Tips and Advice For Summer Schools


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#ELTchat is a group of ELT professionals discussing topics of interest every Wednesday at 12pm or 9pm on rotation. Every Saturday, one of the moderators puts up a blog post on the #ELTchat Blog asking teachers who follow #ELTchat to propose some topics for the next chats. #ELTchat followers can go to that post and suggest topics in the comments under blog post. On Sunday evening, the moderators review the topics and create an online poll. #ELTchat followers are then invited to vote on the topics until Wednesday morning. (

This week’s topic, proposed by Martin Sketchley (@ELTExperiences), was Tips and Advice for Summer Schools. The main areas covered were:

  1. The importance of establishing good rapport with students and fellow teachers.
  2. Books vs. Projects.
  3. Discipline issues.
  4. Fun Activities and Learning Goals.
  5. Professional advice on what to look for in a Summer School.

The discussion started when @HadaLitim asked #ELTchat followers about the Dos and Don’ts of a Summer School job and @LizziePinard introduced the issue of rapport.

Establishing Good Rapport

@LizziePinard introduced the issue of rolling enrolment and the effort one needs to put into getting to know the learners and working on class rapport. Following that, she highlighted the importance of establishing good rapport with colleagues because sharing ideas, plans, etc. is part of the job and will make the life of a teacher easier.

@GemL1 and @LizziePinard shared links with good icebreakers, warmers, and fillers (available at the end of the summary) so that teachers establish rapport through games and tasks. Yet, this led the discussion to the second issue:

Books vs. Projects

@HadaLitim asked about good speaking activities for YLs on summer programs and @teflerinha suggested any activity that involves the use of social language outside the classroom. Later, she underlined the importance of using activities that do not require much preparation, as there is not enough time; lessons from the learner and learner based teaching were her solutions to the problem.

@GemL1 was in favour of project based learning stating that she sets up a different project every week but maintains a balance between coursebook work and project work: her students use the book for 1.5hours and for the rest 1.5hours, they are involved in the week’s project; @Ashowski said that he prefers using projects and TBL on summer schools. @angelos_bollas argued that during summer schools, teachers should not use books at all and @HadaLitim supported his argument claiming that a project can stretch over the whole course. Many arguments followed:

@teflerinha stressed the limited preparation time and said that books could be used as a basis,

@Shaunwilden reminded us of the fact that using a book or not is not a teacher’s choice, and

@HadaLitim said that books reassure parents they’re getting their money’s worth.

The next issue of the day was:

Discipline Issues

@teflerinha suggested we use fun activities but not too exciting ones, as this might cause discipline issues. @GemL1, though, said that we should set strict and clear rules from the start and @HadaLitim agreed and asked her whether she negotiates the rules with the students or not. It seems that most of the contributors are in favour of student-centred rules: @Ashowski, @O1LPearson, and @angelos_bollas claimed that they ask students write their own rules and expectations, which makes it harder for them not to follow.

Then, @teflgeek asked about the learning goals of a summer school class and the discussion dealt with the issue of:

Fun Activities and Learning Goals

Almost all of the contributors agreed with @teflrinha and @01LPearson on fluency and confidence being the two major goals of a summer school class. Several ideas for activities and tasks were, then, suggested:

@teflerinha said that greater emphasis should be given on speaking activities and less on grammar,

@Shaunwilden suggested integrating speaking and language use with the inevitable day trips,

@GemL1 proposed, among others, making a documentary as a good task, and

@Ashowski suggested making a class magazine or film including reviews and story projects combining acting with                                                            writing/speaking.

@GemL1 highlighted the importance of finding the balance between fun and controlled activities and @HadaLitim wrapped it up arguing that the learning goals of a summer school class are the same to a regular YL class but the focus is on the ‘fun delivery’ aspect.

A few minutes before the end of the discussion, @Shaunwilden introduced the last issue, which was about what to look for in a summer school when looking for a job.

Professional Advice

Some of the participants had never taught to a summer school at all, while others hadn’t done it for quite some time. Those who had some experience, though, suggested we looked for class size, facilities, hours, resources (@HadaLitim), whether teachers are teachers and not activity leaders (@teflgeek), and hidden duties (@HadaLitim and @Shaunwilden).

Final comments were stated by @teflerinha, @HadaLitim, @Ashowski, and @teflgeek claiming that teaching at a summer school is a 24/7 job and one must be prepared well in advance both physically and professionally.

Links for further reading:

Suggested by @LizziePinard. A collection of links useful for teachers containing information and advice on various issues: icebreakers, using games in classroom, etc.)

Suggested by @LizziePinard. An icebreaker inspired by Sandy Millin’s post ‘A Map Of Me.’

Suggested by @teflgeek. A post offering advice on Working with Project Classes.

Suggested by @teflerinha. This is a link to a webinar about ‘Practical Planning Techniques for Summer School Classrooms.’

A blog post by @GemL1 about ‘Surviving Summer School.’

Suggested by @GemL1. A blog post with lots of great activities.

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