Summer break

It’s officially, for some of us, the end of the term and the beginning of holidays. Well, only for the uni contracts.

For students this means a break, a long break. Here in France some uni students go back in September others October and some of mine even in November. Now, if you’ve been teaching these eager minds English and getting some good progress and then they stop for 4 months what will happen? Well, of course you know the answer!

So, next term will begin with “Oh no, his/her English is terrible again”. And then there’ll be the usual refreshing period and it will take a while to get back to where they were and to build on that and then….it will be the end of term again and so on and so forth.

Yes, students deserve a break but I think we and they are a bit slack in Europe. I say this only having worked in China where students study all day and night, at weekends, in the holidays and whenever else they can fit it in. It may be too much but it is continual and mine never seemed to have the ‘post-summer’ problem.

The answer then could be:

1)Offer summer programmes for local students

2)Run online English courses over summer

3)Give students websites/learning apps to keep them at their level or even to help them improve

4)Organise ‘overseas voluntary internships/experiences’. I saw this work excellently in one French uni but it was tricky to start with and costly.

When I was a nipper I would work all summer down the pit to pay for my tuition and bread n’ butter pudding. I don’t know many French students who do the same but I do know many who do internships and credit to them although they are often compulsory.

What do you think?

Should we ‘encourage’ students to keep up with their English, puch them to improve or just let them have a break?


12 thoughts on “Summer break

  1. I’ve always encouraged my students to work on their English over the holidays and given them a list of links, sent them the odd email from time to time, etc. I think it makes life easier for everyone all round when you pick up the ball next term.

    I’ll be posting mini-lessons on my lessons blog daily throughout the summer, (for adults and older teens) if people are looking for ideas to keep their learners busy – here’s the link 🙂

    • Hi Sue,

      Thanks again for commenting.

      Great ideas but do you set specifics or say you’ll test/assess them after the holiday? I used to give loads of handouts at one point but not many did them.

      Mini-lessons? WOW!! I’m on it now. You do know you deserve an OBE for your site don’t you. I find it hard to find cultural stuff that isn’t too easy for my beginners and they always enjoy your site. I’ve always believed that students abroad need and actually enjoy learning the culture. I get surprised when advanced learners don’t know anything about Manchester, the Beatles or even British films. Maybe because they learn US English?

  2. Holidays are important. Long summer holidays are very important, and can be life-changing, too! There’s more to life than school, and you bet that students will learn a lot during their 6-10 weeks holiday break. Even though what they learn may not concern algebra or adverbial clauses.

    So here we see the well-known ’forgetting effect’ and ’refreshing period’ argument. Everyone will recognize these from their own experience, either as a student or as a teacher. So it seems to be a valid argument. But an argument for what? For a shorter summer holiday? Why? There is no accepted premiss linking the ’forgetting effect’ to the duration of the holiday. Neither a premiss linking the ’refreshing period’ to it. In other words: *maybe it doesn’t really matter whether your summer holiday is six or ten weeks*, most students will anyway & temporarily ’forget’ (or rather de-activate) some knowledge or skill, and need a week or two to reach their previous level.

    Maybe the dreaded ’forgetting effect’ has already taken hold of students after three or four weeks. So if you want to cut down on that, you will need to shorten the summer holiday to two weeks. Which is, I think in your mind too, totally unacceptable.

    That said, I think you are totally right in motivating students to use English during the summer holidays. They could open their windows and sing along with Alicia Keys. They could learn to play ‘House of the Rising Sun’ on guitar. They could watch the BBC, or NBC. They could play action movie DVD’s with no, or with English subtitles. They can do anything that makes them happy, and does not remind them of school.

    The best way for them to maintain and even improve their English is to go on a holiday abroad. I suggest a 12-week holiday! 🙂 There ought to be ample students exchange programs between countries, for which schools may function as trustworthy mediators. The students will learn such an awful lot during those 12 weeks, that teachers wished their students had stayed a little longer…

    Cheers from Amsterdam!

  3. Hi Phil!

    First of all, thanks for a great post and I feel your concern for your students, which I share as well : ) Like you and Sue, I tend to send them an e-mail with links occasionally and giev them a few things to do (not too many) over the holidays. My first job in the last lesson, is to make sure they have all my contact details so that if they need anything, they can get in touch. And it works! They do call you or e-mail you with questions, or perhaps for a bit more extra material…not all of them, but most do!

    Have a happy summer : ) I will also be working, so we are in the same boat ; )

    Best wishes,

    • Hi Vicky, a pleasure to see you virtually here!

      Really? You give them your phone number. I have over 100 students now but previously had about 200. Some are/were great but I wouldn’t want them calling me with random questions. I know it’s normal in some cultures but I can just see my wife’s face if a female student called me, it would be followed by “who the heck was that?”. I had a boss who used to get called at 2 a.m. by crying girls who’d been locked out of host families or had arguments or just got drunk. I think she even had rude calls as students had passed her number round.

      Have you had any of this or are you selective?

      • Oh yikes! Scary stuff : ( Well, I have never had such an issue, and to tell you the truth, I give personal info (like phone numbers) to students I trust. I must say, I have been lucky these fourteen years to have a great majority of students. Some difficult cases but they were diplomatically dealt with. ; )

        • Sounds great. I’ve had students ask me for my home number and my mobile and even Skype details. They said that in their country they could contact their teachers 24/7. Maybe they earn a lot more than me I don’t know but being a man I always feel weird about ‘out-of-class’ things. At one school we have a hotline which was great for student problems of any kind. More recently I came across a message online from a student saying that “Prof X is eating in McDonalds” and they even had the map, foursquare maybe. I thought that was weird. I also saw that if you are freelance your details are automatically put online so in theory students could turn up at your door step asking for muesli and a cup of tea.

          This whole issue of student-teacher relationships is a tricky one and I guess different for all of us. What’s an end-of-term thank you dinner for one could be seen as an encouragement to give higher grades to another.I do find these cultural differences fascinating though or maybe I just think too much, probably the latter.

          Thanks for all the comments Vicky!!

          • My pleasure, Phil! You are right, sometimes it can get out of hand or extreme – it also depends a lot on cultural differences, as you mention. I find it interesting for instance how different things are between Greece and Switzerland with students.

            Good stuff!

  4. Hi Phil,
    Maybe they can learn Spanish in the summer break 😉
    I’m with hminkema, it’s good to forget and then remember. makes things stick better, and gets things anchored with a wholly new perspective.

  5. Those of us who live in the land of the Tiger Mom’s (nations with large proportions of parents who exemplify Amy Chua) need not ask that question. The bigger question: How can we provide those families with the English courses they want?

    Janet |

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