Last week, a teacher emailed me to ask, ‘Can you help me prepare a vacation course on the Olympics?’ No problem!
When faced with preparing a five-day course it can be somewhat daunting thinking about “filling” the vast stretches of time between 9 am on the first day and 5pm on the last day. It’s helpful therefore to think of it not as five days but many hour-long lessons.
I would normally keep the morning for intense language learning and the afternoon for related activities such as crafts, cooking, dressing up, songs with choreography and more active outdoor games. In this teacher’s case since they were focusing on The Olympics I suggested they could think about inventing an athletics track and running an Olympics competition. Obviously you don’t want the most sporty kid to win everything, so you can diversify your Olympics with gold medals for the best picture, the best actor, the best singer, the best hair, the best dancer- whatever, so every child has a medal at the end of the course. You could also include making the medals in a craft hour when the kids are tired. There is loads of scope for miming sports and guessing what they are, playing Simon Says + the sport, playing a sport like rounders but to have the right to bat the child has to name particular vocabulary or repeat a short dialogue.
I suggested breaking the morning down into:
1. Drilling new vocabulary and grammar through games
2. Board games and quizzes
3. Working on words for a skit or a song
In the afternoon after lunch I would work on choreography for a song – why not choose a national anthem to tie in with the Olympics theme!? This can be dance moves or actions and/or acting out the story told in the song. Let those who enjoy dancing do the dance moves but don’t force it on everyone. Those self-conscious ones who are too shy can do actions they feel comfortable with instead.
Next I suggested working on putting a skit together using language taught during the morning. This builds gradually over the course so that by the end the skit may be performed, with props, by heart, to parents. I have a couple of skits on sports in my plays and skits book that would be ideal, you can either download them on your Kindle or smart phone or order from Amazon in paperback – see more information here.
Finally, at the end of the afternoon, I would play more language games, but boisterous ones where the children run to the end of the garden (or hall) to collect the correct flashcard, play egg and spoon race (to vocabulary you choose), play Twister (using body parts vocabulary) and so on. The games always have a language purpose but they are less intense than the morning sessions as children will be tired and in need of some fun and play time. After all the kids are on holiday and if they don’t enjoy the classes they might not show up the next day!
At the end of the course it’s a good idea to put on a show to parents so they can see what they have been paying for, and feel included in their child’s education. Don’t worry, a show may seem daunting but if you break it down it’s easy!
Here are some ideas for content:
1. Two skits (like those from my plays and skits book).
2. Two songs that the children choose and they should at least be able to sing the chorus and act out the verse.
3. Show off all the vocabulary and language from the units you have covered through vocabulary games that you perform in front of parents.
4. Stage a quiz where one pupil asks the questions (that you have prepared on cards and the other kids are in teams.) Make sure each team have a buzzer as you could stage it like a TV show. All the questions come from the work you have been covering during the week – e.g. hold up a picture and they name the word, or you hold up a picture of a tennis racket and a question mark – that means they make a question such as “do you want to play tennis?”
The kids will be very motivated by the idea of showing off to their parents and being the center of attention in a TV show, plus children focus mainly on the short-term so it gives them a purpose for their lessons that is much closer to reality for them than some future point in their lives when it may be useful for them to speak English.