Teach English in Fenjie Zhen - Taizhou Shi

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Outdoor learning is often enjoyed by students and teachers alike and there are multiple studies proving the benefits of the outdoor classroom. The fresh air helps students concentrate better and retain more information when learning outdoors. Furthermore, there are many ESL activities that can be enjoyed outside. Some of the activities that the students can engage in outdoors include games like “I Spy With My Little Eye”, where a student “spies” something in his/her surroundings and the rest of the students take turns guessing what the object is. This exercise can be used to practise vocabulary. Another similar activity is the naming game. For this game, the students and the teacher will form a circle and pass a ball around randomly – each student needs to name an object in his/her surroundings before passing the ball to the next player. The teacher’s participation in these two games is recommended, as it can help build rapport between the students and teacher. These two games can be played indoors as well, but the outdoor version allows for more freedom to move around, whereas the indoor version could be quite restrictive and also poses a risk to the classroom – there could be damage to classroom decorations. There would also be more visual material outside – plants, buildings, signs, people, animals, etc. Furthermore, students can use an outdoor class as inspiration for a writing activity. For example, they can write short stories or poems inspired by the nature scenes they see around them. This would, of course, depend on the students’ level and ability. Extra help can be provided in the form of a word bank with appropriate vocabulary items (which would need to be carefully prepared in advance). If the students are only allowed one class outside, they may complete a shorter writing activity – they can use their five senses to describe the settings around them. They students would need to sit quietly and list what they can hear, see, touch, taste, smell. They can also describe the emotions they feel. This activity will be calming for students, but may not be appropriate for an overly active class or during specific times of the day, when the students are more active (e.g. after lunch, before a holiday/weekend). For the times of day when students prefer to move around, the following activity may be more appropriate. Next, a useful, active outdoor activity is walking around and creating a map. To begin with, students will need a piece of paper and some coloured pens/pencils. The students will then take some time to explore the area (street/park/school yard) and draw a map. Depending on the students’ age, they may be allowed to only explore the yard (very young students) or they may be allowed to walk along the street (adults and older teenagers). The students would need to sketch (or just mark) trees, buildings, landmarks, etc. Because of time constraints, the students may not be able to finish their maps in one lesson, while outside. Younger students would enjoy decorating and colouring their maps, so they may need extra supplies and time to finish their maps- this could be done indoors during the next lesson. This activity can also be developed into a series of lessons, where students give each other directions. Here older students would have an advantage of covering more ground (by walking down the street), they could have shops, post offices, fire stations, churches, hospitals, etc. on their maps. While younger students could maps the yard and feature things like trees, gates, garden, playground, etc. This map can help students review prepositions, by describing where the objects are in relation to each other. The younger students could work in pairs or threes for the entirety of the exercise – this way the maps would be completed as pair work and the same pairs can then ask and answer questions relating to prepositions or they could give each other directions. Another creative (albeit not as active) activity is drawing by description. This activity requires the students to work in pairs, sitting back to back. Each student is provided with a piece of paper and a pencil. Student 1 then picks an object from their surroundings and describes it to student 2. The student can only describe the object by saying what shape, colour, texture it is, but without naming the object. Student 1 can also use specific instructions, e.g. “draw a horizontal line, now draw a square on top of this line, then draw a triangle on top of the square”. Student 2 then draws the object by description. The student who is drawing can ask questions to find out more about the object, for example, “is this object bigger than a person?”. This activity can be used with younger and older students to develop questioning skills, review a lesson on shapes, or just to build relationships between students. Depending on the age and ability of the students, the questions students ask each other can vary and the answers could be limited to specific categories (e.g. shapes). Finally, outdoor classes can be used for some quiet reading - students sit calmly and read their books (individually). This way they can relax, connect with nature, and enjoy some quiet time. In conclusion, there are many ESL activities that can be enjoyed outdoors. In this essay I have explored some of the activities that teachers could use, however there are many more ideas available online and in textbooks. The time spent outdoors is guaranteed to be both healthy and enjoyable for the students and the teacher. Younger learners will be especially grateful if they get to play/explore outside of the classroom. Meanwhile, students of business English will appreciate an hour of fresh air and sunshine, outside of the office.