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Language Learning

How to support dual language learning for the summer

The end of the school year is a time for students to reflect on their achievements and to be excited for summer on the horizon. For teachers and parents of dual language immersion students, it may also be a time of concern, wondering how to best support summer dual language learning. “Summer slide,” “summer learning loss,” or “summer brain drain” has been a concern studied in education for more than one hundred years and one that is often shared by caretakers of dual language students. 

The long break in a traditional school calendar may mean that many students won’t continue to strengthen the language skills they gained throughout the year. There are, however, many strategies that educators, parents, and caregivers can use to combat summer learning loss. 

Dual language students can practice their target language throughout the summer by watching TV shows or movies in that language, going to cultural festivals, or visiting a store or restaurant where they can use their skills. Share these resources with other members of your dual language community to ensure that students continue to strengthen their language skills throughout the summer. 

Continuing language learning at home 

As more students begin to enroll in language immersion programs across the globe, it is important for parents to find ways to engage their children and get involved in their learning, even if they don’t know the target language. Students enrolled in a dual language program don’t have to stop their learning during the summer, nor should they. 

For any new skill children pick up, positive reinforcement from home can be extremely beneficial in solidifying long-term gains because it integrates the skill into more than one setting. When children see their parents modeling skills that boost language learning, they are more likely to develop an intrinsic motivation in their language skills as well. This can aid in retention and provide a solid foundation for learning more languages in the future. 

Certain groups of students are at a greater risk of summer learning loss than their peers. The groups most likely to experience learning loss that can lead to achievement gaps are those of students living in rural communities, students with disabilities, and English language learners. Below we share a few recommendations and resources to help avoid the summer slide for dual language students.

Summer dual language activities

1. Provide opportunities for students to continue reading at home in the target language 

Authentic language resources are essential to help students build proficiency in a dual language immersion environment, both at home and in school. Seek out authentic texts for students to read over the summer. Remember that reading is often one of the first skills children develop when learning a new language, so it’s a great way to get them excited about showing their progress.

Did you know that if your local library doesn’t have a particular book in its catalog, you can request that the library purchase it or borrow it from another library? The process differs by county, so get in touch with your library to learn more about its system. Your school or district may be able to partner with your community’s library to make sure authentic reading materials are accessible to all dual language students in the area.

In addition to reading texts, practicing high-frequency words is another way students can maintain their language skills at home. Referencing the high-frequency words that students focused on during the year and even playing their favorite word games is a fun way to practice at home. 

2. Create cultural experiences and encourage curiosity 

Language and culture are intertwined, so finding ways to explore what’s happening outside of a student’s immediate home or school environment can help in the language immersion experience as well.

Extend cultural experiences into the summer. Seek out international events, such as a cultural festival. Find a restaurant that offers authentic food related to your student’s target language. Collaborate with your school network to find local organizations that offer cultural experiences. By engaging with these organizations, students will begin to feel more connected to their own local communities and the broader global community.

3. Take advantage of screen time

Use apps, movies, TV, or the internet to increase the amount of time your child spends engaging in the target language. Do they have a favorite show or movie they watch? Set the language to the target language, or consider adding subtitles to the bottom so they are leveraging something familiar to immerse themselves in their target language in an authentic way. Online language games can also be a fun and interactive way to incentivize language learning from home.

However you encourage students to learn over the summer, just a few minutes per day engaging in such activities can have a huge impact on how prepared they will be for the next school year. Invite them to follow their interests and have fun with their learning. 

Let us know on social media what you’re doing to combat summer learning loss. We’d love to hear your ideas!

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