The dreaded summer slide - Claire Bagnall, our educational advisor shares her insights with how to avoid this and still have fun - with flashcards!
After the difficult year we've all had, children are enjoying an especially well-deserved summer break. This down time is an important opportunity to develop social skills, enjoy time with family, pursue hobbies and simply...to play. However, the transition from this back into the rigorous routines of school can be difficult for some children, and this can be compounded by the dreaded "summer slide" --where children's skills regress a little after long periods away from the classroom.
Certainly, there is a fine balance to be struck between supporting our child to overcome this whilst still ensuring that their summer is full of fun. Furthermore, travelling around the country and abroad for holidays and visits can make access to resources problematic. Here's where flashcards come in. Flashcards are paper-thin and those inside The Bear Can Read boxes are small enough to fit in your handbag. However, they are big on impact, versatility and, believe it or not...fun.
Start off by using a flashcard to introduce a sound or a word to your child. Show them the flashcard whilst modelling how to say the sound or word. Then ask your child to take a turn. Once your child becomes more confident, place this flashcard amongst another/others. See if your child can pick out the target sound/word from those available when you say the name of it (i.e. 'Which one says 'sh'?). Here, you are saying the name of the sound so they don't have to say it on demand, but they are practicing making the link between the spoken sound and the written sound. Start with just one other card, and build up to include others to increase the difficulty level, so that they have to pick out the target sound from a choice of two or three others.
Once your child is able to pick the target sound/word out from others, move onto seeing if they can say the sound/word upon being shown the flashcard. If you are having a staycation and have access to some outdoor toys, why not stick the flashcard onto a space hopper and ask them to say the name of the sound/word with every bounce? Or stick the flashcard onto the wall and ask them to say the word/sound with each revolution on the skipping rope? This idea can be tailored to suit the interests of the child of course and what you have with you if you are on your travels.
Having mastered the sounds, extend this to encouraging them to think about several words/sounds at once. Take three flashcards featuring sounds/words you have been working on. Hide them behind your back, start shuffling and ask your child to guess which sound/word you are going to show. You could even ask them to shout 'STOP!' when they want you to stop shuffling and show them. Show them the card and ask them whether they had guessed correctly. If not, ask them to explain why it is that they aren't right (e.g. I guessed 'sh' but we landed on 'th'). You can give your child the opportunity to be the card shuffler, whereby the adult guesses the sound the child will land on, but it is the child who has to recognise the sound/word and therefore be in a position to tell you whether you were right or wrong. Children tend to find this fun and it is a very simple concept, with just three flashcards required to make it work. Perfect for on the go and great for younger children/siblings to play together.
Another idea is to play hide and seek with flashcards, and variations on this theme. Start by hiding the flashcard and ask your child to find the target word/sound, initially hiding just one and progressing the difficultly level by hiding other words/sounds which are not the target one, so you can be sure that it is that specific sound/word that they have recognised, not just the fact it is on a flashcard. Alternatively, where a child is just beginning their reading journey and is focusing simply on phonic sounds rather than words, you could show the child the flashcard with the sound on it and then ask them to find objects in their environment that begin with that sound. Again, this is very easy to do with simply a flashcard and whatever happens to be around you at the time.
Children are most likely to retain information when they are given multiple opportunities to practice it. Playing games with flashcards, such as those above, which require very few to no additional resources and planning, will help your child to avoid the summer slide without comprising on that well-deserved relaxation time for you both!