Summer: long sunny days, swimming, fishing, loafing, etc. Summer: dark nights, rainy days, bugs, activities curtailed this year. Summer slump: losing ground on last school year’s learning.

Fortunately, we don’t stop practicing English. We speak and listen, hopefully we read and write. Consciously or unconsciously, we rehearse vocabulary, grammar, syntax, usage. It’s important to know the right words, and how to use them. In conversation, the trouble with “you know” is how often neither party does.

Omnivorous reading is the best teacher: books and magazines, newspapers and instructions; e-books, websites, etc.; with a dictionary at hand. Blockbuster “beach reading” isn’t useless. Harry Potter still intrigues many. A fun addition is word games, commercial and homemade.

Scrabble is perhaps the most famous. Invented in the 1930s, promoted in the 1950s, it remains popular worldwide, in many languages. It’s said that a third of American households have a set, so if you can’t find yours, check with the neighbors. Or buy an inexpensive set, or a pricey antique on E-bay. A great vocabulary builder.

Puzzles can be addictive: crosswords, Sudoku, acrostics, you name it. Puzzles for kids for summer are fashionable. From the New York Times to the Navajo Times, children’s sections feature them. The Navajo Times offers tough word searches; not surprising on a reservation where spelling bees are big events, regularly reported. For the rest of us, puzzle books abound. They’re available, and cheap, in big box stores, dollar stores, etc.

The equipment for story building is simple: a blackboard or whiteboard, or a big piece of paper; something to write with. And ideas; maybe not so simple. Two can play; three to five or six works best. Someone writes the first sentence. It can be simple: “Fred woke up early”. In whatever order they’ve chosen, each player adds a sentence, another when their turn comes again… It can get fancy; any player can start a new paragraph.

Results vary wonderfully. I’ve seen strange vacation journeys, surprise romances, embarrassing encounters, everyday life, weirdness… Steven King could get pointers.

David and Angela (his wife) have played these games with English Second Language students. They work for them, too.

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