We’re well into 2011 now and I’ve finally found some time to dedicate to building up this veritable treasure trove of ideas and resources for all English language teachers out there (or at least, that’s what I hope it will develop into, over time!).
So, without further ado, allow me to share a fun couple of lessons I used last week with my intermediate class. The topic du jour (or de la semaine?) was “finding your way”.
- Revised language for giving directions (go up to the Xth floor, take the lift to Y, it’s the Zth door on left, etc.).
- Students planned a route round the school using a floor plan of the building and wrote the corresponding directions on a bit of paper.
- Each pair swapped with another pair, who had 5 minutes to follow the directions, write down the destination they arrived at, then return to the classroom to check with the original direction writers if they’d found the right place.
- I wanted to do a bigger version of Wednesday’s fun following directions round the school. I drew up this little worksheet and took the students to the British Museum (luckily for us, just round the corner from school) for the afternoon’s second (and the week’s final) 90-minute lesson slot.
- Students had to look at the floor plan/”What’s On” posters in the Museum’s entrance hall (the Great Court), choose 3 things they’d like to see in the museum and write these at the top of their handout.
- Off they went round the museum from one of their chosen destinations to the next, writing down the directions of how to get there as they went (further down the handout).
- Everyone met up again in the Great Court, detached the key to their chosen destinations from the top of their handouts (my school has a guillotine which can perforate paper, as well as cut it cleanly, so this came in handy!) and swapped just the directions parts with another pair. I’d printed the handouts double-sided so the detachable bit of the page also had the school’s emergency contact info and reminders of the meeting times and locations on the reverse – just in case…
- Off the pairs went again, this time following another pair’s directions. When they arrived at one destination, they wrote down what they could see and moved on to the next.
- Finally, everyone met up again in the Great Court and checked if they’d successfully found all three destinations. Fortunately on this occasion, most of the students were successful but enough had difficulties to remind them of the necessity of giving clear directions!
Some advantages of this lesson:
- The students loved getting out of the classroom for a change.
- The target language was put into real-life context – a huge place like the British Museum is an easy place to get lost in, even when you have a map!
- Needless to say, the students were able to revise the language point we’d studied earlier in the week.
- They also got the chance to learn something interesting of their own choosing (but still learning about it in English) by exploring the museum a bit while writing their directions.
- The fact that their classmates would have to follow their directions balanced the fun of the excursion with the realistic pressure of having to give directions carefully and accurately – if they were too unclear, they would probably get their classmates lost.
And some potential disadvantages:
- The students were mostly writing, not speaking, except for (presumably) discussing their directions with their partners while they toured the museum. So arguably this wasn’t the most natural use of the language point. It did, however, give them more time to consider how to phrase their directions than if they’d been put on the spot.
- I would have preferred to get the students actually asking people for directions then having to follow them, but as the museum is mostly full of tourists, I couldn’t guarantee that their English would be any better than my students’.
- It was hard to control what language the students used. However, I looked on this as more of an extended freer practice opportunity and trusted to the students’ desire not to get their friends lost in a big museum to make them pay attention to the language they were using.
All things considered, in future lessons I’d like to get the students to do more spoken practice of this language point, but I do think this was a good trial lesson – I’d never taken these students out on any kind of excursion before, and they clearly enjoyed it. Now the pressure’s on to come up with something equally fun for this Friday!