Summer gives students (and teachers) a well-deserved break from a stressful school year. But it can also cause students to forget 22 percent or more of what they learned over that school year in what’s called the “summer slide”. It takes a teacher a month of review at the beginning of the next year just to get students caught back up.
The stakes are even greater for language learners, who need more consistent practice to keep their skills sharp. Here are 10 tips for helping language learners avoid the slide.
1. Don’t let them veg. The slide is worse for students who either don’t have access to or choose not to participate in summer activities.
2. Look for online resources. Learning doesn’t have to stop just because the school building is locked. Online learning can not only help keep learners sharp, but can actually help them improve by the time they get back to school.
3. Provide students with a reading list before they leave. Set up a reward program upon their return so they follow through on their reading assignments.
4. Send reading materials home. Some of our poorer students might not have access to the local library or Amazon. If all else fails, send some books home.
5. Ask parents to let their children teach them. Teaching someone else is one of the highest levels of thinking. Many parents, particularly those of ELL students, would love to learn the other language.
6. Find immersion, if possible. Foreign language learners in the US might have trouble finding places where their target language is predominantly spoken, but ELL students can make an effort to spend some time away from their native-speaking family and converse in English—even if it’s just the grocery store.
7. For older ELL students, a summer job in (English-speaking) customer service can make a huge difference, and lets them earn some extra cash at the same time.
8. For younger ELLs, consider some volunteering. Plenty of organizations around town need help. It’s a good way to practice language skills and perhaps investigate a possible career.
9. Construct a virtual field trip. Many students don’t have the means to travel over the summer. Take the time to make a virtual field trip for them using tools like Google Earth, Wikipedia, and YouTube. They can “travel” and get some immersion at the same time.
10. Make yourself available. Hopefully teachers are relaxing as well, but there’s nothing wrong with maintaining contact with your students over the summer using social media (within acceptable use policies, of course). Ask them questions and vice versa, just to keep their minds turning.
We also have some ideas about how Rosetta Stone can help in your summer learning programs. Read about how the Little Rock School District used online learning in their program. We also have a webinar talking about ideas for summer learning.