Summer! That time of year that teachers and students countdown to and parents dread balancing work responsibilities with family responsibilities! It is also the time of year that I worry about my students’ losing skills. My English Language (EL) kids are particularly vulnerable to losing language skills as they often spend uninterrupted days immersed in their first language and not actively practicing English; particularly academic English. To keep our kids motivated and using English, parents can do several things.
- Check into summer programs offered by your school system. Many schools participate in the 21st Century Grant Program which provide summer programs that focus on extracurricular activities. EL students participate in field trips with their English-speaking peers so they have opportunities to practice English while learning and having fun. If your school does not participate in this grant, look for Boys and Girls Club or YMCA summer programs in your area. It might be worth checking with local churches for Vacation Bible School as well. Although faith based, it gives students a chance to make new friends and practice speaking and listening in English.
- Reading is one of the BEST ways parents can help their kids avoid summer slide. Your local library has a TON of activities for all age groups. From movie days and book talks, to craft activities and guest speakers there is always something going on! Some programs involve parents, while others are gender specific, but all are created with kids in mind. Make sure to sign up for the summer reading club where students earn prizes for the number of books they read over the summer. If you have access to the Internet at home, make sure to set up a digital account so you can download and “check-out” books at home to read on your phone, computer, tablet, or ebook reader. Some libraries also have free music downloads as part of their online program – make sure to ask! If transportation is an issue, check with the library, sometimes they run vans to pick-up locations or send a Book-Mobile out for those that can’t make it to the library.
- TV gets a bad rap, but some programs are really useful for learning at home. For EL students this is a helpful break during the day to hear English and create new experiences. Create a schedule to watch your favorite shows. Invite friends over so the kids can talk about what they are learning, just make sure they are practicing speaking English too! Common Sense Media offers suggestions for programs that are kid friendly. Organized by age groups, this website makes it easy to find programs safe for kids and that offer educational benefits. Also a great source for TV learning programs is PBS Kid Shows. PBS programs are mostly cartoon based with themes and characters for every age group from Preschool to early Middle School. Programs also cover a wide range of topics.
- Online games are also a great source of home learning. The sites listed here cover a multitude of subjects and skills using games, videos, and digital storybooks. Most of these sites also have printable activities and books that parents can do with their students! (If you don’t have access to a printer, use the one at your local library!) PBS Kids caters to Preschool and early elementary students. FunBrain is organized by grade level (PK-8th). Learning Games for Kids is a branch of a homeschool program that is open to the public. Although the site does contain a lot of advertisements, they are “kid friendly” and most, if not all the games are free and do not require registration. The Kidz Page has mobile games (for phone) as well as computer or tablet games. No registration is required. The well-known Jump Start series has free games available. Catering to younger students (PreK-Elementary), there is something here for everyone. Personal experience says even older kids like some of these games!
- Lastly, check with your school to see if they use an online curriculum during the year (for example, iReady, Successmaker, Imagine Learning, Accelerated Reader) or offer home access to other online learning resources. In many cases, students have used these programs during the school year and have access to them at home for free. Some schools even offer incentives such as T-shirts or pizza coupons for students to participate during the summer. EL students may qualify for “take home” technology (laptops or tablets) that districts lend to students over the summer to continue their learning. If not, some of these programs are even accessible from newer smartphones, make sure to ask!