Ideas for an out-of-class English Club
Teaching out of a curriculum and away from certain restraints can be a very rewarding experience for both students and teacher. Often classes can be conducted in a more informal fashion and can supply an opportunity to put more of a ‘spark’ into the learning process.
In the case of language acquisition, this is no different. With reduced formality, modes of teaching can be adapted to create an experience that can even be viewed as ‘fun’. Learning need not be choresome in routine lessons but extra curricular activities lend themselves further to thinking laterally.
There are various challenges when teaching in an informal environment so, maintaining equilibrium between learning and fun, needs to prevail.
Ofttimes, this is about teaching children without necessarily making it obvious they are learning. Such examples are evident through winter and summer camps which are designed to encourage pupils to be proactive and choosing appropriate activities is key to these events.
One such pursuit is an ABC treasure hunt. The aforementioned can be labour heavy in terms of preparation and planning but this task is one that invokes huge enthusiasm in students because of its very simplicity. Each team (3 – 5) must be set the challenge of finding an item beginning with each letter of the alphabet. If they can physically produce the item, they will receive a higher score. If they are unable to do so, then a photograph of the relevant object will yield a lower score. The groups are encouraged to be imaginative in their occupation but it must be made clear that there are limits. (A picture of someone attempting to carry an elephant demonstrates this tremendously well to an exuberant audience!). To complement this activity, students are also given additional undertakings such as finding a coin with a particular year on it and asking the teacher a piece of information in the relevant language in order to answer a question e.g. What was the name of your teacher’s first pet?
The ABC treasure hunt is a way of encouraging language learners to investigate new words with a vigour rarely witnessed in the classroom. They are interacting with one another whilst brainstorming and pooling their linguistic knowledge, thus learning the value of teamwork and new vocabulary. The combination of fun with seemingly effortless learning is something that cannot be undermined by either the teacher or the student.
For something a little more ‘prep intensive’, cooking is never a bad option for those not shy of kitchen pressure – let us not underestimate the coordination of children, ingredients and utensils! The range of activities here can be adapted to age and facilities available and, indeed, one may not even require a kitchen given the right task. A demonstration of this is making ‘ice-cream in a bag’. It is a simple – and often cynically received! – exercise that can be used for language and / or scientific purposes. From learning the vocabulary of the process, (a quick powerpoint visual is useful here), to the opportunity to explain the scientific background behind the procedure, it is an exercise that will end with beneficial, not to mention, delicious results.
These two examples barely scratch the surface for the options available for extra-curricular activities. The flexibility that may not be offered on a daily (curricular) basis means that an imaginative approach is likely to be well received. Finances are, of course, a boon to any project but, as these two examples demonstrate, it is possible to be creative with or without a particularly extravagant budget.
Language acquisition then, is something that can be incorporated into almost any activity with creativity. There will always be the more mundane factors – grammar, after all, requires some focus and dedication – but this need not mean that fruitful learning cannot be achieved without fun. Language learning is never ending, irrespective of whether it is a person’s native tongue or a second or third language. Finding the means to integrate learning in a variety of ways, through daily life as much as anything else, means that the students are gathering pragmatic linguistic skills whist correspondingly gleaning enjoyment from the task in hand. Ultimately, that simple ‘spark can kindle passion and that is when the real learning begins.