Teaching in the classroom – Ideas for heading into the summer
For many TEFL teachers, the academic year is drawing to a close. As we approach the end of the teaching year, you might find that your students are starting to fade in terms of energy and enthusiasm for classes. This is especially true for summer teaching, as young learners who are starting to dream of their summer break away from school. Even teachers at this point are counting down to the end of the year!
As the final term gets underway, you might want to consider some more light-hearted classes for these learners. This doesn’t mean that they won’t learn of course, but they might appreciate a less serious tone. It’s important that the students still see the classes as valuable and want to attend. Classes dedicated to lighter topics or focusing on skills can be a good way to do this.
Let’s look at some ideas for how you can keep your students engaged as they (and you!) mentally prepare for their summer holidays:
Summer plans poster (young learners)
The approaching summer teaching season is a good excuse to get practicing the future tenses with your learners by talking about something that excites them- their summer plans! You can introduce the idea of “will vs going to” for lower-level learners. Higher-level learners can look at more complex grammar such as “by the end of summer, I will have (read two books in English)”.
After discussing these ideas with your learners, you can spend some time making a poster or dream board for their summer ideas. It’s important to remember that not everyone will have glamorous trips abroad planned so encourage some everyday activities such as reading, playing more sports, and visiting family. It’s always a good idea to give some of your own examples for inspiration.
If your students are too old to enjoy creating posters, they can create sentences about their summer goals and have their partners guess what they are going to do. This topic is great for learners as it is personalised for them, gets them talking about something that will interest them, and can include a range of future tenses.
Plan a trip activity
This time of year is a great time to get students working on projects together and maximize their speaking time. This can work for all ages although the younger the students, the more creative they can be with it. Planning a speaking lesson is good for students to feel more relaxed and less tied to their desks writing. They might not feel like they are being as “academic” if they’re not using the coursebook, but they will use the time in a valuable way by speaking for the whole lesson.
Put students into groups and ask them to plan a trip together. This could be a trip abroad or to a local tourist spot. You could even narrow it down more and have them plan a trip to the zoo or a day out in the nearest city. With teenagers, you can even allow them to use their phones for research which will get them more engaged. Once finished, the students can change groups to present their ideas and answer questions about the plan.
This idea works well as a skills-based lesson. Remember to set your learners up with any vocabulary they need beforehand. If your learners are at a lower level, then you can provide them with categories to consider when planning. This will help give them ideas and get them talking. This scaffolding will help the learners complete the task.
Review any fun coursebook activities
In most coursebooks, there are many activities that teachers might skip over. This could be because they didn’t have time to do them or they weren’t quite what the teacher wanted to practice at the time. Instead of rushing to plan any extra lesson materials, take a look back over the coursebook (if you use one). You’ll likely find some activities that you missed out on.
Of course, you can’t just tell the students to do random pages out of the book as they will see right through this lack of planning! Plan the lesson as a revision session and tell the students they will have the chance to review key points throughout the year. This way they will see the benefit of doing this and see how far they have come in their learning.
To give your students more autonomy, you can put them into pairs and let them decide what activities they will go back and review. They can make a list of 3-5 points that they want to practice and then go and do the corresponding activities together. In this way, they can review what they want to and feel that they are in control of the class.
You can also use the coursebook to prepare a quiz based on the content you have done throughout the year. You can prepare a list of questions such as “In what unit did we study….”. Students then have to search the coursebook to find the answer. Students can complete the quiz in pairs- add the competitive element that they love! This activity also works well for any end-of-year exams they might have as it shows them where to review the key grammar and vocabulary.
You might not want to introduce too much new grammar so late in the year as students will feel overwhelmed. They probably won’t feel very motivated to learn it at this point. Revising what you have done over the year is a good idea as a change of pace. It also helps the learners see how much they have learned with you!
You can have the students help you with revision activities. They can create their own quizzes or board games (for younger learners) that review key grammar and vocabulary from the year. Let them refer to the coursebook or their notes for ideas and give them a lesson to create something in groups. In the next lesson, you can play the quizzes and board games! Ensure that you provide learners with templates for board games and ideas for quizzes. If not, they won’t get much done in the lesson!
Another great summer filler class is for young learners to create their own word searches based on vocabulary they’ve learned throughout the year. Provide them with a template and let them create and swap word searches! It’s a good idea to photocopy any word searches before they swap so you can have extra for fast finishers. Of course, if you really want to keep them occupied, you can make one yourself with more difficulty for them to complete in groups.
If you teach some new vocabulary at this point, then summer words are a great idea. Teaching vocabulary can be easier on students than teaching grammar at this point. Incorporate vocabulary sets that are relevant to the age and level.
8-year-olds- ice cream, sunbathing, swimming, swimsuit
Advanced adults- tourist trap, home away from home, off the beaten track
You can then provide practice activities based on this such as flashcard games, word searches, conversation questions, and games such as Pictionary! It’s good for the students to keep learning and to feel like they are still learning, even when they get to the end of the term.
Of course, not all students might be checking out just yet for their summer holiday. The end of the term in Europe is often when a lot of students take exams such as Cambridge or IELTS, after spending the year in an exam preparation class. It’s important to keep up the work as this is the final hurdle for them. The teacher should stay motivated with them!
Don’t introduce a lot of new grammar or vocabulary in the weeks leading up to the exam. There’s very little time to master this and it will overwhelm your students. If they have doubts then, of course, go over them. Other than this, spend the time doing mock exams and providing final feedback for the exam. Don’t overcorrect the students at this point- only give them crucial feedback that they can realistically apply in the short space of time they have.
Remember that your students (and you) have been hard at work since the academic year began. They have also been studying at school or working alongside this so they will be ready for a summer break. Keep the classes engaging and worthwhile (if you don’t, students won’t attend if they don’t see the point). It’s the perfect time to do some more interactive activities to keep them motivated.
It’s also a great time to get the students more actively involved in their learning by having them create activities centered around revision. They can learn and also have fun while doing this! Remind your students of how far they’ve come since they started the class with you, and how much they’ve learnt. Let them know that when they return to you after summer, you’ll want them to tell you all about their holidays in English!