Excursions and activities

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It’s difficult to say precisely when an activity becomes an excursion or exactly how excursions or activities help develop a student’s English. However most teachers realise how important they are as part of an English course.

Here I am looking at excursions/activities that can be used for a linguistic purpose (as well as enjoyment) as part of a English course. In fact, with a little bit of creativity, almost all excursions/activities can be used to aid someone’s language skills. Lessons connected with an activity or excursion can be spread over a number of days and really help lesson planning.

Advantages of excursions/activities:

  • a chance to use English in a natural situation
  • using English feels real as students interact with other people
  • provides a cultural experience
  • provides a reason for learning
  • provides a focus for lesson planning
  • maintains teacher and student motivation
  • adds variety
  • encourages student independence

Dangers:

  • students don’t see it as linguistically useful
  • expectations need to be managed
  • students are anxious

It is vital that you explain to your student how they will benefit linguistically from their excursion. Some students will be brought up to identfy language learning with rote learning in the classroom so this issue may need to be addressed as best you can. If a student really cannot see the link between learning and activities, then it makes sense to have activities only outside lesson time.

How to go about planning an activity/excursion:

  • Make a list of local and no/low cost options for good/poor weather. Ask friends and neighbours for ideas. Visit your local tourist office and library.
  • Put together another list of higher cost/further afield activities that either involve the student paying for your ticket and theirs and any transport costs eg half-day trip to stately home. These should only be done if the student is happy to pay for the extra costs.
  • Consider the language skills your student will need and teach them before the excursion.
  • Put together a list of useful websites that your student can look at before the excursion so that they can prepare themselves. Alternatively, provide them with brochures etc. This stage could be in non-lesson time
  • Prepare worksheets that can be used during the visit
  • Try to build in speaking practice during the activity
  • Ask student to record their experiences/impressions soon after the excursion. You can use a tape for this.
  • Have a ‘debriefing’ session the following day. Listen to tape?
  • Student writes up excursion (email, student blog, letter, essay etc) in non-lesson time as homework.
  • Any written work is discussed the following day
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