by Luke Vyner @LLELuke
Director of London Language Experience
The class trip is a well known dilemma with teachers, students and Directors of Studies often having contentious ideas about their purpose. From my experience I’ve seen that frequently schools do not make the most out of them, often avoiding them or in some extreme cases banning class trips entirely. I see this as a tragedy, because London is such a fantastic teaching resource that to not make the most out of it is a great shame.
So where do we begin? Perhaps with the teacher – the illustrious middle man.
Some teachers will look upon a class trip with zeal and creativity. How could the trip cater for all my learners’ interests? What would make the trip valid and relevant both culturally and linguistically? What lesson can I plan around the trip? What language can I tie in?
However on the other hand, a lazier teacher may be thinking: ‘Where would be great for me to grab a coffee while my students explore? Perhaps I can put my feet up and even sort out that direct debit for that new utility bill.’
Like teachers, students will also have their own ideas about trips. In some cases they may not want to take one and see it as a disruption to their valuable time in the classroom. Many often question the validity of doing so when they can take trips in their own free time. Opinions may vary depending on how long their course is, who paid for it, what they think of their classmates and/or previous experiences of class trips.
Others simply can’t get enough of class trips, a chance to hang out with their classmates in a more casual environment, to get to know their lovely teacher, relish the opportunity to visit a recommended area or place in London and to practice their English out in the real world.
Make it Pedagogical?
It is the DoS that then has to juggle the different motivations and desires of their staff and most importantly their paying customers: The students. The most logical and common compromise is if you do take a class trip (in the words of an old Line Manager), ‘for God’s sake, make it pedagogical.’ Pedagogical? What does it mean, a word thrown around like a frisbee in the EFL backyard by anyone who thinks they are in a position to talk about education and learning. It’s something to do with the science of teaching and is synonymous with words like holistic, which is often a concern.
I believe what my old DoS was trying to propose was for teachers to try and combine a cultural experience of a London trip (of which there are endless options) with a language learning experience (of which there are endless options).
The dilemma now is what can a modern overworked teacher plan to do? Already stretched for time, they’re tired from marking IELTS writing tasks and stressed out from trying to balance everyone’s opinions, so it can be hard to imagine a class trip ending with a communal thumbs up.
However, a class trip needn’t take a huge amount of planning, just a little time for some thought. It can be good to have a break from marking essays and to encourage peer correction, and the class trip options can be narrowed down to just a handful, making it easier to manage everyone’s ideas.
So with that in mind, here are some ideas that you could consider and how to throw in some relevant language and activities before and after the trip.
1. Ever been to Spitalfields Market on a Thursday afternoon? I never I thought I’d say it but it’s better than the original market before the recent refurbishment. It mainly sells antiques and bric-a-brac and the market is full of friendly market sellers.
Language opportunities: Consider looking at language related to shopping, markets and bartering in class beforehand. On location, your students can go out and practice this language in pairs. Set the goal of finding 5 things that they like in the market and to ask each stallholder at least 3 questions about each item. The best thing about this market is how open and approachable everyone is and it works well as a freer speaking activity. Students could either record or note down their interactions to review in class the next day.
2. Camden Town isideal for people watching.
Language opportunities: Consider looking at language related to fashion, style and clothing in class beforehand. On location your students can go out and interview people about their outfits and take photos and notes to present in class the following day using some of the language expressed by their photographed victim! They can do this on the high street and in the market. You could then have lunch with your students and consider inputting language related to taste and food descriptions and have a discussion about national dishes. The range of world cuisines in the market is pretty impressive!
3. A current exhibition – See Timeout for ideas, although make sure your class are keen to go to your chosen exhibition!
Language opportunities: In class the day before get your students to research the artist and reviews of previous exhibitions. Choose an article to read in class beforehand to wet their appetites and look at relevant language associated with the artist. Create mini-research teams to take photos (if permitted) and write a review of the exhibition to present to the class in the following lesson. Alternatively have a debate in class the next day and introduce creative language to discuss opinions on art such as ‘I found it really inspiring’, or ‘I thought it was a little contrived’ (there are endless pieces of languages you could choose, input somewhere between 8 and 12 phrases).
4. Museums – Language In London (winner of an ELTon innovation award) cleverly use Museums at the heart of their successful ‘Cultural Experience’ course and you can too. London museums are fantastic and there are many options available to you.
Language opportunities: Often artefacts on display are from around the world and this provides a great opportunity for multilingual classes to talk about pieces from their respective countries. If your learners struggle to do this you could set an Internet research task to read up on beforehand. The British and V&A museums are ideal for this kind of activity. You could also tie in visits with coursebook topics covered in class time – such as the imperial War museum. I took an advanced class there once whilst covering a chapter from the New English File on warfare and conflict. The museum of London is another great option. Students can be given an era of London’s history to explore, write notes on and prepare short talks for future lessons.
London Language Experience
5. London Language Experience – This comes as a ‘ready made’ class trip option for the overworked ‘TEFLER’. London Language Experience provide schools with four short courses based on exciting and cinematic audio walking tours of popular London locations. The package of courses comes complete with an extensive coursebook, audio equipment and full teacher training. Locations include Camden Town, Soho, South Bank and Westminster and the coursebook includes lessons for before and after the trip with a focus on the themes and language of the audio tours. For more information check out: www.londonlanguageexperience.com
Whatever you choose to do, ensure you’re excited about it and your students will respond to your enthusiasm. Don’t avoid class trips, make the most out of them!
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