The “summer slide” is an education phenomenon during which students regress in their learning and language development over the summer months when they are not in school. In her 5 May 2016 post, “11 Tips to Help ELs Avoid the Summer Slide,” fellow TESOL blogger Judie Haynes mentioned how the summer slide can particularly impact students from lower income households, wherein caregivers may not be able to pay for expensive summer camps or extended learning programs. She also provided some effective, less expensive ideas for ELs to continue engaging with content and language over the summer.
However, since the focus of this blog is TESOL teacher education, in this post, I’ll highlight some ways for teachers to prevent their own summer slide, and continue their professional development during June, July, and August (summer time in the United States).
Teachers might be thinking, “Oh, no…summer is MY time, and I don’t want anything to do with school,” and they’re right in terms of taking time to relax and rejuvenate before the next academic year. However, summer is a great time to reflect on the past academic year and set some goals and a positive mindset for the year to come. Below are some suggestions for doing just that!
- Make a list of 10 things in which YOU are currently interested. Then, see if you can work any of them into your lesson or unit plans. You will likely be a more engaging teacher if you are sharing content in which you are truly interested or invested. It will give students a chance to connect with you on a personal level, too! Discovery News often has some interesting science and humanities info in quick-read format.
- Brush up on your grammar and language forms/functions. I know, I know; grammar in summer sounds boring. But be honest—how many times have students asked you a grammar question that you answered with, “That’s just how English is,” or “You just have to memorize the rule.” Pick one or two grammar structures that you’d like to have better answers to, and develop some activities about them for you and your students. Check out the grammarly.com blog to stay current!
- Throw out five lesson plans that you’ve taught a million times. We all get stuck in a teaching rut. Carefully look through your computer or filing cabinet, and see which lessons are worn out, outdated, or no longer relevant. Tweak them with updates or toss them in favor of new, current ways to present information. Consider adding a technology element, like an infographic or Kahoot quiz, and see Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers for a TON of ideas.
- Read an inspirational book about teaching, or watch a TED talk. You became a teacher for one of two reasons…either you like people or you like a subject. Hopefully, you became a teacher for both of those reasons. Take some time to remember why you became a teacher, and seek some inspiration from writers and speakers who have been where you are and/or appreciate what you do.
- Read an academic book about language or a subject that you teach. Stay up to date on information that interests you, and that you can use in your classroom. Language acquisition theory is continually evolving, so being current on research-supported teaching practices is key. Cool Ted Talks on language can be found here.
- Read some books on your students’ age and proficiency levels. Are they entertaining? Boring? Do they match your students’ interests and/or cultural backgrounds? Should you keep using them or find some others? See here for books lists if you need some new ones.
- Tutor or visit a library’s bilingual hour. Take some time to get to know ELs and their families outside of the pressures of the school setting. Spending one-on-one time with a child and his or her family can make a huge difference for them and you.
- Visit a restaurant or grocery store with a language or ethnicity different than your own. Step out of your usual routine and visit areas of your community that differ from your usual “routes.” Try some new food, buy something that you’ve never tried before, and seek exposure to different ways of life that you don’t have time to explore during the school year, even if you can’t travel around the world.
- Compile a collage or collection of things about you that you want your students to know. Connect with them early on in the next school year by sharing photos or artifacts that will help them see you as as a teacher with many interests that might be similar to their own.
- Attend a conference. Listen to experts in the field, and innovate your practice as you can. If you can’t travel to a conference, try joining an ELL chat on Twitter or Facebook, or virtually attend some of TESOL’s online seminars and trainings.
- Relax and regroup…spending time with family, fixing up your house or yard, going to yoga, or riding a bike, reading books or magazines for pleasure, sleeping in or napping..all of these things will make you a better teacher, too.
As for me, I’m starting to check off my list with number 11, but I’ll definitely get to the other 10 before September. See you at the beach!