In his first guest post, Michael Harrison considers the importance of learning outside the classroom.
Teaching and learning goes on in classrooms, doesn’t it? It is fairly safe to say that the majority of teaching (including English language teaching) around the world takes place in a classroom setting. That’s what they’re for, and anyone who has completed some form of teacher training will know that classroom management is a very important thing to be aware of. But the classroom isn’t (and shouldn’t be) the be all and end all. Here are a few reasons I think it is advisable to get out of there once in a while.
[Note – make sure you are aware of your institution’s policies regarding outside trips. It is always recommended to get the student’s or their parent/guardian’s permission before getting out of the room]
Another word/phrase that gets bounced around on initial teacher training (in particular for ELT) is realia, and its use in teaching. Basically, using a real life example of something to teach it. Are you looking at train/bus travel? Bring in some examples of tickets to teach the vocab. Are you writing CVs with a group of Business English students? Get a few sample versions (or even your own real versions) to show to the students.
But what about if the classroom is the realia. Or rather, the location where the learning is taking place. Are you teaching supermarket vocabulary? Go to the supermarket. Looking at rivers and wildlife? Get yourself down to your local waterway. Those examples might not be appropriate for every situation, but there should be something that teachers can do in their own context.
Content and Language Integrated Learning
Or CLIL. Do a quick web search for this and you’ll find it’s an approach to language teaching that is making some headway at the moment and basically means that as much attention is paid to the content of the lessons as the language. Hence, the teaching of history, maths (or numeracy in some places), art and design, etc. in English (or whatever the target language is). What better way to accomplish this than by getting out of the classroom? Obvious CLIL activities outside the classroom might be a trip to a museum or art gallery, but equally the river excursion above could also be considered. A key thing to think about here is what will interest your students. Other possibilities could include – a trip to the shopping centre to look at branding techniques (Business English); going to a farm to learn about animals (a good one for younger learners?); or just having a picnic (lots of food vocabulary and feed processes could be practised here).
Taking a break
Sometimes you can just get bored of always being in the same room with the same four walls. I’ve certainly felt like that as a teacher from time to time, so I can understand if my students want to get out and about a bit. Classrooms and buildings can get stuffy, especially as you get to the summer months. Take a break, remember exams are not everything (and you don’t need to practise practise practise all the time – in fact a break can be just as beneficial as lots of studying), and get out there.
That’s just the surface of why it’s a good idea to get out of your classroom. So over to you. Do you try to get out of the classroom? Why? What do you do when you have escaped those four walls? I’d be interested to hear all about it.