There’s something to be said about using the word “combat” in relation to those summer scores…they slip, slip, slip down…

Combat means to fight or contend.

I’d say that we know we need to fight or contend with a very common and very dangerous phenomena: kids not getting instruction, practice or feedback over the summer and showing up 2 months after summer starts having slipped in their knowledge and their scores. The bad thing is, the assessments that we use now are highly predictive – that means that if a kid slips below the benchmark, it’s likely that, without pretty heroic intervention, they’ll have trouble getting at or above benchmark again.

Slippage should be seen as the enemy. But sometimes we see the answer to “how do we get them back up?” as the enemy!

So, I’d like to propose something: Let’s start NOW to ensure that kids don’t slip! Yep, now! Why not? We’ve got ’em in school for another chunk of weeks – we’ve got the teachers, too! Plus, they’re in the routine – so let’s do it!

I bet that if you plan just 3 of these 7 “avoid summer slip” actions, you’ll be in MUCH better shape at the end of this summer than you were last summer. In fact, I know it!

Here are 7 Summer Slip Combat Moves (oh and they don’t require you to buy stuff, learn stuff or do much new stuff, which is kind of good considering we’re all tired and running like a horse to a barn at the end of a long ride, right? ;).

Summer Slip Combat Move #1: Give a phonics survey to your students in 2nd grade and up at the end of the year and pre-sort them for the Fall. This means that you can start interventions on the 2nd day of school rather than the 2nd or 3rd or 4th or 5th week after school starts. You might say, “We never know who’ll come back and who’ll be new?” but I’d venture to say at least 50% of your student body will remain the same, so work on sorting them into skill gap groups and get them started on the 2nd day of school. I encourage you to erase attendance as a reason why intervention doesn’t work. It’s futile!

Summer Slip Combat Move #2: For your benchmark and above benchmark kids, start to preview the next grade level’s content in small group time starting in late April, early May. Trust me, the preview works.

Summer Slip Combat Move #3: Hold parent meetings or make parent calls on the very last week of school (yes, I said it) and tell the parents that if they can do one thing to support their students every day over the summer, that thing would be ___________. Meet with your most struggling parents first. Be very specific and give them just one thing. Trust me, when you set the stage for why this ONE thing is important, parents will make it a priority. Yes, I know you have struggling parents. Yes, I know they don’t necessarily prioritize education high on the list, but most if not all parents will help their child with one thing. Make that one thing something OTHER than “reading for 30 minutes each day” – can I say, um, we can do better than that!

Summer Slip Combat Move #4: Plan the first 3 weeks of targeted small group instruction for the Fall BEFORE you leave the end of this school year – having that set means that it’ll get done. Work with your team to pool resources, make file folders with daily lessons in them and leave the school year knowing that you have everything prepared to get the job done with the neediest kids.

Summer Slip Combat Move #5: Teach to the very last day of school. I know it’s not cool. I know it’s not cute. I know there’s a picnic. I know that you’re tired. But the research (and the practitioner’s view!) proves again and again that instructional minutes matter. So, instead of increasing the amount of time that kids are instruction-free by stopping to teach the week before school ends to do “fun stuff” – make sure the skill stuff gets done and then get to the fun stuff. There’s really time for it all, I promise.

Summer Slip Combat Move #6: Take a deep breath and teach. With tons of energy. So often we wind down because we’re tired from the long race of the year. But here’s the deal: you must remain militant about the time, militant about the quality of the work, militant about your classroom management, militant about delivering the new information that you’re responsible for delivering up to the last day of school. And finally, you must be militant about having ENERGY. By this time of the year, many of us are on our last breath it seems. But the problem is, so is our teaching. Kids need to get those instructional minutes and you need to model, practice and apply explicit teaching until the bitter end. Oh, but don’t make it seem bitter to them. They don’t tend to respond well to that, do they!

Summer Slip Combat Move #7: Continue planning for this year. It’s not too late. In fact, it’s April 22nd and we have enough time to bring one last group to benchmark – so figure out which group is closest to benchmark and teach like your hair’s on fire! It’s not over yet! Name the kids by name – write their names in your plan book, on a Post-It note – heck, even tattoo it on your forehead so you see their names first thing in the morning. I mean, did you hear me? YOU CAN STILL BRING KIDS TO BENCHMARK – THEY’RE THAT CLOSE!!! What are the names of the kids you can bring to benchmark right now? Name them out loud!

The honest truth about summer slip is that it’s really not about the summer. It’s about the slip. The slip in energy – the slip in routines and management – the slip in oomph. And we have the ability and skill to combat that.

YOU have the ability and skill to combat that. Let’s do this thing!!!!