The problem of “summer slide” has taken on a whole new dimension this year: With three months in Emergency Learning mode, a longer-than-usual summer, and an uncertain fall ahead, concerns about atrophying academic skills are intensifying. What does the research say about bolstering children’s skills and expanding them in this context? What happens if we are forced to continue with, or switch to, remote learning this fall?

It is indeed possible in the context of remote learning to infuse strong academic skill-building into sessions that feel like rich and fascinating conversations to a child. This past spring, Science, Language & Arts International School (SLA) launched research-based online Oral Language Fluency and Math Practice Programs that are highly successful at improving students’ language fluency and math skills through short, frequently scheduled sessions. Rooted in cognitive research on memory and retention, these popular programs ensure challenging and fun skills and language building at all levels using multidisciplinary tools.


“Picture talk” activities like this (Look at each animal’s teeth. What do/can they eat?) can conjure a specialized vocabulary set, sophisticated critical thinking language, and science concepts, as well as spark fun and interesting conversation with an advanced speaker.

Four key elements are critical to the success of any online academic program: Rich linguistic input, multisensory skills practice, relationship building, and short, frequent sessions.

  1. Rich linguistic input is critical to building fluency (in a target language as well as in English and math). SLA teachers model the key structures, vocabulary, and content students need to begin to produce them on their own in a scaffolded space. Both programs build math skills and spoken fluency through natural conversation, thus the child commits concepts to long-term memory because the sessions do not rely on rote memorization.
  2. Even online, children must practice and build skills using more than one kind of sensory input, thus enabling them to commit key concepts and skills to long-term memory.
  3. Critical to successful remote engagement is relationship building and connection. Game-based, conversational teaching and scaffolding contribute greatly to the rapport between teacher and child (and during group sessions, among teacher, student, and peers).
  4. Cognitive research addressing short- and long-term memory shows that short, frequent practice sessions distributed over time are more effective than one longer session per week over time. This distributed model is built into the design of SLA’s online program.

With a skilled teacher, a “spot the differences” activity can accommodate a beginning language learner (simple vocabulary for colors and shapes, same/different, here/there) as well as an advanced speaker (adverbs of place, nuanced vocabulary like pebbles and bark, and sophisticated comparison / contrast language).

SLA’s Oral Fluency Program is designed for building spoken fluency and sophistication of a target language at all levels, beginner to bilingual. It is available in French, Mandarin, Italian, Spanish, and Korean (coming soon). The Math Practice Program is aligned to core standards and designed as a complement to your child’s school curriculum.

Author: Jennifer Wilkin