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Summer school lessons: from a handout to an awesome activity 馃槅

Updated: Jul 2, 2019

It's been quite a long time since I wrote anything. I had a really hectic end of the school year and the amount of work that needed to be done stopped me from writing. But now school is over and I can relax and .... oh no .... wait .... I can't because, in a true workaholic fashion, I spend my summers working on a summer camp in England 馃槄

The camp I work for is not your typical summer school. Not all the campers have English lessons. It's an optional extra which some kids get to do if their parents paid for it. Now, as you can probably imagine this is not the most advantegous set up for the teachers. We have to compete, so to speak, with all the other activities available on camp. That is because when some of the kids are having lessons, their friends go off quad biking or swimming. You ask yourself this question: what sounds better to the 10-year-old you, lessons or quad biking? See what I mean? 馃槈 All of the above mean that my lessons need to be as attractive, fun, interactive, and basically awesome as humanly possible. So in this post I'll show you how I do it.

I like saying that you don't have to reinvent the wheel when planning your lessons. There are so many books and materials available online to use. You just have to spend some time thinking about how to jazz them up 馃榿

For the lessons I'm going to show you I used "Instant Lessons Intermediate" and "Instant Lessons Advanced" by Penguin Publishing (series editor: Peter Watcyn-Jones). I've used two chapters dealing with vocabulary: "Types of people" and "Idioms to describe people". On top of a nice description of the whole lesson and various activities, this is what the books have to offer:

Don't get me wrong: those are great books, and materials and exercises in them are really useful. But they would not work on a summer camp. They're meant for a lesson where students sit in a classroom. I need something more.

So this is what I did with it:


I cut up the words with definitions into separate strips. I gave each student two or three words and told them that they have 3 minutes to try and remember their words. After 3 minutes I went around the classroom with scissors and cut off the definitions. Now their task was to come up to every other student in the classroom and to me and say what their words mean.


I used the same handout to cut off the words. I folded them in half. This time, one by one, students had to pick one and give its definition. If they didn't remember, I asked someone else to help. We went through all the words again.


I made my own handout with all the words and definitions. This time every single word was cut up into three pieces. Students were put into groups. Their task was to recreate all the words and match them with their definition. I gave them an A3 sheet of paper to glue everything onto it. They did it as a race. The first team to finish got lollypops (it is a summer camp after all, you need to find additional motivation to complete exercises 馃槤)