Learn by doing
Long experience as a teacher and most importantly as a long-life student, tells me that whatever one learns through practical instances gets registered best. Even more so if it is done collaboratively and with a plus of excitement.
The activity I’m sharing today is our 25th anniversary trip to London (February 2016). No need to say language students who are motivated to use their second language outside the classroom learn fast! I.e. at work, neighbourhoods, family environments, etc. An outdoor activity whether short or long-distanced is always an excellent opportunity to get exposed to the language in a less formal practice. Relaxed environments where one is «not being assessed or marked» help students produce long speeches and smart conversations. After all, chatting about «life-work balance» over dinner, to give an example, is not the same as discussing the topic in Trialogue based speaking examinations. The stress factor makes a difference.
I have been a proud witness of outstanding conversations between English students during visits to museums, theatre plays, cities, or countries. Like this end-of-course trip to London.
The suggestion is to get the activity done as a cooperative learning project where everyone is a participant. The students practice their English from beginning to end. From trying to find their own flights on well-known sites to sharing experiences with other passengers on the flight back home.
All in English!
The proposal is for the teacher to set a calendar to program the activities, then have a few S.C.A.M.P.E.R. sessions for brainstorming ideas creatively (1) get flights asap as fares rise quickly, (2) provide sources for students to choose possible destinations within the city or surrounding areas, (3) give links to social events and entertainment, (4) and to visit hotel websites for prices, facilities, etc, (5) get together to finalise program of activities, and TRUST them.
The pleasure of generating amicable and respectful relationships in your classroom creates an atmosphere of connection and belonging where everyone feels welcome and is well-looked after. Everybody helps finding places or map reading. Everyone is treated as a free individual who is part of a non-judgemental group. Things then flow naturally in a very responsible manner.
The reward is not to see their faces of amazement at the musical, or witness their laughters after the «panic attacks» when getting on the wrong line in the tube, or getting back to the hotel to sit and tell stories of the long day gone. The real reward is to be the last one to get out of the plane and find your whole group waiting at the lounge to say Thank you for the trip and a big hug.
When you and your students manage to experience this it all makes sense. And most important of all, it’s all in English!
La vida, sin prisa