Taking Learning out of the Classroom in EFL Contexts: Part II

I recently blogged on creating meaningful and authentic opportunities to apply student learning to real-life experiences. Most of the activities I suggested related to an ESL teaching context in which students are living in an English-speaking environment. Finding authentic opportunities for students to connect with English in an EFL context may take a bit more effort, but it is possible with some research and creativity!

IMG_48991. Be a tourist in your own city

At many tourist attractions, you will find guides who are fairly fluent in English. Having taught English in a French-speaking environment myself, I was determined to have my students interact in English. With some research, I was able to seek out guided tours in English by a fluent nonnative speaker. Students were able to practice their listening comprehension, follow a guided tour, and have the opportunity to ask and answer questions.

2. Create a travel brochure

A student-driven community project can be an effective way to take learning out of the classroom. Working in groups, have students select an attraction (park, museum, zoo, historical site), visit the attraction in small groups guided with a teacher-prepared worksheet to collect information on the attraction (fees, opening times, key attractions, website, etc.), and take plenty of images (including a couple of selfies!). Students can prepare their own travel brochure to promote the attraction and present it to students who visited different attractions.

3. Organize a mixer

Social outings are a great way for students to practice their conversational English. Organize a multilevel mixer with students at different levels of proficiency in English. Mixers could take place on or off campus—in a café or even on the soccer field. My class recently challenged another class to a soccer game. The slick field from the rain created almost impossible playing conditions! Even though my class lost, we shared a lot of laughs and faced defeat with dignity!

IMG_5049  IMG_4974

4. Take advantage of your contacts

Do you know people in your area who speak English? Do they use it in their jobs or studies? Do you know anyone who has lived or spent time abroad in English-speaking countries? Are there international students on campus visiting from an English-speaking country? Organize an outside interview with your contacts. Prior to the outing, provide students a short bio on the interviewee with important background information (job, education, family, place of origin, etc.) Have students brainstorm a list of questions prior to the interview. Send the students out to interview these individuals in their workplace, office, or at a local café. Have them record the interview with their cell phones so they can listen to the interview later in class (which helps complete their answers if they didn’t have time to jot down answers during the interview). As a post-interview activity, students can present on their experience in a panel presentation or write a group report based on their interviews.

Keep in mind, if you implement a communicative method to language teaching in your classroom, students are used to interacting with each other in English. Therefore, taking learning out of the classroom changes the scenery and task, but most of the interaction that occurs in English happens between students.

About Sherry Blok

Sherry Blok
Sherry Blok is the assistant director of programs at the Centre for Continuing Education, Concordia University. Montreal, Canada. She holds a master’s degree in second language education from McGill University and has more than 20 years of experience as an ESL lecturer in the intensive English program at Concordia University. She received the TESOL Teacher of the Year Award in 2015 and has presented nationally and internationally on topics related to English for academic purposes, global citizenship education, assessment, and teacher feedback.
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