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English Language Teaching Global Blog


School’s out! But not for everyone…!

Empty School Hallway

Oxford Teacher Trainer, Naomi Moir, offers some lesson ideas for those ‘less than ordinary’ summer schools.

Many teachers round the globe are right now breathing a sigh of relief as the school year draws to a close, that’s it for another year, schools out! But for many, there’s a whole chunk of teaching still to be done! For me, for a number of years, the end of term signalled the start of my busiest and most challenging teaching period – summer school/teaching!

For some, summer means a 6-8 week stint back ‘home’ teaching flirty, chatty, sulky teens. For others it might mean a couple of weeks out in the countryside teaching on a summer camp with kids from as young as 7 or 8 up to the ages of 15 or 16, and for some it’s hot, sweaty days in a stuffy classroom with a bunch of kids in need of extra help. Whatever summer school/teaching means to you, it usually has some of the following elements:

  • Few(er) resources
  • Little or no ‘set’ syllabus/curriculum
  • More varied abilities and ages in a group
  • Longer lessons
  • Extra-curricular activities

These factors all contribute to summer school/teaching being ‘different’ to general term-time teaching. It therefore, requires more creative planning on behalf of the teacher – something that can be tricky to find the energy for on the back of a busy school year!

Here are a couple of ideas I’ve made use of (many times!) over my summer teaching days, I hope they’re useful to you. I would love to hear your thoughts on how they go if you use of any and, of course, it would be great if anybody wanted to share an idea or two of their own!

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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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