Beyond the




9 Activities to Help Your ELL Students Learn Over the Summer Recess

Young students observe a handler holding an small owl.

There’s numerous activities in your community to engage your ELL students in language learning over the summer.

Summer learning loss is a real phenomenon for students, and it’s even more prevalent with students who are learning English as a second language (ELL students). While summer camps and summer programs are enriching options for them, they may not be affordable for some ELL students’ families. Also, some summer programs may require students to navigate complex language systems in order to participate. 

Further Reading: Meeting the Needs of English Language Learners: Quick and Easy Supports

That’s why it’s important to share other free or inexpensive learning opportunities with your ELL students. These strategies and activities will stretch their speaking, listening, reading and writing skills without stretching their families’ budgets.  

Speaking and Listening Skills

The more time and exposure ELL students have in a language-rich learning environment in English or their native language, the greater their language development and retention.


  • Find free learning opportunities around the community and share them with your ELL students’ parents. They could be as involved as summer reading programs at the local public library, or single weekend events at the city park. Look for multi-lingual programs also, since parents will be more likely to sign their kids up for programs that can provide kids with inclusive experiences.
  • Provide parents with lists of other “learning” resources in the community, such as zoos, museums, restaurants, and other public places. The more time and exposure ELL students have to language-rich learning environments, the greater their language retention, including opportunities in students’ native languages too. The more time and exposure ELL students have in a language-rich learning environment in English or their native language, the greater their language development and retention.
  • Consider apps that students can download onto personal devices. Duolingo is one language app which is completely free. 
  • Introduce students to age-appropriate podcasts.

Reading Skills

  • Talk with parents about how important it is for students to read. Students can read in their first language or in English. The point is to just keep them reading over the summer. Consider books that students may check out of your library and take home, and provide them with a reading list for their independent reading levels.
  • Utilize printable books that students may take home during the summer. Subscription services are sometimes required for these resources, such as BrainPop, Raz Kids, and Reading A-Z. They’re great resources to ensure students have appropriate reading material for the summer. 
  • Create a word search/scavenger hunt students can use over the summer. Make it a game to match the word to items in their own environments. Students could use iPods or phones to take pictures and share findings upon returning to school, or on a student blog you can set up for them to use over the summer. 

Writing Skills 

  • Consider having a place on the internet, such as a vlog/blog or social media channel, for your students to interact with each other and post about their summer learning. Make sure families have internet access and understand internet safety before suggesting this option.
  • Create journals prior to the end of the school year. Allow students to decorate their journal and model how you would write in it during the summer.

Further Reading: Career-Boosting Summer Activities for Teachers

As you prepare your students to embark on their summers, pay special attention to English Language Learners (ELLs). Creating or sharing a few activities with them now will provide ample payoff when they return to school in the fall.