Creating English Learning Environment Outdoors
What outdoor activities can help when teaching English? Literally any outdoor activity you can imagine can be of great help when teaching English. There are many different words and phrases that are used in specific types of situations and there is only so much role-playing and slide-show presenting you can do in the classroom. Sometimes taking the lesson outside is the best way to teach your students how certain words and phrases are used in particular scenarios. When you bring the lesson outdoors, students can start to make the mental connections in their brains between what they have learned in the classroom and experiences in reality.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Matthew M. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Say you want to teach your students a sport such as baseball.
Yes, you can go over the basic rules, plays, and positions of the game with your students in class. However, once you get past the basics, teaching new baseball fans the details of the game can get boring and confusing quite quickly. The best way for the students to learn the game is to experience the game themselves. You could expose them to the game in two ways. First, if the city you are teaching in has a local baseball team, take your students to a game and break the game down for them as they watch it. Second, if option one is too expensive or if you live in a city without a team, take your students to a park and have them try to play against each other. Once baseball becomes a visual and physical experience, the terminology of the game becomes less difficult to grasp. You can teach students what a home run is, what double-play is, what the strike zone is, but actually seeing these things during a live game (professional or for fun) suddenly makes vague concepts become concrete reality.
Are your students not big into sports?
How about taking them on a hike? This activity may seem really simple, but there is a lot that can be taught on a hike. You can teach your students how to describe the environment around them as you walk along the trail. Again, once you experience something in-person it sticks in your brain. What is the difference between a river, a stream, and a brook? That difference is not easy to describe and is best learnt by actually seeing these things for oneself. As you hike the trail, students will certainly ask you: “Teacher, how do you say this in English?”. Maybe they are asking you the name of a specific type of tree, or the name of a specific animal they see running around, or maybe they ask you what a sign says in English. All along the entire length of the trail your students will ask you hiking-related, nature-related, animal-related, questions in English and their ability to describe their hiking experience will become more detailed because you have expanded their vocabulary beyond the textbook vocab.
Hiking in nature may not be appealing to your class, but everyone loves to and needs to eat.
Take your students to a local American or British restaurant, preferably one with English speaking ex-pats working there, so that your students can experience dining at an American/British restaurant in their hometown. Encourage your students to read the English version of the menu (if this is an option). Have your students order their meals using only English. Have your students describe their meals after they finish eating and ask them to rate the dishes. Try describing certain tastes to your students without taking them out to eat foods with those tastes; it is very challenging.
So, the next time you are tired of the classroom and want to take the lesson outside just remember that your options are limitless.
Any experience you put your students in will cause them to ask questions about how to describe said situation or what to say when interacting with another person in said situation. Power-Points, pictures, and role-play are all great tools, but they do have their limits. Experience is the best non-human teacher. Taking students out into the world to experience for themselves the situations/places/things they have practiced/learnt in class will bring that knowledge to life. Activating that knowledge in a real world setting/scenario will ensure that what you have taught your students will not be forgotten tomorrow but remembered for a lifetime.
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