7 simple ways students can slow the “COVID slide”

For more, check out our full Coronavirus Resource Library at this link.

We’ve all heard of the summer slide: students can struggle to retain skills and knowledge over summer break, resulting in up to two months of learning loss by the start of school in the fall. The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to make that slide even worse. Students now face the additional challenge of extended school closures heading into the summer months.

Why worry about the COVID slide?

Recently, we’ve seen concerning predictions about “COVID slide” learning losses. Despite teachers’, parents’, and students’ best efforts, many students have been less engaged in their academics than they were when they attended school in person—and summer break may exacerbate students’ learning gaps. Here are some of the facts:

  • Earlier this month, the Education Week Research Center surveyed teachers about student engagement: 60% of teachers described a decline in student engagement across the previous two weeks, including 22% saying student engagement had decreased “a lot.”
  • Teachers also reported that 23% of their students are “essentially truant” (MIA, not logging in, not making contact).
  • A recent NWEA report estimated that students will return to school in fall 2020 having retained less than 70% of the learning gains they’d make in reading during a typical school year.
  • The same report estimated that students will retain only 37-50% of their typical learning gains in math.


What does this mean for SAT/ACT students?

Learning losses in reading and math may pose significant challenges for students sitting for the SAT and ACT in the summer/fall after extended academic breaks. These students—facing limited opportunities to retake exams—will have their scores compared to those of students who earned strong results earlier in the year, before test centers closed.

So is there anything students can do to slow these learning losses? The answer is yes. If students treat the coming months as an opportunity to continue learning, rather than as an extended vacation, the COVID slide can be slowed. The key is for students to keep reinforcing their verbal and math skills by engaging in daily reading and problem-solving.


Here are 7 easy steps students can take to combat the COVID slide.

1. Read (literally anything). Reading every day is the best way to boost your verbal skills. Don’t stress about reading only “good” literature. Find something you enjoy. Read articles and blogs about your favorite shows. Before watching a movie, read the book. If you’re looking for an extra challenge, or you’re planning to take the ACT, SAT, or PSAT in the fall, pick something from our Recommended Reading List.

2. Spend at least 15 minutes a day doing math. Take advantage of free math resources like Khan Academy. Check out the NYTimes resource “What’s Going On In This Graph?” to practice data analysis skills—and then read and discuss the accompanying articles.

3. Listen to an audiobook. Listening to instead of reading a book can stretch your brain in different—but still valuable—ways. By listening to an audiobook, you’ll enhance your grammar, vocabulary, and critical thinking skills. Bonus points if you try a new genre or pick a book on a topic that’s new for you.

4. Learn new words. Now is a great time to build your vocabulary. Keep track of unfamiliar words when you’re reading, listening to audiobooks, and watching tv. You can also check out resources like Quizlet to build a personal vocabulary list, learn SAT/ACT-level vocabulary, and play vocabulary games.

5. Write a little every day. Exercise your writing muscles on a regular basis. Keep a journal or write an email to a friend or relative.

6. Cook. Research new dishes and recipes. Cooking is a great way to combine reading and simple math skills—with a tasty reward in the end.

7. Try a new hobby. Exploring a new skill or interest can challenge your brain in different ways, build your cognitive functioning, and help you understand problems from new angles. Plus, you may discover a new passion. Win-win.

Remember, the key is to reinforce your verbal and math skills on a consistent basis. To keep yourself motivated, consider finding an accountability-buddy: a friend or family member who can regularly check in with you. It can be helpful to set small daily goals and celebrate when you achieve them.

Need more individualized advice?

The recommendations above are general suggestions. If you have specific questions, reach out to our experts here. We’re happy to help in any way we can.


About ArborBridge

ArborBridge is the global leader in innovative, digital, one-on-one tutoring. With nearly a decade of experience teaching students online, ArborBridge supports students of all kinds: home schoolers, AP students, test preppers, and more. Our tutors specialize in creating personalized plans and in providing compassionate support for students and families.

Erin Ohsie-Frauenhofer

About Erin Ohsie-Frauenhofer

As one of the highest-performing tutors in ArborBridge’s history, Erin coaches tutors and develops tools and trainings to disrupt old habits and empower new strengths. With a Master of Arts in Teaching from Brown University, Erin worked as a classroom teacher and student services director prior to joining ArborBridge in 2017. Her decade of success as an educator has prepared her to ensure that programs are tailored to individual students’ needs.

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