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addressing the summer slide for immersion students: ideas for fostering a love of language outside of school

Those of you who’ve read my posts before know that I’m a die-hard add.a.lingua immersion program advocate. The students! Their teachers! The quality! The research behind it all! Trust me. It can’t get much more passionate.

But, if I’m being honest, I’d say there are solely two things in this life that rile me up and and make me even more devoted to high quality add.a.lingua dual language immersion education. Just two things that can evoke the deepest of sentiments. Just two things that somehow manage to occupy every single space in my heart. What might those be, you ask?

The first one’s Xavier. He’s 8.

The second one’s Iván. He’s 4.

And I’m their profusely proud mom.

See, in addition to being a full time director at add.a.lingua, I’m also a passionate immersion parent who wants to do all she can to support her kids’ learning over the summer months. Now that spring is here, many families find themselves in my same boat. We all want the best for our kids and for them to maintain as much language learning as possible, even when they’re away from their awesome teachers! So…how do we do it?

Let’s take a peek at the top questions I receive on the topic, and how to take a no-stress-express approach to encouraging increased immersion language status, having FUN with the language, and spending time at play when school’s out for the summer so everyone (parents and families included!) can feel confident walking back into their add.a.lingua program in the fall!

Question #1: I don’t speak Spanish! Does my kid need summer school?

 

Absolutely NOT. Unless your child’s teacher/administrator has come to you with concerns and advised summer school for other reasons based on district guidelines, you shouldn’t put pressure on yourself to find summer school in the immersion language.

Instead, focus on making sure that the non-English language of the immersion program is held in high regard. Make sure your child’s positive outlook on their educational experience remains intact, even though they may not be in day-to-day contact with it.

Do this by:

  • reflecting on the year and on how much they’ve learned in the language
  • reviewing fun projects that they created in the language
  • listening to your child read stories or books they wrote in the immersion language

If options exist in your area for your child to participate in a summer camp, VBS, or enrichment program, by all means seize the opportunity. Time and intensity matter when it comes to language learning. But know that if your child doesn’t participate or if one is not accessible, you really don’t need to worry that your child will enter school “behind” in the fall.

Question #2: I hear a lot about the “summer slide” with academics. Is language a part of that, too?

Yeah. It’s true. Unless your child is in year-round schooling, the summer slide always has potential to become a reality. What’s important for us to remember, however, is that we don’t have to skill-n-drill our kids with isolated vocabulary flashcards or ask them to translate everything they hear into Spanish. Doing so would prompt a) a real snooze fest in the middle of the summer and b) encourage kids to start disliking the thought of learning another language! That’s everything we DON’T want to have happen!

Ultimately, all kids experience a bit of a “dip” in the summer months. The great news, though, is that in our partner programs the add.a.lingua language timeline and policy are in full-effect from the get go! Right at the start of the year. Yep. I said it. This means that your child’s teachers are trained to know what to do to ensure a linguistically rich environment that your child will grow quickly accustomed to…because it’s an expectation that we know they can handle! Our expectations look different based on the grade, and we’ve got evidence that it WORKS! Parents can relax with confidence knowing that add.a.lingua resources account for what happens in the summer, and our teacher training does, too.

Question #3: What opportunities are there for me to continue to foster a love for the immersion language when school’s out?

It only makes sense that, even with what’s been explained above, we still want to seek every opportunity to ensure that our children engage with the language as much as possible. Check out some of these recommendations to keep the summer light and FUN!

  • Find a sitter who speaks both languages and ensure that she speaks solely your child’s second language during their time. Encourage them to play games and have fun using as much of the language as they can.
  • Tutor time? Nope. It doesn’t have to be what you think it is! Your child doesn’t have to be struggling in school to get the most out of this. Sometimes teachers or educational assistants tutor in the summer months. Even though my husband and I speak Spanish, we’ve taken advantage of this so our boys hear different accents and experience new cultures. Check around locally for options near your school.
  • Family movie night? Try it out in Spanish! Come on…You haven’t LIVED until you’ve had the opportunity to sing “Let it go!” as “¡Libre soy!”
  • Step into the community! Make contacts with people in your community who speak the language your child is learning. Head to local restaurants or shops where they can use their language skills authentically. Invite your child to read items off the menu or on the shelves and speak with the employees. What good is knowing the language if we don’t use it to connect with people, right?!
  • Preserve reading time in Spanish. I can’t reiterate this one enough. At our house, we have a set time each day to read in Spanish. It’s a critical way to encourage students to engage with the language independently and foster a love for reading. Need access to books? Check out places like Barnes & Noble, Scholastic en español, Santillana publishing, cuentosinteractivos, storyplace, and your local library for Spanish titles at a variety of levels!
  • Take suggestions from your children. We all know how much children love having choice! When I ask my kids, these are the top three things they suggest:
  1. Dance Party! These are on the regular at our house! Some silly favorites are Blippi en español, Pica Pica and any other songs under the umbrella of canciones infantiles!
  2. Technology fun! Some iPad apps and websites can be a great reinforcement.  Check out ones like ABC Spanish Reading Magic, Kandoobi Animales, Ebooks Spanish, Lee Paso a Paso, Razz Kids, or BrainPop in Spanish. Remember, though, no app or website can replace human interaction and not all apps are created equally. It’s not a realistic or appropriate expectation to over-prescribe an iPad just to “keep up on Spanish.” Follow your family’s typical boundaries for technology.
  3. Hit up some festivals.
    Where we live, we’re fortunate to have organizations like LAUP and the Hispanic Center of West Michigan that put on great festival experiences.  Be sure to check for celebrations in your area that honor the cultures of the language your child is learning.

In the end, learning a language is intended to help us connect across languages and cultures, and summer is a wonderful time to get out there and connect. Read. Meet people. PLAY. Enjoy your summer knowing that Xavier, Iván and I follow this same advice! If you’re interested in what we’re up to, follow me on Twitter @SNIrizarry, and we’ll be sure to provide updates! Cheers to a great summer!

Filed under: dliparents, educators

About the Author

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Stephanie Irizarry holds undergraduate ​teacher certification in Spanish and Elementary Education, an M.Ed in Literacy Studies with emphasis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL),​ as well as an additional M.Ed. in Interdisciplinary Studies with Certification in Dual Language and Immersion Education from the University of Minnesota. Her broad teaching experiences in dual language immersion programs and​ in​ English learner contexts provide her with deep insight into the needs of new and existing dual language immersion programs.​ Co-author of the publication Lending Student Voice to Latino ELL Migrant Children's Perspectives on Learning (2013), she knows that students increasingly take ownership of their education when their voices are honored and expectations are held high. Stephanie is the proud mom of two boys and is thrilled that they'll know the joy of learning in high quality dual language immersion environments as they grow. She enjoys spending time with her husband and children, travel, latin dancing, and reading in Spanish.

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