Setting Up Students (and Their Parents) for Success during Summer Break

I’m glad this school year is nearing its end. I don’t know about yours, but mine definitely presented challenges. The pandemic was unwelcomed and unpredictable. Many of us have been stretched out of our comfort zones in unimaginable ways. For example, teachers and other school-based providers have been stretched in finding innovative ways to deliver quality instruction and assessments (virtually or otherwise). Students have been stretched in spending long hours in front of a computer everyday with no in-person social interactions with teachers or classmates. Many parents have been stretched in staying home to monitor their children’s participation in instruction during virtual school. Many struggled with helping their children get work completed because they didn’t understand the material or couldn’t explain information in a comprehensible way. The list of stretches goes on and on.


Despite best efforts to keep things moving forward with virtual instruction, learning for many students has taken a hit. The acquisition of critical skills was interrupted for some. Others regressed on skills that were generalizing. Although the summer break brings a moment to exhale from school year stressors (possibly more than ever before), it comes with risks of the learning loss gap becoming wider for some students, particularly those with special needs. So, how can we reasonably set up our students (and their parents) to successfully continue learning opportunities during the summer break, especially when they’ve already been stretched so much this school year?


Optimally, parents and students can embed fun and practical learning activities in their daily schedules. Fun activities (versus paper and pencil) that parents can use to guide learning may help curb any resistance students may have about “working” during the summer break. Since the demands of home instruction during the pandemic took a toll on many parents, fun and practical activities may help curb their resistance, too. They may need help thinking outside-the-box, so it will be helpful to give them examples of ways they can guide learning during play, while cooking, or at mealtime. 


It is imperative that parents understand there is a purpose in the activities. Explain that they will be doing things to support skill deficits identified in their child’s IEP goals. Encourage parents to review their child’s IEP for information about needs, but for some parents, it may be necessary to give them a brief, written list of the skills they will be targeting. When there is availability of technology in the home, give parents some URLs for websites they can go to for practice of targeted skills. Emailing the URLs will facilitate ease of access; all they’ll have to do is click on the links. There are many websites that utilize game formats. Some of them may be websites you already use to supplement instruction, so copying or cutting and pasting the URLs will be easier for your time, too.


Here are a few practical activities:

  • Outdoor play is a great time for practicing a variety of speech-language skills. For example, students can practice production of speech sounds or correct pronouns in the context of conversation. When the student uses or produces a target correctly, they get a chance to shoot a basketball or hit a ball.
  • During mealtimes, parents can lead discussions about how foods look, feel, or taste, using specific descriptive words (e.g. salty, sweet, spicy, and bumpy). Foods can be categorized into groups  or discussed in terms of similarities and differences. Students can practice saying multi-syllable food words such as “broccoli”, “asparagus”, or “spaghettios”.
  • Cooking activities provide perfect opportunities for practicing sequencing skills. Parents verbalize what is happening during each step using words such as “first”, “then”, “next”, and “now”. Afterwards, students can recall and verbalize the steps of the task in the order completed.
  • At the park or during neighborhood walks, “I Spy” is a great activity for vocabulary recognition and usage, as well as reinforcing describing skills (“I spy something that is red, round, and crunchy.”). The “I Spy” game also can be used for speech sound practice (“I spy two things that start with /k/”). Introducing topics about things observed is a great way for students to practice conversation skills such as topic maintenance or turn-taking.
  • Board or card games can be modified for speech or language practice. For example, while playing Candyland, students could name something that is the same color as the card drawn. Or, the student could say a word, phrase, or sentence containing his/her target speech sound. Similar task formats could be incorporated into other games such as Uno or checkers.


These examples are certainly not exhaustive. It is essential that our students continually practice skills taught to reach mastery. Students and parents will hopefully appreciate fun, practical, and engaging learning activities for the summer break. The list of learning opportunities encountered on a daily basis is endless. Parents just need assurance that they can successfully guide instruction for learning, and they need encouragement to be creative. Parents should be reminded that review of instruction throughout the summer is important, too. There may be some parents who opt for that packet of paper-and-pencil tasks, but that’s okay. The goal is still the same!


Author: Colleen H. Williams, SLP.D, CCC-SLP

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as professional advice. The content is based on the author's personal experiences, research, and opinions. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified professional or expert before making any decisions or taking action based on the information provided in this blog.

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