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Slow the summer slide

June 22, 2017 by Nóra Wünsch-Nagy

What happens to your students' development when the school closes for the holidays? And what happens when your students  go on holiday after long months of distance learning? We have long known about the summer slide, but this year we face another challenge after months of lockdown.

The long weeks of the holidays are full of fun, but the time spent away from learning takes its toll on your students' language development. The summer slide or summer literacy slide is a phenomenon which is experienced not only by language teachers but all across the curriculum in different disciplinary fields.

Although most of us give homework for the holidays, which may range from writing a diary through reading books to grammar activities, a lot can also be done within the family to encourage all-year learning outside the classroom. Here are some ideas to help children and teens consolidate what they have done during the year in an engaging and meaningful way.

Illustration by Marzia Sanfilippo from the reader Mr Football written by Janet Olearski. © Helbling Languages

1 Read something every day

Encourage the children in your family or in your group to read something every day. At different times of the day they can read different things. They can read the news in the morning, and the news can be about their favourite bands, sports people, actors. Then during the day they can read novels, short stories, comics, anything that they feel like reading, even a cereal box will do. It often happens that students forget that reading a magazine (even if it is an online edition) also counts as reading.

2 Keep a TV notebook.

TV series have become as popular and sophisticated as films. Watching a good series is a bit like reading  good novel. And maybe the series is the adaptation of a novel, in which case, your students can also read the original text.

Here is a strategy to help your students become aware of the language-learning potential in TV series.

  • Watch an episode in English with English subtitles.
  • Then choose your favourite scene and watch it again with subtitles. Stop and repeat sentences which sound interesting.
  • You can then watch it again without subtitles.

Our students will invariably pick up new vocabulary from whatever TV series they are watching, whether they are aware of it or not. Ask students to keep a notebook and write down interesting phrases they hear in the episodes. Then, when you are back at school, ask them to choose their five favourite phrases. They should be able to explain the situation (so that you can talk about register) and the language used (so that you can discuss grammar structures and vocabulary) and and the region where the series takes place (so that you can talk about phonology and language variation).

3 Play computer games 

Recommend adventure and strategy games, or games which encourage students to solve puzzles. If they play them in English, not only will they have fun, but they will also learn new phrases in English as well as engage in communicative tasks.

4 Play board games

There are lots of fun board games, focus on the more co-operative ones to stimulate communication and problem solving skills.

5 Turn your students into teachers

Finally, ask children and teens to teach someone in their family something in English every day. It can be a phrase, it can be a song or a story or even a word. This is great for confidence-building as they will soon feel that other people are benefitting from their knowledge.

An extra idea 

Get your students to set their social media channels to English. Use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, WhatsApp, Snapchat in English, and try chatting in English. Just by learning to use the interface in English, they will practise navigating in a different language.

What tasks do you usually give to your students over the holidays? Share your ideas with us!

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