Summer Activities to Develop Child’s Native Language

Successful second language learning depends on the development of your child’s native language.  The following activities are suggestions for you to do with your child, or for your child to do on their own, to develop their first language.  Use as much language as you can during the activity.  The activities below are based on what you can do in the United States, but you can tweak the activities to your own culture.  

The activities below are also focused on building your child’s background knowledge or prior knowledge.  It is important for your child to have many, various experiences to increase their background knowledge or prior knowledge.  Background knowledge is essential for reading comprehension.  Children need to have knowledge about the topic in a story or text in order to understand it.  The more a child knows about a topic, the easier it is to read and understand a text as well as remember the information in the text.    

Most importantly, spend time together having fun and making memories!

  1. Discuss how the weather changes and how people and animals prepare for summer and survive during the summer.  Discuss hot climates like a desert and how people and animals survive in this habitat.
  2. Read summer-themed children’s books to your child.
  3. If your child is able to read, have your child read books that they are interested in.  Visit the public library for free books for your child to read. 
  4. Go on a nature walk or hike.  Bring a magnifying glass.  Examine butterflies, insects, berries, flowers, leaves, birds, frogs, parts of a plant or tree.   
  5. Visit museums, parks, aquariums, farms, zoos, the beach, fairs, water parks, theme parks, farmer’s markets, factory tours or national wildlife refuges.
  6. Plant vegetables, flowers, or a tree.  Discuss plant as a noun and as a verb (to plant).  Vocabulary words:  seeds, soil/dirt, dig, pat, watering can/hose, grow, weeds, sprout, blossom, stem, roots, bud, petal, leaf, flowerpot, garden.  Discuss what plants need in order to grow.  
  7. Have your child play a sport or go to a sporting event.
  8. Go camping (even if it’s in your backyard) and/or fishing.
  9. Go for a bike ride.
  10. Go canoeing/kayaking or for a boat ride.
  11. Have your children play on the playground.
  12. Use sidewalk chalk for your children to practice math facts, spelling sight words, or writing sentences.
  13. Stargaze.  Talk about constellations, the North Star, the verb twinkle.
  14. Watch fireflies glow at night.
  15. Go berry picking.
  16. Feed the ducks.
  17. Eat ice cream, popsicles, snow cones or watermelon.
  18. Go on a picnic.
  19. Have your children jump rope or play hopscotch.
  20. Watch fireworks.
  21. Play miniature golf.
  22. Set up a lemonade stand.
  23. Make a bird feeder.
  24. Watch or be a part of a parade.
  25. Have your child go to a summer or day camp.
  26. Fly a kite.
  27. Discuss Independence Day.  Does your native country also have Independence Day?
  28. Discuss summer weather (rain:  sprinkle, drizzle, pour/downpour, flood  wind:  breeze, blustery, windy, hurricane  clouds: cloudy, clear, gloomy, foggy  other:  storm, drought, thunder, lightening, tornado, rainbow) 
  29. Go whale watching.
  30. Have your child swim at your local pool if you have one.

Communicative Language Teaching

Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) is one of the most effective methods for teaching the English language.  The goal of CLT is communicative competence.  Communicative competence is knowing when and how to say what to whom.  The following are characteristics of Communicative Language Teaching:

  Language learning occurs when students communicate in English.  Students practice using English instead of solely studying it.  Examples of communicative activities are role plays, games, and problem-solving tasks in pairs or small groups.  Working in pairs or small groups maximizes the amount of language practice the students receive.

  Students use authentic communication.  Authentic communication means language that is used in real situations.  Students are given many opportunities to practice authentic communication in a variety of social contexts such as role playing ordering food at a restaurant, meeting someone for the first time, asking for directions, or interviewing for a job. Students need to figure out whether the situation is formal or informal and appropriately communicate in the situation.

  The goal of the student is making themselves understood.  Negotiation of meaning is key where speakers try to reach a clear understanding of each other.

Authentic materials are used in lessons allowing students to work with natural language.  Students communicate with one another using authentic materials.  Examples of authentic materials include newspaper clippings, brochures, menus, or personal photographs.

Errors are perceived as a natural outcome of developing the English language and are part of the learning process. Teachers may not correct student errors, but may note these errors for future instruction. The focus of CLT is communication, so the goal of student interaction is being understood instead of speaking without errors.

  Learners’ fluency skills are evaluated by the teacher along with accuracy skills.

Winter Activities To Develop Child’s Native Language

Successful second language learning depends on the development of your child’s native language.  The following activities are suggestions for you to do with your child to develop their first language.  Use as much language as you can during each activity.  

The activities below are also focused on building your child’s background knowledge or prior knowledge.  It is important for your child to have many, various experiences to increase their background knowledge or prior knowledge.  Background knowledge is essential for reading comprehension.  Children need to have knowledge about the topic in a story or text in order to understand it.  The more a child knows about a topic, the easier it is to read and understand a text as well as remember the information in the text.  

  1. Discuss winter weather.  Blizzard, snow storm, ice storm, sleet, slush, ice, wind, freezing rain
  2. Discuss how people and animals prepare for winter and survive during the winter.  People shovel snow, scrape the ice, snow plows plow the snow.  Animals hibernate, migrate, store food, camouflage.
  3. Read winter-themed children’s books.    
  4. Make hot cocoa.
  5. Bake cookies.
  6. Go snow shoeing or a nature walk.  Do you see any icicles?  Search for animal tracks.  Identify trees deciduous, coniferous, evergreen.  Do you smell pine?  Observe different types of birds (not all migrate!).  Collect pine cones and berries.      
  7. Build a snowman or snow fort.
  8. Go sledding or ice skating.

  9. Because there is more darkness at this time of year, it is a great opportunity to observe the night sky.  Discuss and record the phases of the moon.  Do you see any constellations?  Observe or discuss sunrise, sunset, dawn, dusk, twilight.  Some animals are most active at dawn and duskDiscuss nocturnal and nocturnal animals.
  10. Build and decorate a gingerbread house.
  11. Make a craft.  
  12. Make a bird feeder.  
  13. Go on a sleigh ride.  What do you see, hear, or smell?
  14. Discuss cold regions of the world (north pole and south pole) and animals who live there.

iTranslate App

iTranslate is an effective language translation app for communicating with ESL students.  You type what you want to say, and the app translates English to the student’s native language.  Students can also speak into the iPad and iTranlsate records what the student says.  The app translates the student’s native language into English.  I found this method to be less effective because iTranslate does not accurately record what the student says, even when the student is speaking slowly and clearly.  Despite this flaw, I still highly recommend iTranslate for ESL and classroom teachers who need to communicate with their English language learners.

iTranslate is also helpful for English language learners for learning new vocabulary words and grammar structures.

Reading and Writing Skills for Beginner ELL Students

There is debate whether or not to teach beginner students reading and writing skills before their oral language has developed. I say yes! Go for it! Even though my ESL students did not know any English, I began teaching them letter names, sounds, basic sight words as well as phonological and phonemic awareness skills from the very beginning. Since the ESL teacher’s goal is to catch ESL students up to their peers as quickly and effectively as possible, there is no time to waste! Also, I never encountered any problems with teaching all four skills right from the beginning. In addition, oral and written language often overlap since beginners are reading and writing simple sentences that reflect how we speak. For example, ESL students can learn common sight words from the simple sentences they learn from grammar instruction such as I, am, is, are, come, from, can, like, have, etc. In addition, students read these words in simple texts at their instructional reading level as well as write these words in writing pieces.