I love outdoor classes in May and June – if you look at your students, it is really difficult for them to stay in when every muscle is calling them outside. I’m not overly fond of hot summer days myself, but I’m even less fond of classrooms with no air-conditioning, so here are my top three ideas for outdoor classes, they worked brilliantly for me and I can only hope you’ll have at least as much fun as my students did.
As you’ll probably notice, my ideas are virtually no-prep classes. It’s somehow connected with the feeling of summertime laziness that rubs off on me!
I spy with my little eye… (A1 and above)
If you think elementary students can’t have fun outdoors because they get easily distracted without coursebooks, you couldn’t be more wrong. You only need to give them stimuli and have fun watching them play and use their English. You probably know the game I spy. One person, the Spy, silently selects an object that is visible to all the players but doesn’t tell what the object is. Then the Spy says, I spy with my little eye something beginning with the letter…, and players have to guess what the object is.
Now, it sounds really easy, even for elementary students, so you may play an alternative version, substituting the initial letter for an adjective such as a colour of an object or a sound (that one is fun: I spy with my little eye something that sounds like a bomb). Yet another variation to encourage using English is giving various descriptive clues, such as describing a watch as something made of metal and glass that makes a quiet noise.
Believe me, not only kids love this game, add a hint of competition (like two teams) and adult learners will have wild ideas! Why is it a great game outdoors? Because you have far more objects than in a classroom, you can play it walking, change places and literally do nothing to prepare.
Tourists attractions (A2-B1 and above)
It’s a little project that takes around two classes, with a lot of fun for students and literally nothing you have to do beforehand apart from bringing a map of the school’s whereabouts.
On the first lessons students pick some interesting places around the school and make up interesting stories about them in secret – on lower levels they may work in pairs to feel more comfortable. They should write the stories down and optionally give you to proofread (I skipped this step hoping to be surprised and indeed I was, so in case you prefer to have some control over these particularly controversial stories – go for proofreading).
On the second lesson just go for a walk, stop in front of each landmark and let the person who made up a story about it, tell it the way tourist guides do.
Where’s the fun? First of all, stories. I listened to various tales of cannibalism in an old asylum (you’d never think of it, looking at an ordinary kebab place), a series of unexplained disappearances and eerie cults (obviously, a church), haunted graveyard (in a park, not in an actual graveyard as that would be too obvious) etc.
See the point of proofreading now?
Secondly, make your students behave like real tourists. You know, baseball caps, socks&sandals (if they’re brave enough), cameras etc. Make them listen to their “guides” attentively and enjoy the interest of the unsuspecting public. I believe my students had a lot of fun not only with their work, but also with people’s reactions. Suddenly speaking English was the easiest thing to do!
Treasure hunt (A2 and above)
Be aware: you need to prepare a few pieces of paper for this class. In each you should have 5-10 challenges for a treasure hunt. Also, this is an activity appropriate for more mature students who can behave in a safe manner when walking around unsupervised.
Divide your class into 3 groups, each gets a sheet of paper with challenges and off they go, to complete the task. The first team to return receives an award (a souvenir, good mark or an opportunity to choose the next lesson’s topic). Meanwhile you spend an hour drinking coffee and, naturally, pining after your students.
When it comes to challenges, I decided to pick similar instructions for each group, but give them varying details, for example:
Go to *various cafés* and ask for *vegan muffins/vegan ice-cream/gluten-free cakes* in English
Go to *McDonald’s etc.* order a coke and a straw for each person in team (in English) and take a selfie. Send it to me.
Go to the nearest *fountain* and ask a stranger in English to take a photo of you mid-jump.
In English, ask a stranger *ginger bearded man/a mother with three kids/ a couple in love* to take a photo with your team.
In English, ask someone for directions to *theatre/school/tourist information”. Ask if you can record them as you keep forgetting directions.
The obvious question is, how did I make sure my students were speaking English? Simple – the person speaking was recorded by another team member. After the hunt, obviously, recordings were deleted. The best thing about this hunt is that students have an opportunity to practice real-life skills and still have a lot of fun!
I hope my ideas sound interesting, so do not hesitate to adjust them to your need and enjoy your outdoor classes! Remember about parental consent if your students are minors, especially when it comes to the treasure hunt!