Essential Online Tools and Activities for Summer School Teachers – Part 1

With summer being around the corner and summer schools being a huge business in the ELT industry, I decided to share some ideas which may be useful to both experienced and new summer school teachers. The following was used in a webinar I presented earlier this month as part of Moodle MOOC 6.

Here, you can watch the recording of that webinar:

This post is the first part of that webinar and focuses on building rapport and engaging students in out-of-class communication.

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There is no doubt that during summer there are so many better things to do than working 12-15 hours per day, running up and down a campus, teaching 50 teenagers/day, and organising activities. Coming from a country whose summer has been the object of jealousy for many other people, it is always very hard for be to get on a plane and head to the north. But…

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But then, nothing beats the feeling of accomplishment and joy every time these young people ‘graduate’ from their summer programs. Let us not forget that during a summer school, our job involves much more than just teaching English; this might be the first time these kids are abroad without their parents and we are there to make this ‘change’ as smooth as it gets.

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So, before we think of tools and activities we can use to make our lives (and our learners’ lives) easier, why don’t we pause a bit and think of some differences between ‘regular’ and summer schools? The following slide has some thoughts but it would be much better if, before looking at it, you do some thinking on your own.

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Here, there are some of the differences I came up with. Did you think of others? Use the comments area below to share your thoughts. Generally speaking, though, a summer school is a less organised school in which teachers do not have time to do any preparatory work, materials are limited, and support is even more limited. Hence the need for…

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A teacher’s toolkit. Do you remember fairy godmothers in children’s fairy tales and how they had a magical solution/tool for anything? This is what we have to be when we work in summer schools – well, personally, I think that this is what a teacher has to be anyway, despite the context in which they work.

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For me, the most important ingredient for a successful summer school course is establishing good rapport with the learners. Let’s not forget that students are alone in another country with other teenagers who speak another language.

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Here are some first-day activities that can help teachers and learners to get to know each other:

Adjective-Name: Have students sit in a circle. The first student says his/her name preceded by an adjective which has shares the same initial sound with his/her first name. The second one has to repeat the first student’s name-adjective combination and then add his/her own, the third has to repeat the previous two before adding his/her own, and so on.

Find Someone Who: This is a well-known activity among ELT professionals. Prepare a set of statements and ask learners to find learners for whom these statements are true. Make sure you tell them that they can ‘use’ each student only one; this way they will ‘have to’ meet and talk to more students. Also, it’s also nice to ask students to add their own statements to your list; this way they will have the chance to learn things they want to about their classmates.

Stereotypes: Stereotypes is a very sensitive issue. However, they can be a very good platform for discussion (especially during first days). So, ask students to present stereotypes about their own countries and then say whether they are true to some extend or not. (Do not ask students discuss stereotypes about other students’ countries – some might get offended)

4 Important Numbers: Write your name and four numbers that are important for you on the whiteboard. Don’t say, though, why these numbers are important. Instead, ask learners to guess the meaning of these numbers and share their guesses in pairs/groups. Receive feedback and confirm their guesses. Then, ask them to do the same: They should write their names and four important numbers on a piece of paper. Remind them not to give out the meaning of these numbers. Instead, pair/group them and ask them to guess the meaning of their fellow students’ numbers using yes/no questions.

Share a Picture: Ask students to use their smartphones and share one picture with the person sitting next to them. Students should not only show these pictures; they should also explain why they are important for them.

3-2-1 Introductions: These are short videos in which students present themselves by saying 3 things that they miss from their country, 2 things that they are really looking forward to do in the new country, and 1 thing they would like to share about themselves with the rest of the class. I use ANIMOTO (see below) to make these videos. However, students don’t have to make videos, they can simply stand up and do a one/two-minute presentation.

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Be prepare to see students of same nationality sitting together. This does not help them to mix and mingle (nor does it help them use English while doing tasks). It is very important, therefore, that you change the seating plan very often and that you include lots of pair and group work.

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Another way to build rapport with your students and ensure they communicate with each other is to use technology and keep them engaged outside class. Why don’t you create a Facebook group? You can adjust privacy settings of this group to match the class’ needs. Remember to post questions, upload videos, and find ways to connect their after-class activities with what happened in class.

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In some areas students don’t like using Facebook; they use WhatsApp, instead. That’s ok! If that’s the case with your students, don’t ask them to use Facebook just because you prefer it. Follow what they know and like and set up a WhatsApp group. This way they will be more engaged and interested.

The second part of this post will focus on long and short-term projects you can do with your summer school students. Stay tuned!

2 thoughts on “Essential Online Tools and Activities for Summer School Teachers – Part 1

  1. Thanks Angelos! I don’t teach summer schools but that’s such a beneficial post anyway! I’ll be using some of your tips and suggested first day activities with my all women adult classes. Cheers!

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