Stem summer learning loss with fun family games

Free and easy ways to engage children

It's no secret that summer vacation causes a significant learning loss for many school-aged children. To stem the tide, Thornwell School for the Arts grade 3 teacher, Brandy Benjamin, recommends some classic and informal games that boost language, memory and other learning skills. The best thing about these games is they don't cost any money to play, and don't require any pieces or components—just brain power. Here is a short list with instructions:

20 questions

One player thinks of an object, let others know if it is an animal, vegetable or mineral. The other plays ask only questions that can be answered with a yes or no. The goal is to discover what the object is in fewer than 20 questions.


This game is a riff on 20 questions, best suited to older students who are familiar with people in the news and more historic figures. One player (or a team of players) takes on the persona of a well-known person and shares only the initials of the person's name as a clue. Other players (or the other team) asks yes or no questions until they guess the person, or have used up 20 questions.


One player names a category and the other players take turns naming items that belong to it. The category can be broad (e.g., animals) or narrow (e.g., types of dogs). The game continues until no one can come up with another item to add to the category.


Each player comes up with a place name (town, state, country, etc.) that begins with the same letter as the last letter of the place mentioned by the previous player. For example, if the first player says Italy, the second player might say Yosemite. Play continues until players run out of places to name.


This game is similar to Horse. The game starts with the first player naming a letter of the alphabet. Other players take turns by adding a letter that contributes to the spelling of a word. The catch: Avoid completing a word. Each time someone completes a word, he gets a letter of the word Ghost. Once a player has spelled ghost, he/she is out of the game. A player can be challenged if another player suspects the letter added isn't part of a real word.

I packed my grandmother's trunk

Each player starts off with the sentence, “I packed my grandmother's trunk and in it I put...” The first player completes the sentence with an item that begins with the letter A. The next player repeats the sentence and the first players answer, and then adds an item with the letter B. Play continues through the entire alphabet.

Spring Fling offers tips to prevent summer learning loss

Comer school families invited to participate

In an order to prevent learning loss over the summer months, PULSE is sponsoring an evening of activities for families at the four Comer schools. The Spring Fling will be held Wednesday, May 20, from 5:30-7:45p.m. at the Hartsville Middle School, and will feature fun for the entire family. Additionally, parents will discover numerous ways to emphasize reading, use free apps to encourage learning and participate in a resource fair. All events are designed to help students continue learning throughout the summer.

The National Summer Learning Institute supports the notion that in order to succeed in school and life, children and young adults need ongoing developmental experiences to learn and practice essential skills. This ties in with the Comer School Development (SDP) model, in place at four Hartsville Elementary schools.

Using more than a century of collected data, the Institute reports that most students lose the equivalent of two months of grade equivalency in mathematics, and low-income students tend to experience an equal loss in reading achievement. The Institute also documents lower scores on standardized tests following summer vacation than at the beginning of summer.

Justin Dunham, Darlington County School District Comer facilitator, and coordinator of the Spring Fling said, “The Comer schools are always looking for ways to involve families. We hope by the time they leave, our parents and caregivers will be equipped with all the necessary resources to combat summer learning losses.

In addition to the learning opportunities, the Spring Fling will feature musical performances, learning sessions, games for children and refreshments. Prizes will also be given away, including a family pass to the Piratesville Splash Pad.

Dunham said he hopes the event will help parents and students continue developing nurturing relationships with other community groups in Hartsville.

The Spring Fling is for families and caregivers of students attending Washington Street Elementary, Southside Early Childhood Center, Thornwell School for the Arts and West Hartsville Elementary.

For more information on the Spring Fling, contact Justin Dunham, Darlington County School District Comer facilitator, 843-857-3276.