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Teaching Summer Schools and other short intense courses

Group of teenagers walking in the sun holding booksKieran McGovern offers some handy hints for coping with, and maybe even enjoying, those gruelling summer language courses.

In the popular imagination, a summer school is pretty much a paid holiday. The teacher holds forth to his/her enraptured students, perhaps under a shady tree. One hot afternoon teaching the present perfect to riotous fourteen-year-olds in an airless room will cure you of that illusion.

Thinking about how difficult the summer school experience can be for new teachers, I prepared a tip sheet for teaching short courses.

Here’s a summary:

  1. Vary activities & keep everything moving fast.
  2. Use a course book or a planned programme of materials. Students like to see that they are following a plan.
  3. Reduce teacher talk time. Give concise instructions but devolve activities via pair & small group work.
  4. Avoid whole-class speaking activities.
  5. Allow the shy to shine. Don’t force participation but give quiet students the space to contribute.
  6. Children/Young Learners sometimes need calming down! Dictation is a surprisingly effective tactic.
  7. Ban the use of bi-lingual dictionaries in class (see below)
  8. Remember you’re in charge! Two YLs never stop talking? Split them up!
  9. Keep students informed about your lesson plan: e.g. ‘First we’ll …. then you’ll ….’
  10. Encourage friendly competition but between teams rather than individuals.

What do you think? Do you have suggestions for making summer schools survivable – enjoyable even?

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