Many of us recently have had to take our classrooms online. Learning the basics of virtual teaching is hard enough! Like me, you’ve probably had connection issues and are making do with limited equipment. These challenges are all part of your daily routine and you’re meeting them head-on. As teachers, we want to continue delivering the same quality education during lockdown as we were in the classroom, but are wondering how. You might have found that many of your tried-and-tested lesson plans no longer work in an online setting, and keeping primary students engaged can pose a particular problem! Thankfully, as the rest of the world adapts, some new, innovative, and engaging options are emerging. There are learning platforms with educational games (e.g. education.com) and interactive stories, however, my favourite lessons right now are virtual museum tours.
Take your students on a virtual adventure
There are a plethora of museums around the world that you can virtually visit with your students. All of these ‘virtual excursions’ can be turned into fun lessons. You can take your students anywhere in the world and truly see the world’s best museums! Personally, I’ve been taking students on weekly ‘trips’ to some of my favourite museums (details below). Before any of my class visits, I put together a few easy pre-questions, level adjusted to ensure that my students are learning English while having fun. Here are some ideas to inspire you.
- For younger or lower-level students, I want to make sure they understand the word ‘museum’, thus I start the lesson like this: We’re going to a museum today. What is a museum? If students know what a museum is, you can have a short conversation about museums they’ve been to, or their favourite kind of museum. After the visit ask students if they were correct about what a museum was or if they liked this museum as much as the ones they’ve been to before.
- Put together a list of vocabulary you want the students to find while we are at the museum. Then, during the visit ask the students to find the objects and describe them g. Find a mammoth. What colour is it?
- Museum visits can be tied into any lessons, for example:
- Numbers: Count how many animals we see at the museum [for natural history or science museums, or zoos!].
- Colours: Find xxxxx – what colour is it?
- Adjectives: Describe what a mammoth looks like.
- Most of the virtual museums have online floor maps that can be used for teaching directions. I love this aspect of museum tours!
Now, on to my top 5 museum tours to visit virtually (I’ve also added some teaching ideas that you could try, but make it your own)!
1. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
There really is so much to see here! Animals, gems (including the Hope Diamond), dinosaurs, plants, geological history, etc. Teachers can use it for directions (there are arrows that lead the way virtually), naming animals, colours, comparisons, Wh questions, past tense.
2. The Vatican, Sistine Chapel
This museum is beautiful. There are 7 other Vatican museums that can be visited virtually, but the Sistine Chapel is one we all know. Teachers can use this tour for teaching colours, adjectives, special awareness (it is huge – even online you can sense it), body parts, and again, Wh- questions.
3. Pretend City, Children’s Museum
This museum is awesome! It is what it says on the tin: a pretend city. Teachers can use it for teaching directions, signs (lots of stop signs), names of buildings in a town, colours, measurements (there is a neat feature where you can measure the size of the room), Wh-questions (see a pattern with all the museums?), imperative, comparisons, likes/dislikes.
4. Balenciaga y la Pintura Española exhibition at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza
This exhibit is where fashion and art meet! Great for teaching clothing vocabulary and comparisons, especially “same” and “different”.
5. Lego House Tour (Youtube Video – more advance can be used for listening)
Although this isn’t an actual virtual visit to the museum, this video takes you on a tour of the Lego House museum. The tour guide speaks at a moderate level, so it can be used for more advanced students. Younger and less advanced students will get a lot out of this tour also: colours, size, likes/dislikes (actually all of the museums are good for this!), vocabulary, numbers, etc.
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If you loved these tours, and are looking for new material, we’ve got you!
Below we’ve listed five museums that run regular live tours and talks in English, many of them for free! Follow them on Facebook, and you’ll never run out of authentic materials for your students!
1. Oxford University Museum of Natural History
2. British Museum
3. Natural History Museum, London
4. The Art Institute of Chicago
5. Museum of Science, Boston
We hope that these ideas are useful!
If you know of any other virtual tools or places to visit, please do add them to the comments.
Mireille Yanow spent 6 years teaching English to primary and secondary students in Greece and Spain before embarking in her publishing career. Mireille spent 4 years as an editor leading the development of a primary English Language course before moving back to the United States. She is currently Senior Publisher at Oxford University Press and volunteers at the local library as an ELT teacher.
21 May 2020 at
Thanks Mireille! Awesome tips 🙂
21 May 2020 at
24 May 2020 at
Thank you so much Mireille. I love museums and my students will do!
26 May 2020 at
Thanks, I will try them!
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3 June 2020 at
Thanks! Hopefully this is helpful – if you need more ideas, let us know!
4 June 2020 at
Really interesting. Thanks a lot. 🌷🌷🌷
5 April 2021 at