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by Erica Fischer on Jun 3, 2013

Keep Students Motivated with 9 Fun Summer Language-Learning Activities

All Smiles by A. Witt, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  A. Witt 

Wouldn’t it be great if your students would continue studying and practicing second language skills this summer? Maybe you are fresh out of ideas to make that happen, but the #langchat community came up with 9 motivational language activities. We’ll share those with you in a moment, but first how can we be sure these ideas will work for our students?

Basic Guidelines for Developing Summer Activities for World Language

@msfrenchteach asked the important question, “How do you motivate students to do the tasks you suggest? Is there a carrot dangling? Or do you hope for the best in Aug/Sept?” While there were a lot of great responses, @dr_dmd’s comment was noteworthy: “Whatever they do, it should be FUN! Like @SECottrell said in her blog, they should be motivated to do things.”

This idea of intrinsically motivating activities is important when discussing how to keep students involved in language over the summer. In addition, other teachers came up with a number of best practices when assigning these kids of activities.

  • @jennahacker said, “I encourage kids to use technology (movies, music, podcasts) and to challenge themselves by speaking with people in the community!”
  • @jennahacker said, “We had to give summer “homework” so I tried to make mine interpersonal and communicative. Hoping that’s not the only thing they do.”
  • @ZJonesSpanish said, “One way to encourage target language use is to facilitate social interaction within the target-language community and talking with friends who speak the language.”
  • @msfrenchteach said, “I think we must choose strategically how we make the [summer language] connection.”
  • @CoLeeSensei said, “I guess we don’t try to find [students over the summer] – we decide how we’re going to reach out and let them find us.”
  • @Innablog said, “I learn best when these two things are present: feedback and reflection.”

Regardless of how you present your activities to your students, it is vital that motivation for the summer doesn’t start at the end of school. @jennahacker said, “Motivation can’t be communicated in last two days of school. It’s something that is fostered starting in August. We have to show our passion and make it relatable for kids. Show them that language is both fun and meaningful. The whole year!”

9 Great Summer Ideas for Continuing World Language Learning

1. Target Language Scavenger Hunt

@jennahacker shared the brilliant idea of encouraging students to do an authentic resource scavenger hunt over the summer. Although it can be an excellent opportunity for students who are traveling, it is also great for students who have no travel plans for the summer. @Marishawkins said, “Even if they don’t travel abroad, they can still find some. Being close to DC we have Spanish newspapers.” @jennahacker said, “Absolutely! Even product labels, etc. Helps them recognize vocabulary in authentic context.”

2. Summer Language Wall of Fame

In conjunction with the authentic resources scavenger hunt, the results can be shared in a back-to-school presentation, bulletin board or award ceremony. @ZJonesSpanish said, “I like this idea of featuring the stuff when they return! 🙂 Sorta like a show-and-tell.” Along those same lines, @Marishawkins encouraged teachers to take some of the best student-found authentic resources over the summer and showcase them on a bulletin board. @ZJonesSpanish said, “If it were public or in hallway, maybe good way to engage larger school community too.”

3. Summer Fun Packs

A number of teachers give students many choices when sending them off for the summer months. @sraslb said, “Inspired by @ZJonesSpanish a few yrs ago, I give a “packet” of fun activities with music, movies, twitter, cartoons etc.” @coindoeil responded, “I think a list of movies, music, websites, books, blogs, and podcasts is a great way to encourage kids to continue with TL in summer.” Choice is key when giving summer assignments, and is much more likely to elicit participation during the vacation months. @dr_dmd said, “I like to have a long list of choices on a wiki page to give kids ideas of things to do”

4. Group Messaging Boards and Wikis

One of the best ideas for using technology for keeping students engaged in world language was through the use of group web pages, wikis and messaging systems. These resources are attractive to students because they are interactive and technology-based, and meet many core requirements of interpersonal, presentational and interpretive standards. Some great specific ideas are:

  • Having a group Pinterest Board
  • Having a class blog or website
  • Featuring a “Song of the Week” on iTunes and sharing through Twitter or Facebook
  • Creating a class Pandora radio station that students can subscribe to
  • Have a student create a Facebook group for each class and put language-related links and messages there
  • Have a Tumblr or other photoblog where students can post images relating to the target language or culture

5. Google Voice Summer Assignments

Some teachers that use Google Voice during the year say that they continue their assignments over the summer, sometimes for extra credit. @dr_dmd said, “I have a Google Voice number – how about you? I like the students going on to AP to phone in a message about some summer activities.” @CatherineKU72 responded, “Google number has worked well with us these past few years. It’s how I send out trivia questions.” Consider having students watch a movie, telenovela or read a book as a class over the summer and calling in to Google Voice as a summary activity.

6. Virtual Language Exploration

Most student’s won’t have the opportunity to travel to a foreign country in order to keep their language skills fresh. That is why some #langchat teachers suggested using the internet to do their language exploration. By changing settings on social media like Facebook and Twitter, students can feel immersed in a culture without ever having to leave their home. @SrtaTeresa said, “Most of the smartphones allow the keyboard to be changed to the target language.” Teachers can provide a list of online movies, music and games in the target language as well as virtual communication opportunities like pen-pals. @CristinaZimmer4 suggested that using epals might be a way to keep students writing in the target language over the summer.

7. Class Competitions and Prizes

Another way of keeping students motivated to learn throughout the summer is by “dangling a carrot” for their return in the fall. Small prizes and friendly competition might be a great way to keep students on the lookout for ways to use their language skills. @CatherineKU72 said, “I’m toying w/ the idea of a weekly sweepstakes with giveaways (iTunes $5 card, Starbucks, postcards, etc) for trivia sent out on social media.” @Marishawkins said, “I was thinking of putting together a little prize- some candy and homework pass?” @SraChiles said, “I plan to use twitter and a class wiki for group challenges this summer for GT and IB students.”

8. Language Meet and Greet

Encourage communication and cohesiveness built during the school year with more informal summer gatherings. @cyberfrida said, “I’m hoping to Skype with students and meet some of them at a coffee shop to chat.” @msfrenchteach suggested using FaceTime to organize summer speaking events. @CatherineKU72 said, “Students will be using our blog and Web site to connect to media. Planning a Google Hangout at least two times to watch YouTube videos and chat.”

9. Take a Language Stay-Cation

Another brilliant idea of the evening was to bring the target language and culture to the students through local participation and personal interaction with the language. @CoLeeSensei said, “My hope is that their ears/eyes are open to recognizing the TL when it comes and perhaps interacting with it!” By attending local concerts, speaking events and changing settings on personal devices, students can have a semi-immersive environment all summer long. Some specific suggestions included:

  • Volunteer in the community using the target language
  • Attend local festivals
  • Attend a presentation or story time at a local library in the target language
  • For Spanish, provide simple “in the shower or car” exercises to practice rolling Rs
  • Have students change their language preference at grocery self-checkout or ATM machines
  • Give students recipes so they can cook an authentic dish
  • Encourage students to text with a friend in the class in the target language

Thank You!

Again, thank you to our moderators @dr_dmd, @CoLeeSensei and @msfrenchteach for helping us share so many resources and ideas about keeping our students occupied with world language over the summer. As usual, there were many great suggestions that didn’t make our list, and you can find them all in our online archive of the night’s chat.

Thank you for being a part of our professional learning network. We love to hear your ideas and advice about how to become a more effective and authentic world language teacher. If you have a specific topic you would like to see discussed this Thursday at 8pm EST, please share it with us!

Additional Resources

A Note from George Lucas: Celebrating Unsung Heroes in Education
Summer: Language for the fun of it
Exploring Spanish
Test Your French
Des outils pour mieux comprendre l’info
Social Writing for Education
Free French Listening Resources Podcast
Brain Pop
Tous les cours Mathématiques Gratuits en Vidéo
Tous les cours Cuisine Gratuits en Vidéo
Conte-moi la francophonie
European Space Agency Kids
Step outside the textbook: Tell a story
Madameshackelford Cajun Culture
Projet iPod au lycée Mount Vernon
Educational Technology and Mobile Learning

Elementary in Spanish
Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

One comment

  • These all sound like such great ideas! Back when I was in high school our Japanese teacher organised several dates during the summer holidays when our class would get together (everyone who was available anyway) and bring a Japanese style dish with them – we would then converse only in Japanese during dinner, it was a great way to learn new vocabulary and also practice what we had already learned. We also had sushi making lessons, and watched a Japanese film or two. All of these things helped to make sure that we didn’t completely forget everything we had learned during the year!

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