Summer is finally approaching, and teachers and learners everywhere are looking forward to a well-earned break. However, lots of students will be preparing for language exams during this time or will want to catch up on lessons they missed during the pandemic and work on their grammar and vocabulary over the summer. In this blog post, we have collected 5 tips to practise their vocabulary and grammar in an autonomous way, even when we are not around to guide them:
Find expressions that are relevant for you
During the academic year, most teachers have to follow a syllabus and prepare students for tests and exams, which can often feel quite limiting. However, in the summer, students can get the chance to practise language that is relevant for them, personally! If your students enjoy reading about make-up, video games, yoga, climate issues or any other topic, encourage them to do so in English. Only in texts that truly interest them will they find expressions that are relevant for their interests. A great tool to learn vocabulary from such texts is Readlang. It is a plugin that you can install into Google Chrome and after a 5-minute registration process, you can start collecting vocabulary items. Select words (or chunks) that are new to you in any text online and click on them to get the translation in your mother tongue. The words you look up will be automatically saved to your collection and can be used for practice later. I especially like it that the expressions are saved with the whole sentence, which can help students recall them later. You can even export the vocab items to Quizlet or your preferred flashcard application!
While they are reading articles or revising vocabulary from the academic year, students will be exposed to tens or even hundreds of new expressions. The summer is a good time to be selective about them. Encourage your learners to select the ones that they really like, either because they like the sound of them, because they would like to use them more or because they use them in their mother tongues and want to sound like their authentic selves in English, too. Of course, there is no point in getting students to revise lots of expressions, but what if they were the ones that are close to their hearts?
As we all know, languages are best learnt if we incorporate frequent, spaced repetition into the learning process. I use Quizlet with all my students and groups (just to come clean, in 99% of the cases it’s my students creating the study sets, not me). Did you know that you can combine sets to have repetition ‘megasets’?
This might be a great idea to try before you send your students off for their summer holidays. Create revision sets by combining previously made sets. You can set a Quizlet revision set as a summer challenge. Tell your students to play against each other in ‘Match’, competition can be very motivating! Again, if you want to promote being selective, students can use the stars to select the expressions that are most relevant to them. If you haven’t been using Quizlet and don’t have any sets ready to go, you can check out the ones created by other users. I’m sure you will find something that matches your students’ levels and the topics you have covered.
Write a learning journal
Another great method to engage your students with grammar and vocabulary practice during the summer is to set the task to write a learning journal. This could be a notebook, a GoogleDocument or even some sheets of paper with 3 columns:
Each day when students watch a YouTube video, read something online, play a video game or are exposed to new expressions and grammatical structures in any other way, they write down one expression that they have learnt. They can then use the third column to write sentences using their new expressions. Encourage them to use a dictionary to learn about how the expressions are used in sentences (typical collocations, prepositions and chunks) so that they can feel more confident when writing their sentences. The learning journal can serve as a great back-to-school activity at the beginning of the next academic year; students can teach each other these new expressions and talk about the situations when they heard/read them.
Another way your learners can practise their grammar and vocabulary is to go through the coursebook activities at their own pace. They might have missed a few classes, or they might need more practice in the language areas that you covered during the course. Pearson’s MyEnglish Lab offers lots of activities connected to their coursebook tasks. Here is an example from Roadmap A2:
It also goes with a gradebook that students and teachers (and parents) can use to follow the progress of the learner. I like this because it breaks down grammar and vocabulary into bite-sized, manageable exercises. Even if you set your students the challenge of doing only 1 activity a day, it can really go a long way in keeping your students in the loop, and it will make it easier for them to get back into learning English when returning to school. For students on the move, the Pearson Practice English app is another option, both for Android and iOS:
Roadmap B2 – Pearson Practice English iOS app
I hope these tips will help you think of some ways to help your learners practise their English during the summer. Of course, it can be challenging to set tasks like this because many students only want to relax and have fun during this period. My suggestion is to involve them in setting the challenges. Have a discussion with them about why it might be useful for them to practise and what they would prefer to do, offering them lots of alternatives. The more your students are involved in the decision making process, the more likely they will actually devote time to learning.