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Help Students Avoid Winter Brain Drain

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Summer isn’t the only time when students can slide. Learning loss is associated with winter break, too. The phenomenon is especially detrimental to high school students, who might be prepping for college entrance exams and whose grades will show up on transcripts. Here are ways your students can keep their brains engaged over the winter break:

·Keep reading. Even if no reading is required over break, encourage students to put their nose into a book or e-reader. These books might be related to their academic or career interests, or they might be strictly for fun. Reading of any kind increases cognitive function. Explore a winter break reading list from Goodreads.

·Play games. This doesn’t mean first-person shooter video games. We’re talking about complex board games like Risk, Othello, Master Mind or Scrabble. Not only do they stimulate the brain, they can also promote positive interaction between teenagers and their families.

·Stay physically active. Students can take walks to enjoy holiday lights, engage in snowball fights or hit the gym. Any of these activities are good for brain function, memory and attention span.

·Visit a museum. Winter break provides a great opportunity to explore art, science or history museums, whether close to home or in cities where families are gathering.   

·Try a MOOC. Hundreds of universities offer Massive Open Online Courses, many of them free. Shorter, self-paced courses are ideal for winter break. Find a list of MOOCs.

·Review. Students don’t have to—and shouldn’t—spend their entire break focused on studies. But a quick review of notes on the last day or two of break can ease the back-to-school transition, especially if the semester didn’t end before break.