This is the VOA Special English Education Report, from http://voaspecialenglish.com | http://facebook.com/voalearningenglish June, July and August are vacation months for most American schoolchildren. But some students pay a high price for that long summer break. They may forget much of what they learned over the past year by the time they start the next grade. This problem is often called the summer learning gap. Growing efforts across the country aim to deal with this gap by offering more interesting summer school programs. Some students already attend summer school. But that is often because they received bad grades during the regular school year. At Bushman Elementary in Dallas recently, students read out loud about communities in a third-grade social studies class. But the nine- and 10-year-olds were also studying art. Visual arts instructor Ron Oliver works to combine the two subjects. "The kids that never get it," he says, "like the 30 percent that always struggle on testing--they thrive in this kind of atmosphere." Ron Oliver says some kids just learn differently. In addition to reading, the students expressed themselves in picture form by drawing community scenes. One boy told us he was expressing his feeling through drawing. "You only use the pictures," added one girl. She said pictures can tell the words for you. "You don't need words," She said. Their teacher is Gloria Pegram. She has taught elementary school for 15 years. She says art helps with memory. Gloria Pegram says teachers even try to be creative with math. She says teachers try to use a hands-on activity whenever possible to help students remember better. Gloria Pegram says students who do not take summer enrichment classes often need to relearn lessons when they return in the fall. This is especially true of low-income students. They are less likely, for example, to live near public libraries offering books to read and special summer reading programs. Ed Pauly is director of research and evaluation at the Wallace Foundation. The nonprofit group has invested $50 million to study which programs work best to prevent summer learning loss. Ed Pauly says poor kids can lose as much as three months of learning over the summer. He says one promising method has been to include art in summer programs. Ed Pauly told us teaching through the arts gets kids excited about being in school every day. And the arts use reading and math. So they are a great way to tie together learning experiences. For VOA Learning English, I'm Laurel Bowman. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 30Aug2012)
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