

Summer offers numerous opportunities to go outside and enjoy nature. New Westminster is home to a number of fabulous parks, each with its own unique beauty to enjoy. Try picking a park with a trees and trails, and go on a nature walk. While walking with your child, stop periodically and discuss what you see, smell and hear (incorporate touch and taste only if safe to do so). Take pictures of the plants and try to identify them with an app on your phone. Older students can try their hand at creating a field journal using the strategies outlined here.

During or after your walk, try discussing one of the First Peoples Principles with your child. For example:

  • Learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors.
    • Ask your child:
      • How do you feel after your nature walk? Do you feel calmer? Do you feel connected to the people you walked with or to the park?
      • How do parks contribute to the well-being of communities? What might happen if we did not have parks?
  • Learning involves recognizing the consequences of one’s actions.
    • Ask your child:
      • What might happen if people were not respectful of our parks and green spaces?
      • What does the saying, “Take only pictures; leave only footprints,” mean to you?
      • Invasive plants are plants that do not naturally grow in an area but instead were introduced to the area by humans. Many invasive plants take over and make it difficult for native plants to grow and thrive. What invasive plant species are present in our parks? What might happen if additional invasive plant species were introduced?
  • Learning recognizes the role of indigenous knowledge.
    • Ask your child:
      • Who were the first people to live in this area? How can we find out?
      • What plants did they use? For what purpose were these plants used?
      • Field guides can be borrowed from the public library to help with this. You can also take a look at these plant cards.

Summer can also be a great time to learn a new language. Coast Salish Peoples who traditionally lived on and travelled through this region primarily spoke Halq’eméylem and hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ … you can learn various words and phrases using this tool: https://www.firstvoices.com/explore/FV/sections/Data/

Or just looking for ways introduce more Indigenous created content into what your kids are consuming?


One thing everyone seems to agree on is that reading daily over the summer months has a positive impact on students’ overall academic development. Public library Summer Reading Clubs have been encouraging students to read for at least 15 minutes every day for years, and 2021 is no exception. Information on the New Westminster Public Library’s Summer Book Clubs can be found at https://www.nwpl.ca/youth/summer-reading-club/. Students can join in person or virtually. They can go to the library and borrow books or take advantage of the variety of ebooks and audiobooks that can be borrowed directly from their website.

Many reading material can also be accessed online. The digital resources listed previously contain links to ebooks and magazines students of various ages can enjoy. Sites such as Storyline Online https://storylineonline.net/ contain read alouds of popular books. Epic Books is a repository of hundreds of popular books, however, it does require a subscription during non-school hours.

Simple conversations can help students develop comprehension skills over the summer months. After your child has finished reading, try asking the following questions:

  • What happened in the story?
    • This helps develop summarizing skills. Challenge your child to create thorough but brief summaries.
  • What might happen next? Why do you think this will happen?
    • Asking students to predict what will happen next helps them make connections between what they’ve read and what they know about story structure, such as foreshadowing.
    • Asking why helps students develop justification skills, or the act of finding support for their ideas from a text. This is an important skill in academic writing.
  • What do you think the author’s message is in this story?
    • This question helps students understand the concept of themes in stories. For older students, try looking up a list of universal themes in literature and discussing which apply to the text they just read.
  • Can you describe an image from the story?
    • Deep comprehension often leads to creating a ‘movie’ in the readers head as they imagine the scenes, characters and action in a text. Having your child describe these things helps to develop this skill.

These conversations don’t need to be reserved for reading time. Try discussing these concepts during commercials, after a movie or while watching a YouTube video.

To develop writing skills, encourage your child to keep a summer journal that chronicles their daily adventures.


There are so many fun ways to highlight numeracy skills in the summer months. Simply pointing out the math in daily activities, such as grocery shopping, home renovations, vacation planning or baking can help your child see the applicability of numeracy skills in daily life.

For example, if you are going on a road trip, try calculating the estimated time of arrival based on the distance you need to travel and the speed of your car. Compare your estimate with one from Google Maps as well as the actual time of arrival and have your child suggest reasons why there might be a discrepancy. If you are painting part of your house, have your child help calculate the area you need to paint and use that to determine how much paint you will need and how much it will cost.

Making and using homemade math manipulatives can also be fun activity for younger students. Ask your child to gather items such as marbles, rocks, Lego pieces or buttons as manipulatives. Challenge your child to:

  • Count to various numbers (10, 50, 100) using these items
  • Group items by 2’s, 5’s or 10’s and skip count to a higher number
  • Make two random piles of items and add or subtract them
  • Make a particular number of groups with a set amount in each group (for example, 5 groups with 3 items in each group) to practice multiplication
  • Make a random pile of items and split them into a number of groups (for example, 25 items split into 5 groups) to practice division

To practice place value, give your child

  • Saltine crackers to represent 100’s
  • Stick pretzels to represent 10’s
  • Cheerios to represent 1’s

Ask your child to build numbers using these items. For an additional challenge, have your child build two numbers then add or subtract them.

Card, dice and board games such as Crib, Go Fish, Yahtzee or Robot Turtles can teach valuable math skills such as matching, patterning, counting, adding and strategic reasoning.

Cooking is another great math activity. Try cutting a recipe in half or doubling it so your child can work with fractions. There are numerous websites and cookbooks dedicated to all ages of children. While teens may enjoy a more challenging cooking activity from a popular chef, young children might enjoy working with Nomster Chef: https://www.nomsterchef.com/nomster-recipe-library.

There are also some great online math sites dedicated to developing math calculation and reasoning skills.

  • Math Playground https://www.mathplayground.com/
    • This site is freely available and contains skill development games for K-6 students.
  • Khan Academy https://www.khanacademy.org/
    • This world renowned site contains math and science activities for all ages, including support for learning complex concepts for older students. The site requires the creation of an account.
  • Numberphile https://www.numberphile.com/
    • Numberphile includes a number of videos and podcasts exploring advanced topics in Mathematics. This one is suitable for older students.
  • A Plus Click https://aplusclick.org/
    • This is another site full of fun, skills-based math games for K-12 students.

Science websites

Who doesn’t like a good science experiment? Science experiments often  also contain math activities and they can be so much fun! Check out these sites for experiment inspiration:

Online resources

Many families decide to take a break from technology over the summer months. Who wants to be stuck behind a computer when the sun is calling to you? And that’s great for some. For others, screen time might be a perfectly good time-filler with some possible learning opportunities available.

For those of you wanting to make the most of your screen time, the New Westminster School District subscribes to a number of digital resources that can be accessed online. Check out:

Having trouble getting access? Login information can be requested by emailing the District Teacher-Librarian, Kristie Oxley, at koxley@sd40.bc.ca. Emails will be returned periodically during the summer.