Vacations and Knowledge Loss

By | January 2, 2013 at 1:42 pm | 4 comments | Columns, Education

Winter break is a down time for our children. Christmas has come and gone, presents have been opened and played with, and any educational interests have undoubtedly been ignored. During the holiday vacations, most children do whatever they can to forget about school and focus on anything else. Many people believe that an academic break is needed to help students’ recoup, register, and organize what they have learned over the previous semester. I would agree that breaks are an important part of learning, but that is why weekends exist.
The more time spent outside of a classroom, the faster a student will lose knowledge learned. Why you may ask? For knowledge to be retained, knowledge must be used. I hear from my students, and the students of others, that knowledge is forgotten from the time the student leaves the classroom to the time the student starts their homework. If a student loses such knowledge in the few hours from school to homework, imagine what a student may lose over a two week holiday or summer vacation? Some studies show that students will show a loss of at least one month’s worth of knowledge over summer vacation when tested at the beginning of the school year. The loss is much less over a two week vacation, but a loss of knowledge still exists. For example, my lesson plans always include three days to one week of review after the winter and spring vacations.
Knowledge can be easily retained, but your child may put up a fight. A quick review of the last studied chapter of each class is good practice during vacation, but your child may hate you for it. Sticking to the basics, such as reading and math, is a less opposed strategy. Having your child do nightly reading from an age appropriate book can keep their reading level up. With just 20-30 minutes a night, your child will have little trouble when returning to English class after vacation.
Math has always been a difficult subject to get students to acknowledge, let alone work on. None the less, students need to work hard in math because much of mathematics learned in school is rarely used outside the classroom at the age it is learned. English simply needs the practice of age appropriate reading, but math can be a struggle for any child to find interest. The most successful strategy is to find a math game, such as Monopoly, and play them often with your child. Many math games also exist online. The use of technology usually helps when needing to win over a child to practice math. One of my personal favorite online math websites is Khan Academy, found at khanacademy.org. Khan Academy uses helpful and well developed videos and practice problems, which can be watch and solved for a reward of points and badges. The points and badges only give bragging rights, but sometimes all a child needs is the motivation to earn something. Khan Academy also has an extensive video library in history and science.
The need for our children to keep practicing is essential for educational success. Knowledge can be lost quickly, but a few minutes a night per subject can keep knowledge retained through vacation. Keeping knowledge retained through vacation not only helps the student, but the teacher as well. The teacher will take less time in review and have more ability to move the class forward to more needed material.
Before I close the article for this week, I would like to take a moment and remind you of last week’s article regarding the Palm Springs High School Marching Band and Visual Core. Again, they need donations to help them travel to Washington D.C. and represent our valley in the Presidential Inauguration Parade. The P.S. Band earned and was specially selected to march in this historical event. Please visit their website at psband.org to learn how to help. Have a safe and happy new year!

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