A research project has found that children who blogged about their summer holidays had less of a “summer slump” in their reading and writing skills than those who didn’t.
Evidence has shown that the “summer slump” impacts children’s learning ability as they are out of the classroom and school lessons during the holidays.
The Summer Learning Journey Project was developed by the University of Auckland’s Woolf Fisher Research Centre in 2015 to see if year 4 to 8 pupils in a cluster of low-decile schools, who blogged over the summer holidays, reduced their risk of “summer slump” in reading and writing. The cluster of schools, termed the ‘Manaiakalani cluster’, have adopted a digital approach to their teaching and learning.
Now in its second year, more than 400 pupils from 11 of the cluster’s primary and intermediate schools have taken part in the Summer Learning Journey (SLJ).
Programme leader Dr Rachel Williams says that blogging over the summer periods has had a significant, positive effect on student learning and achievement.
Students who participated in the recent 2016-2017 SLJ programme reported significantly higher writing scores and significantly higher reading scores on standardised measures (e-asTTle and PAT - Progressive Achievement Tests) than students who did not participate in the programme.
The SLJ pupils had e-asTTle scores that were, on average, 31.65 points higher than non-bloggers and PAT scores that were 5.05 points higher than non-bloggers.
When assessed in Term 1, 2017 the SLJ programme participants were, on average, 7.5 months ahead of non-participants in writing and 6 months ahead of non-participants in reading.
“The summer holiday period is particularly important as evidence shows that students’ learning is adversely impacted during this time when school-based learning activities stop,” Dr Williams says.
“All too often our students leave school at the end of the year and don’t practise their reading or writing very much over the summer holidays. When they return to school they struggle to remember what they learned the year before.
“The decrease in student achievement over summer has been termed the ‘Summer Learning Effect’ and is particularly pervasive amongst students attending low-decile schools in New Zealand.”
The children logged onto the Summer Learning Journey website and completed short, online activities. They posted their answers to the activities on their blogs.
A total of 141 students actively posted their learning on their blogs this past summer. Rachel monitored every blog and wrote comments in response to every post. She also recruited students from Canada, England, Chile, Malaysia and Germany to read the students’ posts and comment on them.
“At the end of the summer our students had completed 2432 posts and provided 1493 comments on one another’s blogs. Our blog commenting team contributed a further 2432 comments while the overseas bloggers provided 250 comments for a total of 6607 posts and comments.”
Their blogs are publically available and can be read and responded to by people within New Zealand (school personnel, family, friends, peers) as well as those living overseas.
Now Dr Williams, a research fellow at the University’s Faculty of Education and Social Work, is looking to expand the programme from the original Manaiakalani school cluster to 41 Outreach schools across five clusters.
The five Outreach clusters are in Northland (Kaikohekohe cluster), Auckland (Ako Hiko, Kootuitui ki Papakura clusters), Christchurch (Hornby) and Greymouth (Toki Pounamu).
“That way we can get even more children blogging to maintain their reading and writing skills.”
To find out more, visit the Summer Learning Journey website - https://sites.google.com/site/summerlearningjourney/welcome