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Easy Ways to Support Language Learning this Summer

4 min read
Clarke student enjoying the water in summer

We’re almost halfway through summer, can you believe it?

Many families have modified their normal routines—they may be enjoying more bike rides, visiting local spray parks and taking road trips to see family members.

And many children are spending more time at home or in daycare. School-age students might be occupied with extra screentime or attending group care while their parents and caregivers manage work schedules over the summer.

However day-to-day life has changed, summer routines offer unique opportunities for maintaining Listening and Spoken Language (LSL) learning. This brief list is meant to offer families of school-age children some ideas to keep speech, listening, learning and literacy alive.  

Would you Rather… and Why?

A fun way to initiate an interesting conversation with your child is to play a few rounds of “Would You Rather,” but try adding “…and Why?” to stimulate their critical thinking. This works well when caregivers are seeking to pass the time—on a car ride, in a waiting room, at the bus stop—and elicits more enthusiasm when the prompts are silly! Think of what your child finds funny or interesting (e.g., boogers, their favorite cartoon character, a beloved pet) and work it into your questions. Once they get the hang of it, encourage them to ask you some questions as well.

“Posing conversation-starting questions is an excellent way to engage with your child and develop their creative thinking skills,” says Katie Jennings, teacher of the deaf. “When the content is interesting to them, they’ll be more likely to reflect on new concepts and bring their unique perspective to a dialogue.”   

Sample questions below (Adapted from source: Confessions of Parenting):

  • Would you rather swim in a lake all summer or a swimming pool, and why?
  • Would you rather spend the day flying around on the back of a bee or a butterfly, and why?
  • Would you rather have to wear a swimsuit for a day in the winter or wear a snowsuit for a day in the summer, and why?
  • Would you rather work as a lifeguard or work as a summer camp counselor, and why?
  • Would you rather ride on the highest roller coaster or the longest roller coast, and why?
  • Would you rather have sunny weather all year round or rainy weather all year round, and why?
  • Would you rather have a bouncy castle in your backyard or a movie theater, and why?
  • Would you rather spend the summer in the mountains or at the beach, and why?

It’s helpful to verbally prepare children who are deaf or hard of hearing before visiting a new place or taking a trip. This can reduce their uncertainty and give them a chance to ask questions. “Talk in advance with your child about your plans using future tense (‘We will…! We are going to…!’),” says Carole Shapiro, speech-language pathologist at Clarke.* “As you’re experiencing your fun, engage in conversation with your child about what you are doing/noticing/thinking, etc. During the travel home, or at the end of the day, talk again about what you did, now using past tense (‘Wasn’t it fun when we…?’).” This can help them process the experience and underscore any new vocabulary or concepts they learned. “Taking pictures during the event/trip and reviewing the pictures later is also fun and beneficial,” Carol adds.

Literacy Lessons While Playing with Chalk

Buckets of sidewalk chalk can be used to write words on the sidewalk or driveway and give children a chance to practice sounds. “Write out words and ask your child to find the word with the sound you’re asking for,” says Brittany LaBrie, Clarke teacher of the deaf. “Show them what a palindrome is and see if they can come up with any of their own.” (Hint: “Mom” is a great one!)

Visual Storytelling

Create a summer scrapbook. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but it can be a great way to keep children writing over the summer. Print out pictures or have children draw their own illustrations to go along with their memories.

Visit your Local Library

Given many caregivers’ busy schedules, the library may seem out of reach. But libraries usually offer convenient visiting hours, including Saturdays and weekday evening hours. And most libraries host summer reading clubs (which can be joined at any time) and reward reaching book-reading milestones. Libraries usually offer age-appropriate lists for summer reading, as well, which are helpful when there’s little time to peruse the shelves.

Keep in Touch with a Friend

Does your school-age child miss a classroom friend they haven’t seen since the spring? Try to arrange a pen-pal connection. With the other caregiver’s permission, of course, share mailing addresses and let the children write and decorate letters or art to send to each other. “It’s incredibly easy to do,” says Emily Snow, MED, teacher of the deaf at Clarke. “It’s a super motivator and the kids I’ve done it with have absolutely loved it,” (For more tips, check out “Pen Pal Friendships Connect Students,” from Clarke’s Mainstream News.)

Make Chores Empowering & Interactive

Next time you’re planning a trip for groceries, involve your child—who will probably be tagging along anyways. As you jot down a list, give your child a sheet of paper too, and narrate what you’re thinking about and writing down. They can create their own list. Help them with any spelling questions they encounter, and if feasible, allow them to request a certain item to purchase, too.

If you have a weekly circular from a local grocery store, flip through it together, circling items for the list and transcribing their names to your list. You can also talk about what’s on sale and concepts around spending money (e.g., setting a monthly grocery budget, “BOGO” deals, how to avoid impulse buys) to enhance their numeracy and life skills.

Immersion in New Language & Self-Advocacy

If your family is taking a trip or visiting a new place, consider the opportunities for language learning and practicing speech. There are numerous ways to incorporate listening and spoken language strategies—identifying new plants, listening for different wildlife sounds or describing the nearby skyscrapers—that won’t feel like work to your child.

Trips also present great opportunities to help children practice self-advocacy skills. Rehearse with and support them in ordering for themselves at a restaurant or snack bar, and have a short explanation prepared to explain their hearing technology if asked.

Families often feel undue pressure to make each summer an unforgettable experience for children. Meanwhile, it’s just another season of the year, and as with any other season, there are myriad ways that families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing can connect, interact and encourage learning. We hope you find fun in the days ahead!

*We are grateful to Carole Shapiro for her contribution to this article. Since our interview, Carole has transitioned from her role at Clarke, and we wish her well! 

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