Blogging helps beat the summer slump

Issue: Volume 99, Number 2

Posted: 14 February 2020
Reference #: 1HA5SA

Blogging at least twice a week as part of a free digital literacy programme has eliminated the summer literacy slump for participants in the initiative.

Year 7 student Millah enjoyed keeping a blog as part of the Summer Learning Journey programme.

Year 7 student Millah enjoyed keeping a blog as part of the Summer Learning Journey programme.

The Summer Learning Journey is supported by the University of Auckland in 70 low-decile schools in Northland, Auckland, Gisborne, Ōtaki, Christchurch, Greymouth and Hokitika, with more than 850 tamariki having taken part during the past summer holidays.

Now in its seventh cycle, the free programme was initially set up in collaboration with the Manaiakalani cluster of schools in Tāmaki, Auckland, to ensure Year 3–8 students return to school ‘match fit’. The main objective is to address the issue of the ‘summer slump’, where students can experience a regression in literacy achievement over the long holidays. 

The Summer Learning Journey was developed at the Woolf Fisher Research Centre at the University of Auckland with philanthropic support funding website development and staff including the blog commenters who interact with participants.  

Digital engagement

The programme gives students opportunities to read, write and share their knowledge on a public digital platform with their classmates, families and teachers. A team of educators and selected student volunteer commenters read their blogs and give them encouragement and feedback. The blogs are lively, with children posting stories, poems, book reviews and information, as well as engaging with each other and the assessment team.

Sixty different activities from creative writing to expressing opinions are offered with an additional 15 in ‘Teaser-Week’. Students are also encouraged to think laterally, take pictures and create videos, making it both fun and educational.

Evaluation shows results

Year 6 student Noah wrote a blog about his summer reading.

Year 6 student Noah wrote a blog about his summer reading.

Each year, the University of Auckland research team evaluates the impact that participation in the programme has on the e-asTTle writing and PAT reading achievement of participants. Results suggest that blogging twice a week or more, can virtually eliminate the summer slump in reading and writing achievement.

“While the programme is designed to address the summer learning effect, in reality not all students’ scores drop over summer,”
says Dr Rebecca Jesson, primary investigator for the research project. 

“But previous research suggests that students who maintain learning over summer tend to participate in literacy-rich leisure activities, with three underlying conditions: access to appropriate texts, engagement and support and guidance,” she says.

Relationships are key

The studies show that motivation for ongoing literacy-rich activities over summer depends on students engaging in self-chosen activities. For this reason, the programme is designed to be voluntary and enjoyable, with a range of activities which relate to students’ lives and experiences and allow choice and personalisation. 

“Guidance and support from blog commenters is also a key feature. Our evidence suggests that there is also a strong element of personal relationship-building underlying the programme, and regular supportive and personal comments by our staff are a key motivator,” explains Rebecca.

Here is an example: 

Kia ora Ronan! Olive here from the Summer Learning Journey! How are you doing today?

Thank you for your post! I’ve come back to this one because I’ve really enjoyed reading about what you’ve been up to! I think you’re doing some fantastic art and putting in a lot of effort here! I especially like your bird feeder drawing, and how you use a bird feeder in real life! What sort of birds come by your house?

I notice you haven’t been as active recently – maybe you’re on holiday? Bad wi-fi connection? The dog ate your computer? Whatever the reason, my team and I would love to see more of your work! Don’t give up, there are still two weeks of the programme to go! Remember the end of the Summer Learning Journey is next Friday 24 January! Keep up the blogging, commenting and enthusiasm!

Ngā mihi, Olive

Significant impact

The University of Auckland research shows that while the most positive impact is on children’s writing, the main effects come through frequency of engagement.  

Students who maintain their learning in reading and writing, are those who complete at least two activities a week – and blog about them. These results have been peer reviewed and published in an international journal, Computers in Education.

“The effect seems to be educationally significant. In both reading and writing, those with more than two posts a week made additional progress over summer,” says Rebecca.

Richard Johnson, principal of Panmure Bridge School, says the Summer Learning Journey has had a very positive impact on his school offering a good holiday activity. 

“When they return to school, they return ready to learn,” he says.

Participating students within the clusters of schools receive ongoing support and feedback, as well as the opportunity to win prizes for their blogging.

Tamariki blogs  

  • Jennae(external link): Watching the news and reading articles and newspapers about what is happening to our world (in particular Australia) is devastating and people like me who aren’t affected need to send help straight away. The fires are spreading, houses are burning down, and people are losing everything they have. So we need to make a difference and help these people. 
  • Riiana(external link) 
  • Vitaraag(external link)  

For more information visit the Summer Learning Journey website.(external link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:26 am, 14 February 2020

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