4 Fun Ways to Help Students Maintain their Language Skills this Summer
Thursday, July 05, 2018 by David Bong
Your kids worked hard all school year to make strides in language learning. Don’t let the summer slide set them back!
It’s finally that time of year- school is out! You’ve finished the spring testing season, final report cards are done, and families and teachers are gearing up for summer fun and a well-deserved break from the classroom. But that break can come at a cost: the summer slide.
Studies show that the average student loses between one and three months of learning during the summer months. Students who are English Language Learners are at an even greater risk for learning loss, making summer learning even more important. And because language skills require practice and repetition to maintain, they are particularly susceptible to summer learning loss.
But don’t worry! There are simple things you can encourage kids to do at home this summer that will keep their bilingual skills active, without taking away any of their summer fun. Here are a few ideas.
HAVE A BILINGUAL SUMMER READING LIST
Many kids get sent home with a summer reading list. But if you want to keep those skills sharp in both English and another language, your book list should reflect that! Help students find a few age appropriate books in the language they are studying, or seek out books that feature bilingual characters. Check your local library or encourage students to borrow books from their friends, teacher or school. DualLanguageSchools.Org offers some great tips for teachers who want to encourage these bilingual reading practices.
ENCOURAGE BILINGUAL INTERACTION WITH OTHER KIDS
The more students interact and talk to each other in any language, the more quickly their skills develop. Without the structured classroom interaction that comes from being in a language class, it’s easy for students to fall out of practice. Teachers and parents can help by encouraging classmates to use their bilingual skills together during the summer. In communities where many students speak both English and another language, remind them to practice both languages when they play together. It doesn’t have to feel like homework – they could pretend they are star athletes from another country when playing a backyard soccer or baseball game, or find other creative ways to use their language skills together.
INCORPORATE A SECOND LANGUAGE INTO YOUR FIELD TRIP OR VACATION
Summer trips and vacations are filled with fun and exciting things to explore. Whether you’re going to the local zoo, the neighborhood pool, or on a road trip somewhere totally new, there will be lots of things for your students to see or talk about. Ask them how they would describe something in their second language and make it a fun game, always encouraging them to build a bigger picture and demonstrate those key language proficiency skills. “How many of these zoo animal names can you say in Spanish? How would you describe them?” or “Let’s pretend we’re on an adventure in Japan. What would we be doing?”
PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD
Cooking brings people and families together across any culture or language. Parents can spend a night cooking a meal with their student. That meal could come from their heritage culture or you can research a new recipe from the language/culture they are studying to make together. Practice naming all of the ingredients in another language. It’s a great way for kids to dig in and feel more connected to the language and culture, whether you’re making pizza or pierogies!
By incorporating a few of these activities into a student’s summer plans and routines, they’ll not only maintain that excellent STAMP test score that students and teachers worked so hard for, they will be keeping their brains and skills sharp for lasting benefit. Because ultimately, we know that when children continue to learn during the summer, they are healthier, safer, and smarter, and their schools and communities are more successful.