How ESL Children Can Improve Their English Over Summer Vacation

Last Updated on February 22, 2022 by Estrella

How ESL children can improve their English over summer vacation
How ESL children can improve their English over summer vacation. Photo by Sarah Pflug from Burst.

Summer vacation is here. Children will be out of school for a couple of months. And you are worried that your child, who is learning English as a second language, may lose some of her English over summer vacation because she won’t be seeing American classmates everyday. But what if she can improve her English during these two months, just in different ways? Here are some ideas on how ESL children can improve their English over summer vacation.

Choosing activities that are fun

Since summer vacation is intended for students to rest and play, you can use this to integrate English practice. Learning does not have to come from books or the classroom. In fact, often learning takes place outside the class by applying what we study. So which activities can encourage English practice? The playground for younger children. It is such a perfect environment. They are playing, they are feeling relaxed. They are not thinking about learning. That is the perfect atmosphere to integrate learning.

The playground is a great place to practice English

Actually, when children are playing, they are speaking natural English. What better way to absorb a language than when they are playing with native English speakers? Not only will they improve their English accent, intonation, and vocabulary, by the time they get back to school, they might have made friends with a future classmate from the playground. Since you go to the same playground and park, it’s likely you live in the same neighborhood, and are in the same school district.

Reading favorite books can improve English

So, play is one way your ESL children can improve their English even when they are out of school. Another way is to read their favorite books. Don’t worry about grammar books, unless your child enjoys it. Encourage your child to read anything they are interested in, even if it’s comic books. They will absorb the patterns and word order of natural English.

When I was learning English, over one summer vacation, I read over 20 novels. I wasn’t trying to learn English, I simply enjoyed reading those books. When school started again, I noticed my writing improved without effort. Something must have transferred from reading those books. My sentence construction took less effort. I was more descriptive in my writing. And I did not have to stop to think about grammar. They just came out right naturally.

You see a common theme here. Natural English. Playing with other children who also speak English helps with integrating English into everyday life. Especially when children play with native English speakers. But don’t worry about arranging play dates just with American children. Just by using English with their playmates is sufficient.

Watching movies in English

One other activity can also help your child to improve English over summer vacation. Watching her favorite movies or television shows. Don’t worry about them wasting time. As long as they enjoy it, they wouldn’t even know they are actually picking up more English while watching TV. A former student of mine learned a major dialect of Chinese by watching martial arts movies. She may not speak that dialect fluently, but she was able to understand it much better after all those movies.

So, there you have it. Play, read, watch movies. Actually, any activities that your child enjoys that involve hearing or speaking English. Even writing, if she enjoys it. Don’t force anything. Summer vacation is supposed to be fun. And what better way to integrate learning than by doing something fun?

If you find this article helpful, here is one on How ESL learners can teach their children to read.

Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking.    To schedule a session with her, please email

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