Once the school year has ended and students are no longer in class every day, it can be difficult for them to maintain the language skills they learned throughout the year. But practicing and working with the language can be easier than you think. The more students interact with the language, the better they are able to get back into the swing of things come September. Here are some quick tips to help students maintain and sharpen their language skills:
- Use technology. Tablets and smart phones offer a wide range of applications (apps) in many languages. Even if the apps do not concentrate on vocabulary learned in the classroom, they offer the chance to continue interacting with the language in a fun way. Duolingo is one free choice.
- Listen to music. An important part of maintaining language skills is to continue interacting with the language. Listening to music is a great way to pick up new vocabulary and to get to know the culture of the language as well. If local radio stations do not provide international music stations, there are various Internet radio stations that do. From Top 40 hits to more cultural music, it can all be found online.
- Read a good book. Reading children’s picture books in the target language, especially one that is familiar, is a great way to continue practicing over the summer. Books, such as “The Hungry Caterpillar” or “The Cat in the Hat,” are available in a wide range of languages. When children read books with which they are familiar, there is more focus on the language and often they can pick up new words easily. Many bookstores and libraries carry picture books in multiple languages, and many books are available through online retailers as well.
- Watch a favorite movie. Many of today’s movies are available in multiple languages through the movie menu. Watching a movie in the target language provides students with an incredible amount of language. In watching a well-known movie, students can concentrate on the new language and not so much the content of the movie. Animated movies are an especially good choice as they are often available with target language subtitles as well. If you cannot find movies in the language you desire, YouTube offers an incredible wealth of material.
- Focus on the word of the day. By focusing on one word a day, students can easily add to their vocabulary. Use the word in as many different ways and settings as possible. Another way to use the word of the day method is to find words in the target language in and around the community. More so than with words from a dictionary or website, these vocabulary pieces are meaningful and allow students to connect their language with their surroundings.
Talia Sussman is a certified K-12 Spanish teacher with endorsements in ELL, bilingual education and social studies at the middle school level. She is in her third year teaching third- through fifth-grade Spanish in the north suburbs of Chicago. The six years previous to that, she taught sixth through eight grade in the same district. She currently participates in a program with the Illinois Council for the Teachers of Foreign Language (ICTFL) to develop assessments that demonstrate student growth and meet the changing needs of World Language programs.